How to make bubble tea at home

If you’re a bubble tea addict (like a lot of us are), then you’ve probably already heard that all bubble tea shops are now closed in Singapore until at least May 4. This announcement by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) was recently made during the country’s coronavirus circuit breaker (now extended until June 1).

There’s no need to panic, though, as you can still get your bubble tea fix at home – provided you learn how to make it, that is. It’s easy and fun; and a great way to occupy yourself.

Here is a simple guide by Seph Cham on how to make the beverage at home. Seph has been making bubble tea at home for years now and while the recipe may change a bit depending on your personal preferences, you’re sure to discover the perfect recipe for you after trying to make the drink several times.

What you’ll need:

  • your tea of choice
  • tapioca pearls
  • milk
  • sweetener

What tea should you use?

Similar to how your order of choice at a bubble tea shop depends on your personal taste, so will your choice of tea be when deciding on what to use for your homemade version. Since you will be watering down the tea with some milk, though, it would be advisable to use tea with a strong flavour, like black tea or jasmine tea. Seph shares that he prefers to brew Thai tea leaves for his homemade bubble tea.

Where can you get tapioca pearls?

Boil your tapioca pearls in a pot for about five minutes. Seph shares that uses Ersao black pearls for his bubble tea, which he orders from Shopee. When it comes to getting the pearls ready for your milk tea, he reminds to “Make sure the water is boiling before adding the pearls. If you put them in before the water is boiling, the pearls will melt.”

Other things to remember when cooking your pearls:

  • cook as many pearls as you need
  • do not drain the hot water after cooking them
  • use a slotted spoon to remove the pearls from the pot
  • leave any excess pearls in the pot until you are ready to consume them
  • do not keep the pearls overnight as they will stiffen

What type of milk should you use?

The milk that you choose will depend on your personal preferences, as well. For a richer flavour, use whole milk. If you’re on a diet, use a low-fat version. For a dairy-free version, you can use soy milk instead. Seph personally uses condensed milk for his bubble tea.

What type of sweetener should you use?

The amount of sweetener you use will depend on how sweet you prefer your bubble tea. What you choose to sweeten your tea, though, isn’t all that important. Choose what you have on hand or what you are comfortable with. If you plan on using honey, syrup, or granulated sugar, though; make sure you mix it in while the tea is still hot, so that it can dissolve properly.

Check out Seph’s Facebook most recent post on making bubble tea here:

Making tapioca pearls from scratch

You know bubble tea shops like Hollin and Playmade, where their boba pearls are made from scratch? Well now you can, too.

Only three ingredients are needed in a basic boba pearls recipe:

  • 2 cups tapioca starch
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (and another separate 2 TBSP for later)
  • 2/3 cup water

Equipment you’ll need:

  • A small saucepan
  • Flat working surface
  • Sharp knife
  • Large pot


  1. Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Dissolve the brown sugar.
  2. Turn the heat off.
  3. Gradually stir in the tapioca starch, mixing in a little at a time. You will get a white, dry, crumbly dough. Turn it out onto a working surface.
  4. Divide the dough into two portions so it’s easier to work with. Using your hands, carefully knead one portion, incorporating any dry tapioca starch into the dough. You should have two firm balls of dough when you’re done. They do not need to be smooth, just well-mixed.
  5. Cut the dough into 1-inch-thick slices with a sharp knife, then squeeze and roll them on a flat surface with the ball of your hand to form into long, narrow logs. If the dough is too dry. Add a teensy bit of water when you’re rolling them out.
  6. Using a sharp knife again, cut up the logs into small 1 cm rounds. Then shape each round into small balls. Place each ball on a plate dusted with a bit of tapioca starch so that they won’t stick together.
  7. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Gently pour in your tapioca balls and stir to prevent sticking. Cover the pot and let it cook for 30-45 min. After 45 min, turn the heat off and let sit for another 15 min. You will know that the balls are cooked through when they become translucent.
  8. Remove the boba pearls with a slotted spoon and rinse under running water. To prevent them from sticking to each other, add 2 TBSP of brown sugar to them and stir.
  9. Add them to your freshly brewed tea and enjoy!

Have you ever made bubble tea at home before? Share your recipes with us!

Featured Image Courtesy of Shutterstock.

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