Tea Lover Lessons

How to Make Milk Tea at Home

Glass of homemade bubble milk tea with straw

If you’re on social media, you’ve probably seen boba everywhere. These delicious tea drinks are all over the ‘gram, and we think we know why. 

With its bright colors, sweet flavors, and picturesque boba pearls, milk tea is trendy to its core. Tea shops all over the nation serve up this tasty treat, but it’s also surprisingly easy to make at home. Read on for our tips and tricks on how to serve up delicious homemade boba tea.

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What Is Milk Tea?

Milk tea is an iced tea drink that combines strong tea with milk (and sometimes sweetened condensed milk) and cooked tapioca pearls. It’s often enjoyed while sipping through a jumbo-sized straw. 

The end result is a sweet and chewy tea that is so good, you might not be able to have just one.

This drink started off simply, using brewed black tea leaves, whole milk, and brown sugar to create the drink and tapioca balls to add texture. However, as time has passed, the drink has evolved.

Now, you can find bubble teas with fruity, floral, and confectionery flavors. You can even get boba tea with taro, which is a vegetable that grows in Southeast Asia.

As far as texturized mix-ins, we now have more options than ever. There are brown sugar pearls, white pearls, and even small jellies that come in many sizes and flavors.

What Are the Origins of Milk Tea?

While tea itself has been around for thousands of years, boba has only been around for a little over forty years. In fact, bubble tea was invented by accident.

In the 1980s, a bored Taiwanese tea house employee combined their cold tea with fen yuan. Fen yuan is a dessert that features tapioca balls soaked in sugary ice water. Thus, the beginnings of boba tea were born.

While boba originated in Taiwan, it quickly spread across other Asian countries and eventually made it over to America in the 1990s. At first, boba was a way for Taiwanese-Americans to keep their heritage alive. However, trends catch on quickly in the U.S.

Boba tea has since performed the remarkable feat of maintaining its popularity for decades. This is partly because it’s incredibly delicious, and partly because boba has evolved to include new flavors and forms in order to keep up with shifts in trends. While many trends die out, boba tea is here to stay.

What Are the Benefits of Milk Tea?

Because boba is traditionally based on black breakfast teas like Assam, Ceylon, and even Earl Grey, it has many of black tea’s awesome benefits. 

Full of Antioxidants

Like green teas including matcha and oolong teas, black teas are full of antioxidants. These antioxidants are a natural part of the Camellia sinensis plant, which produces the leaves that become our favorite teas. 

These leaves are exposed to oxygen in a process called oxidation, which increases the amounts of antioxidants. These antioxidants include catechins, flavonoids, and polyphenols.

Antioxidants are important because they track down and neutralize free radicals, which are unstable atoms. Free radicals can cause lots of damage to many different organs and systems in your body and can even lead to long-term illness.

Antioxidants round up those pesky free radicals and give them the boot. Because of this, antioxidants are often associated with heart health, healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and a healthy metabolism.

Helps Manage Stress

Both green and black teas contain an amino acid called L-theanine, which promotes relaxation and focus. Because of this, you may experience a better mood and decreased stress levels after drinking a cup of boba.

Provides an Energy Boost

Black tea contains caffeine, you may experience a little energy boost after drinking a cup of boba. Of course, this also has to do with the enormous amount of sugar that some commercial boba contains.

Interestingly, your choice of milk could also contribute to an energy boost. Dairy milk contains high levels of carbohydrates, saturated fats, and protein, which all provide energy. Dairy-free milk alternatives can also contain these elements at varying levels.

Since boba tea can be so full of sugar, you might want to take steps to avoid some of sugar’s negative effects. These can include drinking smaller amounts of boba per sitting, asking for less sugar or using a sugar substitute, and changing up your milk type. 

Of course, making your own boba is the only way to truly know how much sugar is in your drink.

5 Wonderful Teas for Bubble Tea

While many teas can make a great bubble tea, there are a few that take the cake. Here are our favorite teas to use in milk tea recipes.

Ahmad Tea Jasmine Romance

This jasmine green tea has a delicate taste that pairs wonderfully with milk tea’s ingredients. These sweet floral notes and light flavors will make a boba tea like you’ve never had before. Substitute dairy milk for soy milk, coconut milk, or other dairy-free milk for a delicious and lightweight spring treat.

This tea also contains low levels of caffeine, so it’s lovely for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. We recommend timing this delicious concoction right after lunch to feel some of its digestive benefits.

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Davidson's Organic Teas Wild Strawberry

This black tea hails from Darjeeling and Assam and has a beautiful richness to it that we just can’t get enough of. The strawberry flavor is so fruity and sweet, and it tastes absolutely heavenly in a glass of milk tea.

