Homemade Bubble Tea Recipe

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Add'l Time 3 hrs
Total Time 3 hrs 30 mins

Make your favorite homemade bubble tea at home! 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 in bubble tea?

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.

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.)

Tapioca Pearls FAQ

  • 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!
Tea being poured over ice in a tall glass.

What kind of tea can I use in this bubble tea recipe?

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 made with 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 flavored tea recommendations to try: 

  • Jasmine Tea
  • Chai Tea
  • Green Tea
  • Oolong Tea
Glass of tea with tapioca pearls in the bottom being topped off with cream.

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! Often, store bought Bubble Tea will be 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
Bubble Tea being mixed together with cream in a glass with ice.

My tips to make the best Bubble Tea!

  1. Don’t be afraid to add the sugar: Bubble tea isn’t for those on a diet. Bubble tea is meant to be 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. Make your tapioca pearls fresh: Once 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.

Yield: 2 servings

Bubble Tea

Two glasses of Bubble Tea in clear glass cups.

You can now make your favorite bubble tea at home! Sweet black tea and chewy tapioca balls are topped with a heavy pour of cream for this delicious treat!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Additional Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients

Tea

  • 4 bags of black tea
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • ice
  • sweetened condensed milk (or other milk of choice)

Tapioca Pearls

  • 3 cups water
  • 1/3 cup quick-cooking black tapioca pearls

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. Assemble the Bubble Tea: Divide cooked tapioca pearls into 2 large glasses. Add ice cubes to each glass and pour 1 cup of tea into each glass.Add about 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk on top, stir and serve. Add more milk or tea, to taste.

Notes

If you choose to use a different cream/milk than sweetened condensed milk (which already has sugar in it), you may want to add an extra tablespoon or two of sugar to the black tea!

Recommended Products

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

2 servings

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 410Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 7mgSodium: 49mgCarbohydrates: 98gFiber: 1gSugar: 32gProtein: 2g

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Welcome!

Jessica
I'm a trial & error, self taught, sugar addict who thankfully learned how to survive in the kitchen! I am also a wife, mama of 3.
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