Homemade Boba for Bubble Tea

(with butterfly pea flower tea lemonade)

On a whim one night last week ago I decided I wanted bubble tea but was too lazy to go out to buy some.

So I decided to make it myself. I mean, how hard could it be, right?

Making boba or tapioca pearls for bubble tea is pretty easy – just two ingredients needed – it just takes a bit of time.

Did you know bubble tea gets its name from the bubbles created in the drink when it is mixed – not the actual tapioca pearls at the bottom of the drink that also happen to look like bubbles…?

I made my boba (tapioca pearls) from scratch, poured some iced tea on it and it was delicious!

My boba are not black, like the traditional boba you get at the bubble tea shop because they get their colour from either adding brown sugar or food colouring in the dough. I skipped that and found that other than the colour, the texture and consistency is exactly the same!

TBH after making this (a few times over to perfect the recipe) I have to admit it takes quite a bit of time and effort. It is not something you whip up really quickly on a whim. So I now have a new appreciation for bubble tea shops, especially those making the boba (tapioca pearls) from scratch and will gladly pay to save myself the effort!

But if you are so inclined, it is a pretty fun activity to make these. And if you have little ones they can totally help too. The dough actually feels just like playdough and I think it might actually be easier for smaller hands to roll the tiny pearls of dough…

Rolling tapioca pearls feels like playing with playdough! Kids would love this activity!

The steps are pretty simple, and there are only two ingredients to making the boba – tapioca starch & water. You just need a bit of time & patience.

You can totally just skip the dough making messiness and buy the uncooked tapioca pearls in store. My local asian grocer carries so many different varieties. But check your ingredients list. The dark ones have sugar and other food colouring in them and the white ones will be just tapioca starch and water.

To cook the tapioca pearls, just drop them into a pot of boiling water and let them simmer till they get to the right gummy consistency of boba that you like. This takes about 20-30 mins depending on the size of your tapioca pearls. You will also start to notice the boba have an almost translucent look to them.

Cooked boba start to turn translucent. Add them to sugar syrup to sweeten them if you like.

Once cooked, don’t leave them in the hot water too long as they will just start to disintegrate and gum up the water. Strain, and transfer to a sugar syrup or straight into your drink of choice.

Add the cooked boba to any drink you like. I went fancy and added them to some butterfly pea flower tea (I found on Amazon) with a splash of lemon juice. The tea is this rich deep blue colour when brewed, but as soon as you add citrus, it turns this lovely pinky-purple colour! It’s such a fun drink to make and the taste is like a light green tea with lemon so it is quite light and refreshing.

I tried adding my boba to butterfly pea flower tea with lemon juice. Check out the cool colour change when I added the lemon juice!

I enjoyed trying to make bubble tea at home. And I did like how I got to control the sweetness of the bubble tea by making it myself so it was a much healthier version of the stuff you buy at the bubble tea shop.

Have you tried making your own boba at home? Do you want to? Or will you just let the professionals take care of it?

Bubble Tea

Making your own boba (tapioca pearls) for bubble tea is not difficult. But it does take a bit of time. The good part about making boba at home is that you can control the added sugar – or just skip it completely and still get the same mouth feel. And they are totally gluten and dairy free! Try adding these homemade boba to your next summer drink!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Course: Drinks
Keyword: dessert, Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian, Whole30
Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup tapioca starch (or buy prepared uncooked tapioca pearls – see notes below)
  • 2-4 tbsp hot water
  • 3 cups water (divided – 2 cups for boba, 1 cup for the sugar syrup)
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar (skip this if Whole30, or use maple syrup to keep it Paleo)
  • 3 cups drink of choice (I like it with sweet iced tea, fresh fruit juice or added to smoothies)

Instructions

  • Place a medium sized pot of water to boil – you need about 2-3 cups of water so the boba have lots of water to move around when boiling in there.
  • While the water heats up, place the tapioca starch in a small bowl and add the warm water a tbsp at a time and stir till it starts to combine. You may need to add more or less water depending on the batch.
  • Be careful not to add too much water as that will turn the dough into a quicksand like consistency and make it harder to form little balls. Lots of fun to play with, not so great to cook!
  • Dump the dough out onto a clean non-stick surface (like a silpat mat) and start kneading the dough with your hands for about 5 mins. It should come together and feel like playdough.
  • Start breaking off small pieces of dough about the size of a pearl and rolling in your hands. Remember the pearls will double in size when boiled, so keep that in mind when deciding how big you want your boba.
  • Once all your dough is rolled into pearls, drop the pearls carefully into the boiling water and let it simmer on medium heat for at least 20 mins to reach your desired consistency.
  • Depending on how large your pearls are it may take anywhere from 20 to 30 mins to get them to the right consistency. I like my boba to be soft but have a tiny bit of 'chew' when I bite into them. So I found that it took about 20 mins for my batch to be perfect.
  • While the boba simmer, in a separate saucepan boil the remaining 1 cup of water and brown sugar till the sugar has dissolved. Turn off the heat.
  • When the boba are done, they will have doubled in size and have a translucent coating. Immediately scoop them out with a slotted spoon and drop them into the sugar syrup so they can absorb the flavour (skip this if you are Whole30). You can now add them to your drink or store them like this at room temperature for a few hours till you are ready to eat/drink them.
  • To serve, scoop the boba into your cup with a slotted spoon. Add ice, if desired, and pour drink of choice over top (I used butterfly pea flower tea & lemon juice – pictured). Stir and drink!

Notes

The boba don’t keep very well in the fridge so best to make them when you want to have them. 
You can also buy the pre-made uncooked tapioca pearls at any asian grocer. Just look at the ingredients list if you want to avoid added sugar, colours or preservatives. Cook them the same way as noted above – add to boiling water and cook till they reach your desired consistency. 
If you want to try it, Butterfly Pea Flower Tea can be found on Amazon, but I have also seen it incorporated into tea blends at Davids Tea near me. I found the Butterfly Pea Flower Tea itself is pretty tasteless, perhaps a bit of a green tea flavour depending on how strong you make it. But when mixed with lemon juice it is very refreshing. It is also such a cool blue colour that transforms to purple when you add citrus to it. Such a fun party trick!

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