boba bubble tea recipe how to make at home
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With coronavirus making travel a tricky and even potentially dangerous prospect this year, we’re embracing the summer staycation. All week (and all summer) long, we’ll bring you transportive flavors and travel-inspired ideas from around the world, so you can take your tastebuds on a trip and give your mind a mini vacation while you’re still at home. Here, how to make Taiwan’s beloved boba (bubble tea) at home.

Like so many beloved recipes, the story of bubble tea begins at a street food stall. It was in Taiwan in the 1980s that a vendor made the decision to combine milk tea, already a national favorite, and softened and sweetened tapioca pearls, a cherished Taiwanese dessert. It was an instant hit amongst Taiwanese who not only enjoyed its flavor but also loved the fun of sucking the oversized tapioca balls up through jumbo straws.

The trend quickly spread throughout Europe and America where storefronts exclusively devoted to bubble tea have emerged. The tea is referred to as boba in Taiwan, a word that means breasts, and while the pearls are often mixed with milk, tea, and fruit powders in retail shops, they are even tastier when combined with real fruit and other natural flavors.

Related Reading: The History of Boba & Bubble Tea | The Best Reusable Straws for All Your Eco-Friendly Sipping Needs

history of bubble tea boba

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Boba come in a wide variety of colors and flavors and are readily available in Asian markets as well as online, as are the wide straws required for a truly perfect glass of bubble tea. (You can even find reusable eco-friendly straws wide enough to suck up the boba pearls.) The drink is a favorite of adults and children alike and because it is such a treat to drink and kids won’t notice if you slip something healthy into it like green tea, almond milk, or fruit.

Here’s What You Need to Make Bubble Tea:

  • Sugar
  • Tea bags, loose tea, or matcha powder
  • Boba (tapioca pearls)
  • Milk (dairy or non-dairy) or fruit juice
  • 2 saucepans
  • Colander
  • Jumbo straw

Steps to Making Bubble Tea:

1. Create a simple syrup by bringing 1/4 cup of water to a boil. Remove from the heat and add 1/4 cup of granulated sugar. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolves. Cool to room temperature.

2. Prepare a cup of tea using your favorite variety. Is using tea bags, try using two to make it more robustly flavored. Discard the tea bags or strain the leaves and cool the tea to room temperature.

3. In another saucepan, bring water to a boil; the ratio should be 2 cups of water for every 1/4 cup boba.

4. Add the boba and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook gently for 15 minutes then remove from the heat.

5. Set the pan aside for an additional 15 minutes. Drain the boba in a colander then stir them together in a bowl with the simple syrup. The syrup will not only sweeten the boba but will also help keep them soft and chewy. Boba are best when they are freshly prepared but they can also be stored with the syrup in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

6. In a tall glass, combine the tea and the boba and pour your additional liquid of choice up to the top. Ideas include milk, almond milk, or fruit juice.

7. Add additional flavorings, if desired, and serve with a jumbo straw.

WuFuYuan Black Tapioca Pearls, $9.88 from Amazon

The all-important bubbles for your bubble tea.
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Buddha Bubbles Coconut Boba/Bubble Tea Powder, $15.95 from Amazon

You can try a sweet bubble tea mix as another option for homemade boba.
Buy Now

Jumbo Metal Boba Straws with Silicone Tips, 6 for $4.99 from Amazon

These eco-friendly wide boba straws include silicone tips to buffer your lips and teeth from the stainless steel.
Buy Now

Bubble Tea Recipes

To help you get started with flavor combinations and variations, try these bubble tea recipes to start.

Black Bubble Tea

This bubble tea is for those who love a classic with its infusion of black tea and black tapioca pearls for an elegant finish. Get the Black Bubble Tea recipe.

Chai Coconut Bubble Tea

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The spicy virtues of chai and tropical kiss of coconut form a perfect union in this recipe that is sweetened with honey. Get the Chai Coconut Bubble Tea recipe.

Matcha Bubble Tea

Healthy and tasty all at the same time, matcha is the star ingredient in this bubble tea recipe that swaps out regular milk for almond. Get the Matcha Bubble Tea recipe.

Authentic Taiwanese Bubble Tea

In this recipe a Taiwanese native shares her aunt’s bubble tea recipe that includes red rose tea for a delicate finish. Get the Authentic Taiwanese Bubble Tea recipe.

Strawberry Slushie Bubble Tea

Here’s a fun summer twist on bubble tea that incorporates strawberries and crushed ice. Get the Strawberry Slushie Bubble Tea recipe.

Strawberry Mango Bubble Tea

Fruity and pretty all at the same time, mango and strawberry combined with milk and boba make this a go-to for fussy kids who won’t be able to resist its charms. Get the Strawberry Mango Bubble Tea recipe.

More Ways to Take a Break without Leaving Home

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Jody Eddy is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan. She has cooked at Jean Georges, The Fat Duck, and Tabla and is the former editor of Art Culinaire Magazine. Her most recent cookbook was "Cuba! Recipes and Stories From a Cuban Kitchen", published by Ten Speed Press. Her cookbook "North: The New Nordic Cuisine of Iceland" was published by Ten Speed Press in 2014 and won the 2015 IACP Judge's Choice Award. She is the author of the James Beard nominated cookbook "Come In, We're Closed: An Invitation to Staff Meals at the World's Best Restaurants" and her upcoming book for Ten Speed, "The Hygge Life", will be published in November, 2017. She is writing a cookbook for W.W. Norton profiling the cuisine and food traditions of monasteries, temples, mosques and synagogues around the world which will be published in 2019 and a cookbook with the Food Network chef Maneet Chauhan profiling the cuisine of India via an epic train journey throughout the country. She writes for Travel+Leisure, Saveur, Food & Wine, The Wall Street Journal, Plate, and VICE, among others. She is the author of, leads culinary trend tours for food and beverage corporations in Iceland, Peru, Mexico, Ireland and Cuba and is the Vice President of Marketing, Partnerships and Events at Hop Springs, an 85 acre agritourism destination opening in Nashville in May, 2018.
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