How to Make Your Own Bubble Tea

UCI and boba, boba and UCI. Milk tea and boba pearls basically replace water and caffeine on campus. We hang out and swarm boba shops all over the city to get that sweet sip of happiness. This phenomenon is ingrained in campus culture so much that a Petr sticker shows our mascot with a boba drink in hand!

Coming from the 626 area, this boba craze was not new for me. If this area code is familiar to you, then you know boba drinks are an integral part of our lives. We don't have many coffee shops here, but there are boba/tea shops on every corner where you can find us studying and hanging out. 

And lucky for me, my local shops sell every ingredient needed to make the perfect boba drink (small flex: the first Tiger Sugar shop was established in my city!). And since it’s been a year since my last boba run, I decided to make boba milk tea from scratch! 

So, if you want to possibly impress your friends post-pandemic or you like to cook, here’s what you’re going to need:

  • ¼ cup black tapioca pearls (you can find them on Amazon or in the baking aisle of some grocery stores)

  • ½ cup brown sugar 

  • 5 ½  cup water

  • 1 ½ tbsp milk of any kind (the creamier the better.)

  • Tea of choice/espresso/coffee/smoothie (really any drink that pairs well with sweet pearls)

  • Ice cubes

  • Saucepan and medium-sized pot

  • Jumbo Straws (for drinking with)

  • Frother 

  • Optional: whipped cream or condensed milk

Side note: Ok, so I basically eyeballed everything and used the instructions that came with the tapioca pearls, but there were a lot of helpful YouTube videos on how to make a “bubble tea” or milk tea boba drinks like this one. It’s not that hard after you cook up the tapioca pearls.

Preparing the tapioca/boba pearls
  1. Fill your medium-sized pot with about 4 cups of water and bring it to a boil. (I filled a pot ¾ of the way.)

  2. Add your ¼ cup of tapioca pearls to the boiling water (I used about half my bag, so about 2 cups). Make sure that your pearls have enough water to move around and boil to the top. 

  3. Stir so that the pearls do not stick to the bottom of the pot. Boil for 15-20 minutes until they float to the top. 

  4. After this time, cover the pot and allow pearls to sit in the water for another 15-25 minutes. 

  5. Strain the water from the pearls and sweeten with syrup, in which they should be stored prior to use.

Making the simple syrup
  1. In a saucepan, add 1/2 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of water. If you want to make more, follow a 1:1 ratio.

  2. On medium heat, mix and bring to a boil until the sugar has dissolved. 

  3. Pour and mix the boba pearls into the syrup to sweeten them. (I suggest allowing them to sit in the syrup for about 2 hours in the fridge so the pearls sweeten up.)

Assembling the boba milk tea drink
  1. Steep 1 cup of tea of your choice; preferably a dark and rich tea like black or earl gray tea. I have also experimented with using espresso and coffee, which are the perfect complements to the sweet and delicate flavor of the boba pearls. Boba shops also like to use boba pearls in smoothies too, so have fun with it!

  2. In a glass, place your ice cubes and 1 cup of tea. Add the simple syrup from before to sweeten your tea to taste. If you choose to use condensed milk, add now and mix. 

  3. In a saucepan or microwave, heat up your milk until it boils and froth the milk afterwards. This is an additional step, so you can just add the 1 ½ tbsp of milk to your drink directly and mix.

  4. Add your desired amount of boba pearls and enjoy with your jumbo straw! (And top off with some optional whipped cream.)

My boba drink came out really good, not to brag! I definitely will want to experiment with different types of drinks and different syrup flavors next time I grab a bag of black tapioca pearls. I just adore spicing up my regular iced coffee with these fun pearls of sweetness. And since my last time on campus, I have been dreaming about the drinks of OMOMO Tea Shoppe, which is a 10/10 store that I would recommend if you are in Irvine. And on that note, I hope you satisfy your boba desires with this recipe!