3 Simple Boba Tea Recipes
Using Our Signature Pre-Sweetened Tea Bags
You know how there’s a marketing “holiday” for everything? I mean seriously, just about anything you can imagine, there’s some sort of random day when we’re supposed to celebrate it—there’s actually a National Buffet Day...not kidding.
In April, I was skimming through this crazy calendar of national days and saw something that stuck me as worthy of having its own day. And maybe I’m biased because it has to do with tea, but whatever. There it was—National Boba Tea day.
I’ve always enjoyed boba or bubble tea, but my only real experience trying it has been at the Saigon Cafe in Zephyrhills just north of Tampa (totally recommend by the way). The colors are always so beautiful and the flavor combinations always fascinate me—I mean, Avocado and Banana Boba Tea, are you kidding me?!? Anyway, I thought to myself, if I can get my hands on some tapioca pearls, what’s stopping me from experimenting with my own boba tea recipes? So, that’s where my journey began…
What Is Boba Tea?
Before diving into how to make boba tea, I think it’s important to explore its history and get a sense of appreciation for the culture it comes from. According to Food & Wine’s article titled “A Brief History of Boba,” the drink was actually popularized in the 1980s. At the time, milk tea was already being enjoyed in other parts of the world, specifically in East Asian countries like Taiwan. Additionally, shaved ice and tapioca balls were common desserts at the time—until someone came along and decided to combine three tasty ingredients. That’s right, tapioca pearls at the bottom, shaved iced layered on top, and milk tea to top off the cup. Thus, boba tea, or bubble milk tea, was born. Another fun fact is that boba got its name from a Chinese slang term for breasts—who knew?? Over time, boba tea flavors have evolved to include fruits and syrups to jazz it up a bit. My personal favorite is mango flavored boba tea if I’m ordering out. But, I’ve admittedly had a hard time getting the recipes right for my own homemade boba tea..I’ll tell you why at each step that can go wrong in the process below.
What You'll Need
First thing’s first—you have to gather your ingredients. Before you jot down this list, fair warning, tapioca pearls aren’t quick to come by, but don’t be discouraged. Yes, they’re not everyday grocery items, and yes there was a shortage at the beginning of the year, but I found some good ones here on Amazon. I bought white ones, but if you’re looking for the fancy ones that you can see distinctly through the milky tea and cup, find the brown or black tapioca pearls.
- 1 C. Tapioca Pearls
- 3 Embrew Tea Bags (to prepare a strong batch of cold brew)
- ½ C. Milk or dairy alternative of choice
- Ice (optional)
- 18-20 oz. cup or jar
- Glass and wide boba straw (we recommend a reusable one, but I lost mine right before making this recipe, so I used a spoon to get the pearls.)
Preparing The Pearls & Brewing the Tea
Making Cold Brew Tea
It’s possible to use the “easy method” of cold brewing an extra strong and sweet batch of tea, however, after testing, I prefer the hot brewed method described below. If you’re a die-hard cold brewer, simply place three bags of your Embrew tea blend of choice in the jar with 18-20oz. of water, and place in the fridge for 12-18 hours. For the boba tea exploration I did, the best tasting blends were, Cocoa Berry Black, Cinnamon Oolong Chai, and Creamy Honey Oolong teas. This cold brewing boba tea method is pretty straightforward, but you can get more detailed instructions on our blog, “How to Make Cold Brew Iced Tea With Tea Bags.”
Hot Brewed Tea
After trying various ways of both cold brewing and hot brewing the tea bags to get the base, I felt the hot brewed tea was much more flavorful and strong than the cold brew, which was smoother and a bit mild once the milk was mixed in.
To prepare the tea, use three tea bags in 18-20oz. of hot water. Make sure to check the blend’s specific water temperature and then steep for 2 minutes longer than the suggested time for traditional tea. This ensures a stronger brew and slightly more sweetness, which is typical of Boba tea. If you prefer yours less sweet, I would bump the water volume up to 24-26oz. rather than reducing it down to two tea bags. After you’ve steeped for the recommended time (remember...two minutes longer than the bag instructions), allow the tea to cool.
Making the Boba
While your cold brew is steeping or hot brew is cooling, follow your tapioca pearls’ package instructions on how to prepare them. However, if your pearls only have ingredients and no instructions, like mine, here’s how the process worked for me.
In a medium sized pot, bring 2 cups of filtered water to a soft boil, add 2 Tbsp of coconut palm sugar, and add 1 cup of dried tapioca pearls. Some of the instructions I read online never mention adding sweetener to the water, and I’ll tell you, tapioca starch is not delicious. Add some sugar so they taste better. The article I first read said the pearls should float after 30 seconds, but mine never did. One site also said to boil them for 15 minutes, which was NOT enough time for mine. I cooked them for 30 minutes, and then strained them. But, I also checked the donness along the way. You want them just tender.
This process is thick and messy, so be ready to struggle a bit on the clean-up. After the active cooking process, you can use them right away, or store them until you’re ready to make bubble milk tea.
Our Must-Try Boba Tea Recipes
Let’s get brewing! You should now have your tea made and your boba pearls prepped, so all that’s left to do is combine, add milk (if you want to) and enjoy. Make sure you have an extra wide drinking straw so the boba pearls can go up easily. I couldn’t find mine when I was taking photos for this article, so I simply used a spoon to enjoy the boba pearls and drank from the cup like normal.
Recipe #1: Creamy Honey Boba
All the creaminess and none of the milk—this is my go-to dairy and milk-free option using our lightly pre-sweetened Creamy Honey Oolong tea. I’m partial to boba tea without ice cubes, so I make sure the tea is ice cold, then top with one scoop or 2 heaping tablespoons of boba pearls. Since this brew is already naturally creamy, it worked well to leave it as-is and not add any additional non-dairy milk.
Recipe #2: Berry Boba Blast
Bold and caffeinated, this one is a treat. Use our Cocoa Berry Black tea for this recipe and follow the same steps listed above. Fill your cup with ice cold tea, top with a scoop of pearls, pour the cold brew, and top with ½ C. milk or a dairy alternative. For this one, we recommend an extra creamy oat milk to complement the chocolate notes.
Recipe #3: Chai Cinnamon Boba Tea
Something spicy with a touch of sweetness. This one is a personal favorite, it’s similar to the vegan eggnog we created around the holidays. To make this, follow the same process—ice (if you prefer), scoop or two of pearls, pour in the strong-brewed Cinnamon Oolong Chai tea (cooled), top with ½ C. milk or dairy alternative. Our personal recommendation is coconut milk as it pairs nicely with this robust boba tea flavor.
If you love this fun drink as much as I do, but want to make boba tea recipes that are a touch easier and a lot less messy, I highly recommend using our artisan tea blends. They’re lightly pre-sweetened and require exactly ZERO infusers or additional sugar—giving you more time to celebrate all of those made-up holidays that are filling your calendar. If you’re interested in more ways to use our tea to make cool new recipes, check out our blog for 3 refreshing ways to make Summer Peach Rooibos cocktails, or learn how to make 5 different tea-inspired cocktails. Have a cold brew recipe of your own in mind? Shop our collection of cold brew iced tea bags and give something your own spin—don’t forget to take pictures and tag me on Instagram @embrewtea!