Boba tea, or bubble tea, combines just a few ingredients to create a fun iced tea drink that is a cult favorite. Small dark tapioca pearls dot the bottom of this beverage while additions of milk, sweeteners, and fruit lend unusual takes to traditional recipes. These teas are so popular in Asian countries like Japan that there are bubble tea shops dedicated solely to unique concoctions of this drink.
You don't have to head to a fancy tea shop or your local coffeehouse to get your hands on this creamy beverage. You can make bubble tea right in your own kitchen without a lot of hassle or ingredients. For all boba recipes, you'll need tapioca pearls. These are available online or at your local Asian supermarket. You'll also need a wide straw that can accommodate the tapioca pearls when drinking. Check out our easy recipes for homemade boba and enjoy in minutes!
Boba tea is a Taiwanese beverage that incorporates chewy tapioca balls into a tea base. It is more commonly known in Chinese and Hong Kong communities as bubble tea, in Taiwan as pearl milk tea, and in New York and California simply as boba. The beverage draws its roots from Taichung and Tainan—two cities in Taiwan. Boba tea originated in Taiwan and gained popularity there in the 1980s. It's everywhere from Chinatown to Thai street food markets and upscale tea estates. In the last 10 years, this Taiwanese tea has become increasingly popular in Europe and the United States.
The tea drink can be brewed dozens of different ways, but most recipes contain the base ingredients of tea, tapioca pearls, milk, and sweeteners. The tea can also be made iced, hot, or as a slushy.
The tea comes in two main varieties: those with milk and those without. Boba with milk is usually called "bubble milk tea" or "boba milk tea" and is similar to Thai tea. It can be made using regular dairy creamers as well as alternatives such as almond milk, rice milk, and soy milk.
The original Taiwanese boba was a hot beverage made using black tea leaves from Taiwan, tapioca balls, and simple syrup, honey, or condensed milk. The original bubble tea was made using basil seeds of jelly cubes instead of the black tapioca pearls used today. Most tapioca teas are blended with frothy milk to form an exquisitely delightful beverage that's fun for the whole family. Today, the drink is most popularly consumed as a cold drink. It can be found with fresh fruit, artificial fruit flavors, non-dairy creamer, heavy cream, and sweeteners such as ice cream and brown sugar. The tea also features fun toppings including egg pudding, taro, cassava root, passionfruit, aloe, lychee, and grass jelly.
Most tea experts agree that boba traces its origins to tearooms in Taiwan. There is some argument on whether the tea was first invented by tea masters at the Hanlin tea shop in Tainan or the Chun Shui Tang tea room in Taichung. Both tearooms began developing the beverage during the 1980s after discovering inspiration from incorporating tapioca pearls into food and beverage.
The tea became wildly popular during the 1990s across Southeast Asia. As immigration to foreign countries and closer trade developed, the beverage began to find popularity in western areas as well. Today, boba is a staple on many tea house menus and can easily be found in regions with Asian populations in the West,
Today, the beverage has taken on a life of its own. In addition to unique flavor blends, you can also find the beverage at tea shops without any tea in it. This type of boba is known as snow bubble tea. You can also find the tea with larger tapioca pearls—typically about 7mm in diameter—known as pinyin or bōbà nǎichá.
Boba is a wildly popular drink, making it easy to find in mainstream tea chains including Starbucks and Peet's. The wide range of different flavors the tea offers has also resulted in the rise of dedicated bubble tea shops. These boba shops feature hundreds of flavors and unique mixtures that combine flavors to create a delicious tasting tea. You'll also find this beverage at night markets and local stalls in places throughout Southeast Asia.
Boba drinks are also simple to make so you can create your own bubble tea at home. Here, we've put together a simple boba tea recipe that you can dress-up with additions such as shaved ice, custard, and flavorings or just enjoy the classic flavor as-is. It's naturally gluten-free and doesn't contain any dairy—unless you choose to add additional ingredients.
Learning how to make bubble tea isn't complicated once you get a few key techniques down. The nice thing about boba is that you can cook large batches of tapioca pearls and save for later. That way you always have cooked pearls on hand to make this fun beverage.
