Drinks

Homemade Bubble Tea Recipe

Making milk tea at home is easy with the right equipment and some basic knowledge of what you're doing.
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This easy Homemade Bubble Tea tastes just like something you’d get at a fancy tea shop. Sweet black tea and chewy tapioca balls are topped with a heavy pour of cream for this delicious treat!

two glasses of Bubble Tea with black tapioca balls and a black straw.

What is Bubble Tea?

Bubble Tea is a popular drink from Taiwan that is a creamy milk and tea-based drink with warm and chewy tapioca pearls floating around the bottom of the glass to be sucked up through a big straw! The tapioca pearls can be called many things: boba, bubbles, pearls and tapioca balls.

Bubble Tea has gained popularity in the United States and is now found at just about every mall and in lots of strip centers. It’s creamy and sweet and I just love those little chewy sweet bites to snack on. Keep reading below to find out how to make the best bubble tea at home!

Cooked tapioca pearls in a white bowl with a spoon.

What Are the Bubbles?

The bubbles in bubble tea are tapioca pearls. Tapioca pearls are dark little balls of starch that can be made to vary in color and in texture depending on the type of flavoring and starch used to make them. Typically most tapioca pearls are made from tapioca starch taken from the cassava root.

Tapioca pearls by themselves are not always the most flavorful, which is why they are served in something sweet (like pudding and sweet milk tea). You can also sweeten them even more by soaking them in a simple syrup before serving.

Ingredients to make tea on a cutting board.

What You’ll Need

Bubble tea is quite easy to make at home! Here’s what you’ll need to do it. Be sure to read the recipe card below for specific amounts.

For the Tea

  • Black Tea – I just use the bags of tea. You can also use other kinds of tea, such as jasmine or green tea.
  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Ice
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk – This adds creaminess to the finished tea. You can use your preferred coffee creamer or other milk of choice too.

For the Tapioca Pearls

  • Tapioca Pearls – I prefer the quick cooking variety, see more below.
  • Water
Tea being poured over ice in a tall glass.

What Kind of Tea Can I Use?

You will want to use a strong flavored black tea. The tea will have to stand up to the added cream to give your bubble tea flavor. The most classic flavor of Bubble Tea is straight black tea, such as an Earl Gray or breakfast tea. You can also use a more unique strongly flavored tea to match your personal tastes. Below are some fun variations to try:

  • Jasmine Tea
  • Chai Tea
  • Green Tea
  • Oolong Tea

What Kind of Cream Should I Use?

This is a very personal question! I like to use heavy cream or sweetened condensed milk. However, there are many different options! Store bought Bubble Tea is often made with non-dairy creamer (think coffee creamer!). Below are all the different options you can try out to see which is your personal favorite:

  • Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • Heavy Cream
  • Milk
  • Half & Half
  • Non-Dairy Creamer (coffee creamer!)
  • Coconut Milk or Coconut Cream
  • Almond Milk
Glass of tea with tapioca pearls in the bottom being topped off with cream.

How to Cook Tapioca Pearls

There are two types of tapioca pearls — quick cooking and raw. The quick cooking version will cook in about 15 to 20 minutes and the raw tapioca pearls can take up to 45 minutes to soften. Then depending on your preference and the type of tapioca pearls you use, you may want to rinse them and soak them in simple syrup to sweeten them up.

I personally recommend you use the quick cooking tapioca pearls — I bought this brand off amazon (affiliate link). You will need to boil them in water for about 15 minutes, they are done when they float to the top. You will then remove them from the heat, cover the pot, and let the pearls sit in the hot water for an additional 10 – 15 minutes.

They are done when they reach the desired level of chewiness. Drain and rinse pearls under cold water and transfer to a bowl. (Try a tapioca pearl to check if you would like them to be sweeter. If yes, you can soak them in simple syrup for an additional 10 to 20 minutes.)

How to Make Bubble Tea

Making bubble tea is done is 3 simple steps:

Brew Your Tea

In a large pot over medium-high heat, add water and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Once water is boiling, remove from heat and add tea bags. Allow tea to cool to room temperature, remove tea bags and transfer tea to fridge to chill completely.

Why do we add the sugar to the boiling water? Because it dissolves more easily and adds uniform sweetness to your bubble tea.

Cook the Tapioca Pearls

In a medium sized pot over medium-high heat, bring water to a rolling boil and add tapioca pearls. Stir pearls and let them cook for about 10 minutes. Pearls will float to top when they are done cooking.

Remove from heat, cover pot, and let pearls sit in hot water for an additional 10 – 15 minutes, or until desired level of chewiness is reached.

Drain and rinse pearls under cold water and transfer to a bowl. (Try a tapioca pearl to check if you would like them to be sweeter. If yes, you can soak them in simple syrup for 10 to 20 minutes.)

Assemble and Drink

Divide cooked tapioca pearls into 2 large glasses. Add ice cubes to each glass and pour 1 cup of tea into each familycuisine.net about 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk on top, stir and serve. Add more milk or tea, to taste.

FAQs

  • Why are my tapioca pearls sticking together? I have never had to do this, but if your brand of tapioca pearls are sticking together after boiling, you can rinse them with water to help get off any extra starch.
  • Can I make tapioca pearls ahead of time? I don’t recommend it. In my experience, the texture changes pretty quickly and they can start to harden (or turn to mush if in liquid!). I prefer them served fresh and still warm in my bubble tea!
Bubble Tea being mixed together with cream in a glass with ice.

Tips for Success

  • Don’t be afraid to add the sugar: Bubble tea isn’t for those on a diet. Bubble tea is a sweet treat and if you want it to taste like the one you order out, make sure not to be shy with the sugar.
  • Cool the tea: This is an important step. I know you want to rush it, but if you chill the tea, your ice won’t melt and it won’t water down the final flavor.
  • Make your tapioca pearls fresh: Cooked tapioca pearls are only good for a short amount of time. The texture will eventually start to turn and they won’t be soft and perfectly chewy anymore.

Grab a BIG Straw!

Because of the size of the tapioca pearls, you will need a big fat straw (like a smoothie straw) to be able to drink the bubble tea. However, if you do not have extra thick straws, it’s ok. You can also just use a spoon to scoop up the tapioca pearls as you drink. In the photos, I am using these big bubble tea straws (affiliate link).

Up close image of Bubble Tea in a clear glass with ice on top and a black straw.

I am so excited for you to try this homemade bubble tea recipe! It has saved me money — many times — when a craving strikes. Make sure and change up your flavors of tea and types of cream to see what your personal favorite concoction is!

If you enjoy this homemade Bubble Tea recipe, you may want to check out these other reader favorites: Whipped Dalgona Coffee, how to make Thai Tea and Vanilla Cinnamon Iced Coffee.

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy.

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