Homemade bubble milk tea is really simple to make. First I showed you guys how to make tapioca pearls from scratch, so next up is this deliciously refreshing bubble milk tea recipe. This classic bubble tea drink, originating from Taiwan, is one of my favorite summer drinks!
Learn how to make delicious bubble tea at home!
What is classic bubble milk tea?
I grew up drinking tea, especially milk tea. As a result, I’ve always been picky about my teas. While hot tea was a staple for me as a kid, the adult me prefers iced tea variations, like this bubble milk tea.
This delicious drink originates from Taiwan (much like dalgona coffee). The name possibly comes from the bubbles that are created by frothing the milk tea, or from the chewy tapioca pearls that are like “bubbles” in the tea. This drink is also known as Hong Kong style boba milk tea.
Whatever the origins of the name, the drink is now a favorite everywhere!
So today, I’m going to show you how to make bubble milk tea at home.
How to make Taiwanese classic bubble milk tea
What type of tea to use
There are many different versions of bubble tea. Earl grey tea, matcha tea, other green teas, oolong tea, jasmine tea and even tea bags with fruit flavors. Some of these are mixed with milk to make milk tea, and others are served plain.
Taiwanese milk tea is made with black tea. The strong tannin flavor in black tea is an important factor here.
Chinese breakfast tea (Chinese black tea) is the usual choice for this bubble milk tea, likely due to its Taiwanese origins.
However, if you can’t find Chinese breakfast tea, you can use a more robust black tea, such as Ceylon OP tea or Assam or a blend (like English breakfast tea).
Avoid black teas that are weaker than Chinese breakfast tea, since the flavor of tea would be lost with the addition of milk.
Brewing the tea
You HAVE to brew the tea properly! This is critical for the best homemade bubble tea recipe. There are two ways to brew tea.
Hot brew tea – This is the traditional way of brewing tea. For this drink, it’s important to brew tea that is stronger than regular tea. The hot water will help extract more of the tea flavor.
But take care not to brew it for too long and over-extract the flavor, which would result in the tea being too cloudy, and also having too much of the tannin flavor. The tea being too cloudy is not necessarily a deterrent to making milk tea however, because once you add milk, it won’t make a difference.
Cold brew tea – This is in no way a traditional way to make tea. But it’s my favorite way to make iced tea, for a smoother taste, without an overpowering tannin flavor. And most importantly, cold brew tea will give you a very clear tea (no cloudiness).
It’s also very difficult to over-brew cold brew tea, because the process of cold brewing tea takes about 8 – 12 hours anyway. However, this method requires more tea than the hot brew version.
You can choose whichever method you like to make bubble tea. Both recipes will be included below. Just make sure the final tea is a little strong, so that it can be diluted with milk, and still have a great taste.
What type of tapioca pearls to use?
I like to make my own boba pearls for bubble milk tea whenever I can. The recipe is simple, but making the balls can get really tedious. However, once I do make a couple of batches, I can store them in the fridge and cook the boba pearls whenever my bubble tea cravings strike.
That being said, I don’t always have already made boba pearls at home. Occasionally, I’d buy some quick cook tapioca balls, if I’m lucky enough to find them at an Asian grocery store.
Honestly though, I much prefer the tapioca pearls I make myself. They are chewier than the quick cook version, and the ingredient list is short and simple. But the quick cook ones are ready in 6 minutes, so they are certainly more convenient.
If you haven’t made your own boba pearls, and don’t have time for it, then I highly recommend going with quick cook pearls. They are less chewier than homemade, but still work great for this bubble tea recipe!
How to sweeten your tea
You can use any kind of sweetener you like for your bubble tea recipe. Simple syrup made with White sugar and honey are great options as a sweetener for tea.
I also use dark brown sugar simple syrup. That’s because when I make homemade boba pearls, I like to store the cooked boba pearls in a dark brown sugar syrup (to make brown sugar boba).
But you can also store cooked boba pearls in a simple syrup solution (white sugar and water), or just honey. I personally prefer the taste of brown sugar in my bubble tea.
Another great thing about making your own bubble milk tea is that YOU can control how sweet it is. You can add more or less sweetener, depending on whether you want a dessert-like treat, or something more refreshing.
Can I use other options besides milk?
I prefer the taste of milk in my classic boba pearl milk tea, but I’ve used plenty of alternatives over the years.
- Half and half or cream (if my tea wasn’t as strong, then I just use a splash of either of these to maintain the milk tea taste, without diluting the tea).
- You can also use dairy free alternatives for creamer if you like.
- Vegan option – I have used almond milk and it’s really good (especially if you like the taste of almond milk). So you can use any plant-based milk for this bubble milk tea.
