DIY Bubble Tea

Fresh tapioca pearls. (massdistraction/Flickr)
Fresh tapioca pearls. (massdistraction/Flickr)

By Lea McLellan

Bubble tea, also known as pearl tea, boba tea, milk tea, or boba nai cha, is a catch-all term for the extremely popular Taiwanese drink that is quickly becoming a favorite in western countries as well. While flavors, texture and color may vary, the main thing that makes bubble tea bubble tea are those little black tapioca pearls that sink to the bottom of the cup and get sucked up by the extra wide straw. Sucking up chewy tapioca balls in the same sip as your milk tea isn't for everyone. But people who like the drink become hooked on bubble tea's sweet gummy goodness.

The tapioca pearls (or bubbles, or boba, or whatever you want to call them) are what keeps bubble tea addicts coming back for more. While many choose to liven up their bubble tea experience with flavors like coconut, lychee, red bean, or mango, the basic ingredients are quite simple. All you really need to make the drink is milk, tea (black or green), sugar, and tapioca pearls.

If your bubble tea addiction is draining your wallet or you're experiencing a sad lack of bubble tea shops in your area, try making this popular Taiwanese drink at home! The basic recipe is easy. Don't be afraid to add fruit juices or different flavors, play with the sweetness, or adjust the milk/tea ratios to find your perfect gulp of this super popular Asian beverage. For the tapioca pearls, try looking at any Asian market or Chinese grocery store.


1 teaspoon sugar (to be boiled with the tapioca pearls)

½ cup large tapioca pearls or 1/3 c small tapioca pearls

1 cup brewed black or green tea

2 tablespoon milk (can be adjusted to taste)

4 teaspoon sugar (can be adjusted to taste)

1 cup ice cubes


  1. Bring 2 cups water to boil. Stir in teaspoon of sugar and add tapioca. Cook for about 20-30 minutes, stirring to prevent pearls from sticking. Rinse, drain, and chill in refrigerator. *Cooking time is a general guideline. Less cooking time will result in chewier tapioca pearls.
  2. Pour tea, milk, and sugar into a cocktail shaker and stir until everything is well mixed. Add ice cubes and shake until cold.


Also try:

Burmese Tapioca Refresher (Moh Let Saung)

Asian-Inspired Summer Drinks