Boba, boba milk tea, bubble tea, pearl milk tea, ... whatever you call it, it is a popular Taiwan-originated drink that I simply can't get enough of. In college, I usually rewarded myself after a successful exam with boba milk tea. I also consoled myself after an exam with boba milk tea. If you like boba as much as I do, we can be good friends.
Boba drinks are sweetened tea, mixed with milk or fruit juices, served over ice or blended with ice and topped with chewy tapioca balls or fruit jellies. Simply put, it is a drink you can eat. It comes with a giant straw that allows you to suck up the chewy goodies at the bottom.
There are many choices of boba drinks. You can have mocha boba, Thai ice tea boba, chocolate milk boba, lycee boba, or even durian boba for the more adventurous. Boba menus are always so long and daunting. I feel like I'm taking up too much time when reviewing the whole menu. So I would quickly order the one that never disappoint, the classic boba milk tea, which is sweetened black tea with tapioca balls, served over ice. This blows any Starbucks drink out of the water.
Sometimes, purchased boba drinks are a hit and miss. The tapioca balls are hard at the center, a telltale of improperly cooked or day-old tapioca balls. The tea is too light, or it's too sweet or too plain. With the amount of boba I drink, I started making my own to cut down cost and to make it exactly how I like it.
Below is my recipe for Boba Milk Tea made with black tea. You can make it with whatever tea you like (green, chai, black, whatever). I like to use Red Rose Original black tea. I have tried many different brands and types of tea, and this brand is my new favorite black tea.
For the milk component, you can use any kind of milk as well (powdered dairy or non-dairy creamer, fresh milk, sweetened condensed milk, Half-and-Half or evaporated milk). I like to use non-dairy creamer powder as it doesn't dilute my tea.
For the sweetener, again, you can use whatever you want. You can use honey, white granulated sugar, brown sugar, palm sugar, or sweetened condensed milk (where you have both milk and sweetener). I prefer palm sugar because it has great flavor.
For the tapioca balls, there are two types: regular and instant-cooking. Honestly, I can't tell the difference between the two once cooked, except that one cooks up a lot faster so I like to use the instant cooking kind and pray that there's no mystery and sketchy ingredient that speeds up the cooking process. To cook the tapioca balls, it is VERY important to follow the packaged instructions. I had many times failed because I don't like reading instructions (ask my husband!). To get that perfectly cooked and chewy tapioca balls, you have to follow the cook time for your specific brand of tapioca balls.
To test if the tapioca balls are cooked properly, remove them from the boiling water and rinse with cold water. If they seize up and harden at the center, then they aren't cooked enough. Put them back into boiling water and cook them low and slow for a few more minutes. Also, the cold water helps make the tapioca balls extra chewy, which is always a plus. Let the cooked tapioca balls sit in a thick syrup to soak up the sweetness.
If you make too much tapioca balls, cover them up and store them at room temperature. Tapioca balls are best when used within hours of cooking or, at most, same day. Cooked tapioca balls do not keep well in the fridge. Avoid, avoid, avoid refrigeration.
Classic Boba Milk Tea Recipe
Makes 8-10 servings
2 liters water
15-20 packets of your favorite tea (Red Rose Original Black Tea preferred)
3/4 cup packed golden brown cane sugar
1/2 cup non-diary powdered creamer
4 cups water
1 cup dried boba of your choice
1 cup water
1/2 cup packed golden brown cane sugar or 4 pods palm sugar
To make the tea, bring water to a boil in a pot, then turn off heat. Add tea bags and let them steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and while still warm, add sugar and creamer and whisk until dissolved. Transfer the tea to a pitcher and refrigerate until completely chilled.
To cook the boba, add water to a small pot and bring to a boil. Add dried boba and cook per packaged instructions, making sure to stir the boba so they don't stick together or to the bottom of the pot. Remove boba and rinse under cold running water until water runs clear.
To make the syrup, add the water, brown sugar or palm sugar to a sauce pan and heat until completely dissolved. Turn off heat. Transfer cooked boba to the syrup.
To serve, add about two tablespoons boba into a cup, add 3/4 to 1 cup tea and a couple of ice cubes. Serve with ginormous straw and enjoy!