I finally tried making bubble tea (boba) at home. I can’t believe how easy it is! It tastes so fresh, and it sure beats paying more than $5 a drink at the boba shop.
Boba—also known bubble tea or milk tea—is a Taiwanese treat consisting of four main components: chewy-sweet tapioca pearls, ice, brewed tea, and something creamy (e.g. half-and-half, pourable yogurt, or your favorite non-dairy beverage).
Tapioca pearls are made from tapioca starch, which is derived from the cassava plant. The pearls start out hard and white-ish but become black and rubbery after boiling. They are sweetened while still warm and become the base of the bubble tea beverage.
Boba is so popular that you’ll find many varieties of tapioca pearls at most Asian markets. I picked up black sugar tapioca pearls, which promised to be ready in 5 minutes (and were).
Why this recipe works with tea: Black or green tea is traditionally used as the tea portion of bubble tea, but rooibos (pronounced ROY-boss) makes for a deliciously caffeine-free alternative. Rooibos is a bush plant from South Africa. It’s needle-like leaves are dried and brewed into an herbal tea with lovely notes of vanilla and honey.
Sweetened with honey and made creamy with oat milk, my dairy-free bubble tea turned out to be one of the best I’ve ever sipped. The freshness of making boba at home just can’t be beat.
A few tips:
- One tool you’ll need to best enjoy boba is a thick straw through which you can easily slurp up each tapioca pearl. You can find affordable reusable boba straws at most Asian markets and online.
- Boba is best enjoyed within an hour or two of cooking the tapioca pearls. They’ll lose that fresh bouncy texture and eventually harden up if they sit around too long.
- Feel free to swap out the rooibos for your favorite tea. Use the same amount of loose leaf tea as the recipe below, but adjust the steeping time depending on the type of tea: 5-10 minutes for herbal teas and 3-5 minutes for black or green teas.
Happy cooking & sipping!
P.S. Thanks so much to Upland Tea House for sending me a sample of their super-fresh Western Cape Rooibos to play around with in my Tea Foodie kitchen. Using such a flavorful herbal tea really took my bubble tea to the next level.
Rooibos Honey Bubble Tea (Boba)
Makes 2 large or 4 small servings
By Suzanne Klein, Tea Foodie
2 cups just boiled water
2 tablespoons loose leaf rooibos
4 cups water
1/2 cup tapioca pearls
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup something creamy (e.g. half-and-half, pourable yogurt, or a non-dairy beverage)
Ice for serving
1. Pour just boiled water over rooibos and let steep for 10 minutes to create a strong-brewed herbal tea. Strain and discard rooibos leaves. Let tea cool at least to room temperature.
2. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add tapioca pearls and cook at a simmer for about 3 minutes. Turn off heat, cover pan, and let sit for about 3 more minutes. Tapioca pearls should be chewy and no longer firm in the center, but not mushy. (Follow the directions on your tapioca pearls package for best results.) Strain through a sieve, then pour boba back into saucepan. Stir in honey.
3. For each serving, place a few spoonfuls of still-warm, honey-sweetened boba on the bottom of a glass. Fill the glass about 3/4 with ice. Add cooled tea until you have about an inch of room at the top of the glass. Fill the rest of the way with your creamy beverage of choice. Add a thick boba straw and stir to combine before sipping.