Bubble tea is increasingly popular these days, and some people just can’t seem to get enough of it (myself included). More tea chains are popping up and making bubble tea readily available, making it easier for people to fall in love with the multitude of flavors that bubble tea can come in.
However, bubble tea from chain stores can be full of artificial sweeteners that fill the drink with calories, ultimately making it unhealthy and possibly even unenjoyable.
If you’ve noticed this yourself – or if there isn’t a bubble tea shop near you – learning to make the drink yourself can be a great alternative. Plus, making homemade bubble tea can save you tons of money in the long run.
Luckily, making homemade bubble tea is probably easier than you think.
A Brief History of Bubble Tea
Not many modern day bubble tea drinkers are aware of where and when bubble tea really comes from, but it’s actually quite an interesting piece of food history. If you’re not into this topic, feel free to skip ahead.
Bubble tea was first sold in the 1980s as a refreshing dessert drink in Taiwan. At the time, tapioca balls in shaved ice was a common dessert, while most milk teas were characteristically bitter. However, by combining all three ingredients, plus a bit of sweetener, the first bubble tea was created and quickly rose in popularity.
After its initial creation, it wasn’t long before variations on the tea were made. These replaced the tapioca balls (boba) with puddings and jellies.
Taiwanese immigrants made bubble tea wherever they went, eventually spreading the drink to the whole world. By the mid to late 2000s, bubble tea was an established part of Taiwanese-American culture.
Making Homemade Bubble Tea
Now that you’ve had the chance to briefly learn about the history of bubble tea, it’s time to start making bubble tea yourself.
In this article, you’ll learn how to make milk bubble tea, as well as how to make tapioca pearls from scratch. So, let’s get started.
How to Make Tapioca Pearls from Scratch
To make tapioca pearl dough, you’ll need a few things:
- ¾ cup tapioca flour or tapioca starch (they’re the same thing)
- 2 tablespoons dark brown or muscovado sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
To cook the pearls, you’ll need:
Step 1 – Make the tapioca dough. In a saucepan, combine the 3 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons sugar. Bring this to a boil. Then, pour in the flour and stir until combined.
Step 2 – Knead the dough. At this point, the dough will be dry and grainy. Transfer the dough to a flat surface and begin kneading the dough until it forms a cohesive ball. If your dough is too dry, wet your hands then continue kneading. If it is too wet, sprinkle on some more flour.
Step 3 – Cut the dough. Cut the dough into small pieces and begin rolling them out until they become thin and log- or pencil-like. Now, take a knife and cut the dough logs into small pieces about 1½ centimeters long.
Step 4 – Form the tapioca balls. Take each 1½ centimeter long piece of dough and roll them into balls. Make sure that each ball is small enough to fit through a bubble tea straw.
Step 5 – Cook the tapioca pearls. To cook 1 cup of raw tapioca pearls, pour them into a pot of 4 cups of boiling water. Briefly stir them to keep them from sticking together. Then, let them boil for 15 minutes or until they begin floating. Taste one to check for a soft, chewy consistency.
Step 6 – Make the boba sweet. Pour ¾ cup dark brown or black sugar into the boiling water, then lower the heat so the water is only simmering. Stir again, then let this cook for another 15 minutes. Finally, remove the tapioca from the heat. Pour the pearls into a bowl and let them cool down.
Once cool, these tapioca pearls are ready to be served in a cold glass of bubble tea. You can strain out some of the sweet syrup, or use the syrup to add sweetness to your drink. Making this sugary syrup prevents you from having to add in any additional sweeteners later, which makes bubble tea-making simple and easy.
Buying Premade Tapioca Pearls
Making your own tapioca pearls is a lengthy process. If you’d rather not make them yourself, there are many premade options that you can choose from. Just take a look on an online store, or at a specialty food store in your area.
I recommend the Wufuyuan brand of tapioca pearls. I have used them before, and gotten great results from them. When you follow the instructions correctly, they are perfectly chewy and delicious. Just make sure you use the pearls before they expire. Once expired, the pearls will not get soft, no matter how long you boil them for.
While we’re talking about products to buy for making great homemade bubble tea, don’t forget about the crucial bubble tea straws! You won’t be able to sip up those soft tapioca pearls without one.
Rather than use single-use plastic straws, now is the best time to invest in a reusable straw. Try these Hiware metal straws. You can use them for bubble tea, as well as smoothies, milkshakes, and any other thick drinks. They come with a cleaning wand and a cute carrying case, too.
If you want something a little more colorful, try these:
How to Make Milk Bubble Tea
Milk bubble tea is my favorite kind of bubble tea. It’s incredibly simple, yet so refreshing. All you need to make delicious milk tea is a tea of your choice, some milk, tapioca pearls, and ice. You can use whatever type of tea you want, but strong tea works best. To make your tea even stronger, you’ll want to use multiple tea bags.
You will need…
- 1 cup hot water
- 4+ bags of strong tea
- ½ cup milk (dairy-free milk works as well)
- About ⅛ cup tapioca pearls
Step 1 – Make the tea. Steep the tea bags in the hot cup of water for about 15 minutes, or until the water has cooled to around room temperature. Then, discard the tea bags.
Step 2 – Prepare the glass. Take a scoop of the cooked tapioca pearls and pour them into the bottom of a serving glass. Then, add in a few ice cubes. Stir the pearls and ice around until the pearls are cool.
Step 3 – Pour in the tea. Once the tea is in the glass, give it another stir until the tea is beginning to get cool. Now, pour in the cold milk and taste. If your bubble tea isn’t sweet enough, add in some more of the sugary syrup from the homemade tapioca pearls, or add in a bit of honey or sugar water. If it is too sweet, just pour in some more milk.
To make fruity bubble teas, just use fruity tea bags. You can also make fruit smoothies with tapioca pearls. The bubble tea flavor ideas are endless.