- Another good option is to use condensed milk. A little condensed milk will add sweetness and the creamy milk taste in one go. You would have to add less than regular milk of course, because condensed milk is more concentrated and can be too sweet in larger amounts.
Can I make this ahead of time?
You can make the tea ahead of time. But I don’t recommend making the other components for the bubble tea recipe ahead of time.
Tea – I usually make my tea the day before. If I’m making cold brew, I just let the tea sit at room temperature until the following day. If I’m making hot brew tea, I make sure to strain the tea once brewed, and let the tea cool to room temperature BEFORE storing it in the fridge.
Brewed tea can be stored in the fridge for about 2 days. After that, it starts to lose its freshness. Do NOT add milk until you’re ready to serve the tea.
Boba pearls – As mentioned in my earlier post, boba pearls are best served while warm so that they remain chewy in the drink. The longer they remain cool, the harder they become. So it’s best to cook only the amount of boba pearls you need, each time.
That being said, I do sometimes cook too much of the boba pearls. So I like to store them in the fridge for the next day, along with the syrup that they are in. Then, the following day, I’ll add a little water and reheat the boba pearls in the microwave, or in a small saucepan on the stove, to get them soft again. I don’t store cooked boba pearls in the fridge for longer than a day.
Can I make this in bulk for a party?
If you’re serving this drink to a crowd or at a party, then mix the tea base with milk a few hours before the party and let it chill in the fridge. Then you can pour the drink straight into glasses, and add the cooked tapioca balls with the syrup into each glass for individual guests before serving. You still have to make sure the boba pearls are at least slightly warm, or they would be very unpleasant to bite into.
However you prepare this bubble milk tea, it will be delicious and refreshing! You can customize it to your liking, and adjust the amount of any ingredient to your liking as well.
This recipe is super easy to prepare. Bubble milk tea is really the perfect summer drink. Great as a pick me up drink in the mornings or afternoons. Perfectly refreshing and perfectly sweet, with the added chewy texture of boba pearls, this is a uniquely delicious drink that kids and adults can both enjoy! 🙂
Once you try homemade boba milk tea properly, you’ll see it beats what you can buy at a bubble tea shop too!
Bubble Tea Recipe (Boba Milk Tea)
Hot brewed tea
- 2 ¼ cups water heated to 205°F / 96°C (preferably filtered)
- 2 ½ tbsp black tea I used ceylon OP tea. Other options are Assam tea, or Chinese breakfast tea.
Cold brewed tea
- 2 ½ cups water at room temperature (preferably filtered)
- 5 tbsp black tea
- ½ cup uncooked boba pearls or ¾ cup (for generous servings).
- ½ cup easy cook boba pearls alternative option to homemade boba pearls.
- ½ cup brown sugar or white sugar
- ¼ cup water
- Milk to top off
- Ice as needed
Hot brewed tea
- Place the tea leaves in a brewing pot or French press.
- Heat the water to 205°F / 96°C (if you don't have a thermometer to measure the temperature, bring the water to a boil, and then leave it off-heat for about 3 minutes to reach the correct temp.), and THEN measure 2 ¼ cup of water into the brewing pot. Stir once or twice to make sure the tea leaves are saturated with water, then cover the pot and let it sit for no more than 5 - 6 minutes.
- Strain the tea leaves, and place the tea in the fridge to cool down.
Cold brew tea
- Place the tea leaves in a French press.
- Pour the room temperature water into the French press, and stir the leaves to make sure they are saturated with water.
- Press the French press plunger, until the tea leaves are just below the surface of the water, so that they remain submerged in the water.
- Let the tea leaves steep for 12 hours, at room temperature. Strain the tea leaves, and place the tea in the fridge to cool down.
- If you’re using homemade boba pearls, follow the recipe here to cook the boba pearls.
- If you’re using quick cook boba pearls, follow the directions on the package to cook the boba pearls.
- When the boba pearls have been cooked, place them in cool water to prevent them from sticking to each other.
Sugar syrup (make this before cooking the boba pearls)
- Place the sugar and water in a saucepan, and stir to combine. Heat over medium heat while stirring, to melt all of the sugar.
- Let the syrup come to a boil. Cook for a further 2 - 3 minutes, until the syrup has thickened up slightly. Let it cool a little bit, while you cook the boba pearls.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the boba pearls from the cool water into the warm syrup. Stir to coat. Use the pearls while slightly warm.
- In a glass (15 - 16 oz), place some boba pearls, along with some of the sugar syrup.
- Pour about 1 cup of brewed tea. The tea should be chilled or at least at room temperature (if you’re adding ice).
- Add ice, and top up the glass with milk. Stir to combine. Taste and add more sugar syrup if you'd like the drink sweeter.