Once the pearls are cooked, separate the ones you want to use immediately from the ones you want to store for later. Add sugar syrup such as simple syrup to preserve the extra tapioca pearls. Place them in an airtight container and store at room temperature. Do not store tapioca pearls in the refrigerator or freezer.
Most tapioca starch pearls that you buy at and Asian grocery store or tea shop will come with cooking instructions. In general, you should use about 7 servings of water for every 1 serving of tapioca pearls. The cook time for boba pearls is usually about 10 minutes on high heat. The total time for preparing bubble tea can take anywhere from 40 minutes to one hour if you are cooking the tapioca pearls. The total time is much shorter if you cook large batches of tapioca pearls and refrigerate them for later use.
This varies depending on elevation so cook the pearls until they are chewy and soft. To preserve pearls for later use, follow the initial cook time with 30 minutes on medium heat. Stir occasionally to prevent the pearls from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Start by bringing the water to a rapid boil over high heat. Add the boba pearls to the boiling water and cook for 10 minutes or until soft. To save the cooked tapioca pearls for later, turn down to medium heat and let the pearls cook in the hot water for another 30 minutes.
You need to rinse the tapioca pearls after they are boiled to preserve texture and flavor. Use a fine mesh strainer to strain the pearls before adding them to a small bowl. If you are going to store excess pearls, cool to room temperature before sealing the container. Add in the honey or sugar syrup.
Brew tea using tea bags or loose leaf tea and one cup of water. For black teas, brew between 200 and 212 F. Brew green teas between 160 and 180 F. Let the tea cool to room temperature before adding the pearls. Use 1 tea bag for standard strength boba tea or opt for 2 tea bags for a stronger flavor.
Add 3 to 4 ice cubes to a tall glass. For larger servings or pitcher-sized amounts, simply quadruple this recipe. Add a whole cup ice to keep the beverage cool in the midday sun if serving at an outdoor brunch. Add flair to your boba tea by garnishing with a slice of lemon. Sip through a wide straw and enjoy the chewy nature of the boba pearls and sweet taste of the tea.
Follow the instructions from the simple boba tea recipe to cook and rinse the tapioca balls.
Brew and add tea in the same way you would for simple boba tea. You can use regular milk or alternatives such as half and half, rice milk, coconut milk, and almond milk. Many boba teas are sweetened with condensed milk. This variety is thicker and more luxurious when it comes to flavor and texture. It is full-bodied and more similar to a shake.
Add ice and serve the boba milk tea in tall glasses
Take your bubble tea to the next level by adding fruit to this popular favorite. The options here are endless. Make mango bubble tea, strawberry bubble tea, or even orange bubble tea. Just find your favorite fruits and follow the recipe below for fruity bubble tea in minutes. You can also substitute fruit juice for real fruit if desired and add ice to make it a smoothie.
Follow the instructions above to prepare the tapioca pearls.
Combine fruit, honey, milk, and ice in a blender or a cocktail shaker.
Pour into a tall glass and add ice. Garnish with a few pieces of fruit or add a mint leaf.
Making tapioca pearl tea at home is easy. This strong tea is sure to delight children and adults alike with its cool flavor and chewy boba beads. Play with flavors and try new fruit infusions to add a little excitement to the standard blends. Try green teas like matcha or classic black teas for a more robust flavor or go fruity and floral with hibiscus or chamomile tea. You can even brew it using Vietnamese chai, oolong tea, and white tea. Different types of sweeteners like creamer affect the tea flavor. Use honey and brown sugar for more earthy flavors. Use sugar syrups if you are brewing old pearls with cold water since granulated white sugars won't dissolve well.
The first time you bite into the chewy texture of cooked boba pearls, you'll fall in love with bubble tea. From dark brown hues to vibrant purples and reds, this tea is a visual delight as well as a tasty treat. Bring the delight of multicolored boba shops into your home with this bubbly beverage. With a short prep time and lots of versatility, add these boba recipes to your cookbook and brew delightful tea to share with friends and family.
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