The Washington Post

Homemade Bubble Tea (Boba)

Homemade Bubble Tea (Boba) 5.000

(Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)

Jun 19, 2020

These tapioca balls let you enjoy boba, also called bubble tea, tapioca tea or pearl milk tea, at home. Leave them natural, or dye them any color you like. Use the sugar syrup to infuse the boba with sweetness, as well as to sweeten your drink. Add about 20 balls to a cup of strong tea, with milk and sweetener to taste. If you're short on time, just roll out the tapioca dough ropes and cut them into pieces small enough to fit through the boba straw and skip the rolling process. You won't get the exact look, but the final product will taste and feel the same.

The counter will get very sticky from the tapioca flour; scrub it with a damp kitchen towel for easiest cleaning.

Make Ahead: If you prefer your boba cold, brew the tea up to 1 day ahead, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. The syrup needs to be refrigerated for at least 1 hour before serving.

Storage Notes: The syrup can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. The leftover tapioca balls can be frozen for up to 2 weeks.

5 - 6

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 5-6 servings; makes about 110 to 120 tapioca balls

  • For the syrup
  • 1 cup (240 milliliters) water
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (200 grams) lightly packed light or dark brown sugar
  • For the bubble tea
  • 6 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) water, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon black food coloring (optional)
  • 1/2 cup (70 grams) tapioca flour or tapioca starch, divided, plus more for dusting and as needed
  • 5 to 6 cups (1220 to 1440 milliliters) strong black or green tea, hot or chilled
  • Cream, milk or condensed milk, to taste (optional)


Make the syrup: In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the water with the granulated and brown sugars and stir until the mixture dissolves. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Transfer the syrup to a 2-cup plastic or glass container, cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or until thoroughly chilled.

Make the tapioca balls: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the brown sugar and water and, stirring constantly, bring to a rolling boil. Add the food coloring, if using, and stir to combine, then add 1/4 cup (35 grams) of tapioca flour and stir vigorously with a large metal spoon until a very sticky paste forms. It’s okay if the paste is lumpy.

Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining tapioca flour, until thoroughly combined.

Sprinkle some tapioca flour onto a clean, dry counter and transfer the paste onto the floured surface. (The easiest way to do this is by scooping the paste with a metal spoon and using a silicone spatula to push the paste onto the counter.) Let the paste cool until it can be handled, about 5 minutes.

Knead the paste until dough-like and form it into a ball. The paste will be very sticky, so keep it well floured. Work out as many of the lumps as possible. If the paste is too dry and crusty, add cold water, 1 teaspoon at a time. If it’s too wet, add more flour, 1 teaspoon at a time. The paste should spring back when gently poked with a finger.

Separate the paste into three equal pieces, and roll each piece into logs slightly less than 1/4-inch wide. Dust the logs with tapioca flour and cut the dough evenly, into cubes slightly less than 1/4-inch wide.

Roll each cube between the palms of your hands to form small balls. If the dough is too dry and difficult to shape, lightly dampen your hands first. Once the balls are formed, coat them with a thin dusting of tapioca flour to prevent them from sticking together.

Fill a medium pot three-quarters of the way with water and, over high heat, bring to a rolling boil.

Using either a fine-mesh strainer or your hand, shake the excess flour off the tapioca balls and drop the balls into the boiling water (you’ll need 20 balls per serving). Gently stir with a metal spoon to make sure the balls do not stick together, and boil until the balls float to the top and become translucent, 10 to 12 minutes.

Drain the tapioca balls and briefly rinse with cold, running water so they don't stick together. Transfer the balls to a clean jar and use enough of the chilled sugar syrup to submerge them. Allow to soak for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

To make the bubble tea, add about 20 balls per 1 cup of strong, brewed tea. Serve hot or cold and with cream, milk, condensed milk or additional sugar syrup, if desired. (If you prefer your bubble tea cold, brew the tea in advance, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.)

Recipe Source

Adapted from Kung Fu Tea, and Bubble Tea Supply.

Tested by Marian Liu and Olga Massov.

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Nutritional Facts

Ingredients are too variable for a meaningful analysis.

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