What is bubble tea and how to make it at home

Has the bubble tea craze hit you yet ? This drink of Taiwanese origin combines tea with the famous tapioca “pearls” and offers a spectacular appearance. Instagram, for example, is literally flooded with photos of endless variations of bubble tea.

This drink is very popular in countries like Japan, where there are stores that are exclusively dedicated to selling varieties of it. In recent years, these exotic establishments have opened the first in Madrid and Barcelona.

Now, what exactly is pearl tea or bubble tea and how can you prepare it at home? 

What is bubble tea?

Bubble tea, or at least in its original version, is a drink that combines black tea, tapioca in the form of small balls or pearls, and a sweetener such as condensed milk or syrup.

Today, and after becoming popular in half the world, it is possible to find innumerable versions of bubble tea made with different types of tea, without tea but with exotic fruit flavors, with milk, with vegetable milk, with extra components such as ice cream… in short, an endless variety that have one element in common: the gummy balls (made with tapioca, gelatin or even agar-agar) that give the tea that “chewy” characteristic.

Tea, in its original version, is consumed hot, but the truth is that most of the time it is easier to find it as a cold drink. To drink it, a peculiar straw is often offered, thicker than normal, so that, when sipping, the pearls can rise from the bottom of the glass.

This tea is known by several names. In Taiwan, they call it pearl tea, in China, bubble tea. Elsewhere, simply boba tea, which is the name for tapioca pearls.

The invention of bubble tea

The creation of bubble tea is unclear and at least two different entities claim to be the inventors. Although it has recently become popular in the West, the reality is that pearl tea is not a new invention, at least in the East.

It is believed that it was invented in the 1980s in the Hanlin tea room in Tainan, Taiwan, when its owner came up with the idea of ​​incorporating tapioca balls into tea. However, Liu Han-Chieh of Chun Shui Tang Teahouse in Taichung, Taiwan, maintains that it was his product development manager who invented it by mixing an iced tea drink with fen yuan (a well-known tapioca pudding) during a extremely boring business meeting also in the 80’s.

One way or another, the drink became famous during the 1990s, first in Taiwan and then spreading to other East Asian countries.

How to make bubble tea at home

Preparing bubble tea at home is easier than you might think, although it is true that some exotic ingredients are necessary. 

Where to get tapioca pearls

Tapioca pearls are basic to prepare this recipe and surely it is not one of those things that you usually have at home. You can get them relatively easily in any store with a variety of Asian products or, if not, in specialized suppliers on the Internet. Trust us, it won’t be hard for you to find them.

Classic bubble tea recipe

There are dozens of bubble tea recipes. We offer you what we consider basic: the original bubble tea. If you want to vary, there are powder preparations to prepare bubble teas with flavors of different fruits. Using them is simple, since you can start from the basic recipe that we give you.


For two people you will need:

  • 1 cup of black tea to your liking (it is usually used well concentrated: 3 bags per cup).
  • 1 tablespoon of condensed milk or syrup.
  • 1/2 cup of milk (you can use a non-dairy milk of your choice if you prefer)
  • 2 handfuls of tapioca pearls. (get them in Asian stores or on the Internet)
  • 1 and a half cups of water.
  • 1 cup of sugar.
  • 1 cup of crushed ice.


The first step is to cook the tapioca pearls. To do this, place them in a small pot along with a cup of water and boil them for 10 minutes or until tender.

Tapioca pearls are ready when they show a white consistency, similar to chewing gum. Let them cool for a while in the same pot and then rinse them with plenty of water over a colander to prevent them from sticking together.

In parallel, prepare a thick syrup using half a cup of water and half of sugar. To do this, heat the water with the sugar while stirring constantly. As the water evaporates, the mixture will thicken. When ready, mix the syrup with the tapioca pearls.

Prepare a cup of black tea just the way you like it. Normally, a well-concentrated tea is used, but if you prefer it milder, that’s up to you!

Place the tea, condensed milk or syrup, milk, and ice in a mixing glass and shake vigorously for several seconds. The idea is to achieve the classic and striking bubbly foam that is so typical of this drink.

Now it’s time to assemble your bubble tea. For this you need to have a tall glass, a wide straw and all the ingredients ready and arranged on the table. Serve the tapioca pearls first in the bottom of the glass and on top, ice. Add the drink you have prepared with the mixing glass, without letting the ice already used fall. Crown with the straw and enjoy!

Experiments you must try

Bubble tea lends itself to many, many combinations and experiments. Taking the previous preparation method as a base, you can play with the following variables.


Instead of black tea, you can use other types of tea. Of course, we recommend that you opt for teas with an intense flavor profile. 

One of our favorites, which also lends itself a lot to sweetness, is matcha tea. To prepare a bubble tea with matcha, prepare the pearls, put them in a large glass and add a splash of liquid caramel. Next, put half a glass of milk (it can be cow or vegetable). Finally, prepare a separate cup of matcha tea. Remember to sift the tea and beat well to generate that special matcha foam. Here is a guide just in case.

Finally, add the cup of tea to the rest of the preparation.

Flavored pearls

Another item you can play with is the flavor of tapioca pearls. Mango, peach, blueberry… Most brands sell different versions that you can combine to your liking.

Milk… or not

Although the mixture of black tea and milk is a true classic that gives bubble tea that captivating creaminess, you can completely skip the milk and try fruit juice.

It seeks to balance the type and volume of juice so that the flavor of the tea is not lost. We especially like it with peach or pear juice, which are still sweet and continue to add creaminess to the whole.

A scoop of ice cream

It may seem to you that this is taking bubble tea to the extreme, but being a summer drink, it is inevitable to think of combinations with ice cream.

In this case you can remove the milk. Serve the tapioca pearls in a glass, put a splash of liquid caramel and cover everything with a cup of cold tea. We recommend that you try earl grey, which will add its citrus touch. Finally, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


Ready for your bubble tea ?

Are you ready to enjoy these creamy pearl teas? Remember to consume them in moderation since tapioca provides a good amount of carbohydrates and the other ingredients are loaded with sugar.

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