Made with black tea, tapioca pearls, brown sugar, and sweetened condensed milk, this Boba Tea is sweet, creamy, and just perfect on hot summer days. No need to hunt down an expensive bubble tea shop – if you can boil water, you can make your boba milk tea at home!
Sweet & Creamy Bubble Tea
Boba tea seems to be the current It Drink, with shops popping up all around the country and more and more varieties being offered. And for good reason – I love sipping on bubble tea on hot summer days (or, honestly, any day). It’s a thirst-quencher and caffeine boost in one!
While there are many fancy varieties and flavors of boba tea these days, the recipe we’re sharing today is closer to the original boba milk tea. Strong black tea with just the right amount of rich, sweet cream.
What Is Boba Tea?
Boba tea, also known as bubble tea, is the latest drink to become popular across the world – though it has a long history in Taiwan. In fact, stories say that the first boba tea originated in Taiwan in the 1980s when Ms. Lin Hsi Hui took the tapioca balls from her dessert and added them to her tea. It become a hit among the employees and the tea-room owner quickly added it to his menu.
So, what exactly is in boba tea? While there are now many, many different variations traditional boba milk tea is made with black tea, tapioca pearls (aka “boba”), and milk or cream.
Boba Milk Tea Ingredients
You need just 4 ingredients plus water to make homemade boba tea anytime you want.
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
- Black tea – Our recipe calls for black tea bags, but you can also use loose-leaf black tea. See notes below.
- Black Tapioca pearls – Tapioca pearls are the “balls” you find in boba tea. See below for more info.
- Dark brown sugar – Adds sweetness to the tea.
- Sweetened Condensed Milk – For serving and what gives the drink its creamy flavor. Milk or cream can also be used instead.
The balls in the tea are black tapioca pearls, which are soft and chewy, and made of starch. They are called boba, hence the name of the drink.
Wondering what tea goes in boba tea? Honestly, you can use any tea you like. The most traditional ones are black tea and jasmine tea, which both have a robust flavor. Our recipe calls for 4 black tea bags, but you can also use loose-leaf tea. If you decide to use loose-leaf tea, you’ll need 1/4 cup.
Recipe Variations & Swaps
Follow these tips if you want to swap out an ingredient or two.
- Make it sweeter. This boba tea is not overly sweet even though the pearls sit in brown sugar syrup. If you like it sweeter, add more of the brown sugar syrup to the glass. You can also add simple syrup to your taste.
- Can I use light brown sugar? I use dark brown sugar to get an extra depth of flavor, but you can use light brown sugar in its place, which is still delicious.
- Swap out the sweetened condensed milk. I like to use sweetened condensed milk to give the drink more sweetness along with the milkiness you are looking for in a boba milk tea. But you can use half and half, milk, or heavy cream, if preferred.
- Can this be dairy free? Yes, for dairy free boba tea, just swap the condensed milk for almond milk or another non-dairy milk.
How to Make Boba Tea
While this recipe does require a lot of cooling time, it is easy to make. Here’s a summary:
(To make this recipe, just scroll down to the printable recipe card for details and measurements and don’t miss the video below.)
- Make the tea. Boil 4 cups of water. Add the tea bags, stirring a couple times to make sure the tea is saturated with the hot water. Remove from heat and let the tea sit in the hot water until it cools to room temperature, then discard the bags. Transfer the tea to the fridge to chill completely.
- Add the brown sugar. Stir the brown sugar and water over heat. Simmer for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Once thickened slightly, pour over the syrup and stir to combine. Let cool at room temperature.
- Prepare the tapioca pearls. Cook according to the packaging directions. Place in a separate bowl.
- Serve. Add the tapioca pearls and some syrup to the bottom of each glass. Top with ice and a cup of tea. Add sweetened condensed milk to each glass to taste. Gently stir and enjoy.
Tips for Success
Here are a few helpful tips to making your first boba milk tea.
- Do not let the brown sugar boil over. It boils quickly so be ready to take it off the heat if it starts to rapidly boil, to prevent it from boiling over.
- Do not refrigerate the tapioca. While the tea can be refrigerated, the tapioca cannot, so allow plenty of time for it to come to room temperature on the counter.
- Start with a strong tea. When choosing the tea to use, don’t be afraid to choose a strong one. It does get toned down with ice and milk, so starting with one a bit stronger than you’d normally drink should be no problem.
Bubble tea is typically served over ice, with some of the brown sugar syrup added in with the tapioca. If you want it sweeter, add a bit more of the brown sugar syrup to the glass. You can also add simple syrup to your taste, for a sweeter drink.
Can I Make This In Advance?
I do not recommend assembling the drink in advance, as the tapioca doesn’t do well after it sits for long periods. However, the tea can be made a day or two in advance and refrigerated. Wait until an hour or so before you want to enjoy your drink to make the tapioca as it can get hard.
Video: How to Make Bubble Tea
More Drink Recipes:
- Southern Style Sweet Tea
- Mexican Horchata
- Irish Coffee
- Coffee Banana Smoothie
- Shirley Temple Drink
- Strawberry Lemonade
For the Tea
- 4 cups water
- 4 black tea bags
For the Tapioca
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup black tapioca pearls (instant/quick-cooking)
- 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk , divided, for serving
- In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the tea bags; stir once or twice to make sure the tea leaves are saturated with water. Take off the heat and let the tea sit in the hot water until it cools to room temperature. Discard the tea bags, then place the bowl of tea in the fridge to chill completely.
- Place the brown sugar and water into a medium-sized sauce-pot over medium heat; stir together then bring it to a gentle simmer, stirring constantly for 3 minutes (don’t let it reach a rapid boil.) The syrup should be slightly thickened. Remove from the heat to cool.
- Cook the tapioca pearls per the directions on the packaging. (Test a pearl to see if it’s your desired level of softness – continuing cooking a few more minutes if they’re still stiff.) Remove from the heat; drain and rinse pearls under cold water to prevent them from sticking together and transfer to a bowl.
- Pour the cooled syrup over the tapioca pearls and gently stir to combine.
- To serve, add the sweetened tapioca pearls along with a bit of the syrup to the bottom of four tall glasses. Top with ice. Add 1 cup of the tea to each glass. Add 1-2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk to each glass. Gently stir to combine and enjoy with a big bubble tea/smoothie straw.