What is Bubble Tea and How to Make it

An interesting drink concept originating from Taiwan, Bubble tea is a tea-based drink that can be made with milk or fruit juice, with chewy tapioca pearls, also known as Boba.

Where Did Bubble Tea Come From?

Taiwanese Bubble Tea

Bubble tea has been consumed with much popularity since the 1980s in places such as China, however, it has only become a trendy choice of beverage in the West in recent years. Following the growing popularity of Bubble tea in the UK, as well as the US, new Bubble tea shops are literally "popping" up everywhere, pun intended!

In East Asia, ice and tapioca have long since been used as elements of desserts, and tea drinking has been a popular activity in the Far East for centuries. In the '80s when someone had the clever idea of combining all three, the concept of Bubble tea was born and became a huge sensation.

Bubble tea concoctions have evolved over time since vendors have found that fruit syrups and powders work more cost-effectively than fruit which spoils quickly, as well as non-dairy creamers that can be used to replace milk, resulting in a sweet and creamy drink with a delightful aroma.

What is Bubble Tea Like?

Bubble Tea Styles

Bubble tea comes in many varieties and interesting flavours such as taro, and it can be made with milk or fruit juices, while several variations are tea-based too, such as black tea, green tea, or jasmine tea. Bubble tea can also be served ice-cold or piping hot. Find out whether cold or hot bubble tea is for you!

When purchasing bubble tea at a shop, you are often given a choice of sweetness levels and the amount of ice you want in your drink. As these drinks are usually laden with sugar, not to mention the starchy tapioca balls that sit at the bottom, you can opt for 50% less sweetness if you want to stay a bit on the healthier side, for example.

Bubble tea shops also give you the option to customise your drinks with other fillings such as coconut jelly and offer a wide range of flavours and fillings that all bubble tea lovers are sure to enjoy.

Purchasing readymade bubble tea can be expensive and not everyone is able or even wants to go out every time they fancy their bubble tea fix. The good news is that you can actually make bubble tea in the comfort of your own home. This gives you the flexibility to adjust the tea to your own liking and will save you a fair bit of money in the long run.

Types of Bubble Tea

Bubble Tea Flavours

In traditional East Asian bubble tea shops, the choices of toppings vary and in addition to standard black tapioca pearls, customers can choose coconut jelly (a.k.a nata de coco), grass jelly, almond jelly, egg pudding, or even red beans instead.

Nowadays different flavours of tapioca pearls are also available, such as green tea flavours or even popping boba, which are balls of different flavours of fruit juice that pop when bitten.

Matcha Bubble Tea

Fruit-flavour bubble teas are often made with green tea or jasmine tea, while milk-based bubble teas are usually made with black tea. As well as the traditional brown sugar-flavoured milk tea, other popular options include:

Purple taro, which is made from a root vegetable that is popular in Asia.

Green Matcha, which is an extremely healthy form of green tea, renowned for its antioxidants and metabolism-boosting health benefits.

If you want to go for a uniquely coloured bubble tea, without artificial colours, then a beautiful blue Butterfly Pea Flower pearl milk tea is probably the one for you!

Thai tea is hugely popular amongst bubble tea flavours, which is likely to be down to its attractive orange colour and subtle vanilla flavour.

How to Make Classic Brown Sugar Pearl Milk Tea

Brown Sugar Bubble Tea

The addictive chewiness of the black tapioca pearls, teamed with the creaminess of the milk tea, makes the classic pearl milk tea one of the most popular options amongst bubble tea drinkers.

This recipe used quick-cooking tapioca pearls, so you only need to cook them as and when you need them, as they don't keep so well overnight. The ingredients are for one serving.


1 Teabag (any strong black tea)
Whole Milk to serve (or any milk you prefer)
1 Sachet Hong Kong Style Milk Tea Powder
35g Quick-cook Tapioca Pearls 
35g Soft Light Brown Sugar 


How to Make the Milk Tea:
Steep the tea bag in half a cup of freshly boiled water until it goes cold. You will add the milk later.
Pour a sachet of milk tea powder into a cup, add 150ml boiling water, and stir. 

How to Cook the Tapioca Pearls (Boba):
Boil 10 parts water for 1 part tapioca pearls in a pan.
Add the tapioca pearls slowly into boiling water and stir lightly.
Wait until the tapioca pearls float to the surface then cover them with a lid and cook on medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
Turn off the heat and leave the lid on for another 2-3 minutes (adjust the time to soften the tapioca pearls to your personal preference).
Drain the tapioca pearls and leave them in cold water for 20 seconds.
Drain the tapioca pearls again and place them in a glass/cup.
Mix in the brown sugar until it becomes syrup.

Brown Sugar Boba Tea

How to Assemble the Iced Brown Sugar Bubble Tea:
Once the cooked tapioca pearls are in the bottom of the glass, coated in the brown sugar syrup, stack the glass with 100g of ice cubes and pour the milk tea over it and stir.
If using the tea from a teabag, or even loose-leaf tea that has been strained, after adding the tea, add the whole milk to your required taste and stir.

For a hot bubble tea drink, pour the hot milk tea over the cooked tapioca pearls, and only add the brown sugar according to your taste.