Plus, you can get the benefits of black tea while you drink it! It may taste like a sweet treat, but it’s also a benefits-packed cuppa.

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Oteas Passion Fruit & Orange

We could go on and on about this tangy tropical tea, but you’ll really just have to taste it for yourself. With pieces of papaya, orange, passion fruit, and rosehips, the fruity flavors make for a bold milk tea that might just be the highlight of your day.

Pour yourself a glass of this yummy treat and close your eyes. Picture yourself on a sandy beach, somewhere where papayas and passion fruits grow natively. This is your sign to go on an imaginary, boba-fueled vacation with Oteas.

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Magic Moon Sparkling Rosé

This magical tea is wonderful for a night in with the girls (or guys). This rosé-inspired herbal blend contains apple pieces, rose pieces, and pineapple swirled into a classic white tea. It’s almost like drinking the actual moon!

Plus, it glitters! These little flecks of gold will look so Instagram-able in your cup of boba, your entire feed might be asking where you got it.

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We love teas that taste like sweet treats, but we especially like this scrumptious almond cookie tea. Apple pieces, almond, and cinnamon ingredients combine to make for a very convincing taste-alike for a delicious cookie. Plus, a little drop of beetroot gives this tea a dreamy pink color.

This herbal tea is a lovely match for boba, and we recommend using almond milk to really bring out the cookie flavors. This one is well-suited to living out your cottagecore dreams (or just watching reruns of Hallmark movies).

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How to Make Bubble Tea

Once you’ve chosen your type of tea, there’s only one thing left to do – make the boba milk tea! Here’s our go-to bubble tea recipe to get you started. The total time to make it shouldn’t be more than fifteen minutes.

Step One: Brew the Tea

Set some water to boil and prepare your tea. If you’re using tea bags, we recommend using quite a few. You want the tea to be super strong so that the taste can flavor the milk. If you’re using loose-leaf tea, just make sure to heap a few spoonfuls of tea into your infuser.

Pour your boiling water onto the tea and steep as directed. Once it’s done, set it aside to let it cool down to room temperature.

Step Two: Cook Your Tapioca Pearls

Set a pot of water on the stove to boil, and measure out your boba pearls according to the package. Typically, you’ll want ten cups of water for each cup of boba. Once your water is boiling, pour in your boba and turn your stove eye down to medium heat.

Cook for a few minutes, then turn the stove off completely. Play your favorite song while the boba cools. After a three-and-a-half-minute song, your boba will be ready.

Scoop your boba out of the hot water and place it into a container of cold water. The boba should thicken up in the cold water.

Step Three: Assemble Your Tea

This is the moment we’ve been waiting for: Scoop out your desired amount of cooked tapioca pearls, and put it in your cup. Add in your brewed tea until your cup is a little over two-thirds of the way full. 

Mix in your milk, and get creative with it! Different milks and milk substitutes have different tastes and textures. You can use coconut milk, whole milk, and even half and half to achieve the delicious drink of your dreams.

Here’s where you’ll add your sweetener. Traditional boba uses a brown sugar simple syrup that makes the tea extra-sweet. You can buy some pre-made brown sugar syrup, or you can make your own by boiling dark brown sugar and water together.

You can also swap out the brown sugar for regular table sugar or a sugar-free sweetener. It all depends on what you would like! Add in ice cubes until your cup is full. Now, you’re finally ready to enjoy your tea drink.

Step Four: Garnish and Enjoy

Presentation is an important part of any drink, so make sure to garnish your glass with some fruit slices, edible glitter, or a brown sugar rim. Once your cup of tea is prepped and ready to go, all you have to do is kick back and relax and enjoy your hard-earned cup of boba.

That Sums It Up!

Boba is a fairly recent development in tea history, but it’s already a wildly popular beverage. Aside from its health benefits, boba tea is also a delicious drink.

When making milk tea at home, you can either choose from our list of favorites or try something new! If you don’t know where to start, we recommend trying out our monthly tea subscription. You tell us what you like, and we’ll deliver personalized recommendations right to your door. 

Interested in trying these teas and others? Subscribers receive 4 teas chosen just for them in every box. Learn more about our tea subscription box or explore the loose leaf tea shop.

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About Sips by: We’re a female-founded and led startup that makes discovering tea fun, personalized, and affordable. The Sips by Box is the only multi-brand, personalized tea subscription box. Each month, we match tea drinkers across the U.S. with delicious teas from over 150 global tea brands that we’re sure they’ll love. Based out of Austin, Texas, we are adept at savoring a hot mug even when it’s seasonally inappropriate. 

Sources:

DIY: Boba Milk Tea | Arlington Public Library 

It's Quali-tea: How Boba Became a Craze | Business Insider 

Molecular evidences of health benefits of drinking black tea | PMC 

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