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How to make bubble tea, completely from scratch

ISTANBUL: It is hot and a cool cup of any kind of drink can do wonders. But with the pandemic still being a thing and not every town having their own boba tea shop – also called bubble tea – it could be a fun little thing to make on your own and to actually surprise people with.

The biggest thing about these bubble teas is the tapioca pearls, i.e. the boba. Many an online store has them, but not every country/region has that on offer, and to be perfectly honest: I love trying to make stuff from scratch. If you don’t want to bother with the tapioca pearls, you can always skip making them and just try our other recipes here with the ready-made ones.

Cooked tapioca pearls in a bowl. (Shutterstock Photo)
Cooked tapioca pearls in a bowl. (Shutterstock Photo)

Tapioca pearls

These bubbles are mainly made out of tapioca flour or starch, which is extracted from the cassava plant native to Brazil. It is almost completely pure carbs and has close to no protein, fiber or other nutrients for that matter. The flour is also pretty popular as an alternative to wheat flour for the gluten-intolerant.


  • 90 grams tapioca flour/starch
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons hot water


Get the water and sugar to almost a boil and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove it from the heat and add one tablespoon of the starch and mix until there are no clumps left. Put the mix onto the heat again and continuously stir until the mixture starts to get thicker. Remove from heat again and add the remaining starch and mix it in until it becomes a sticky dough. Dust your working surface with the tapioca starch and knead the dough until it becomes evenly soft and elastic. Adding more of the starch to be able to work it is advised. Take a part of that sticky mix and roll it into a thin piece and start cutting them into tiny specs of dough. In the water, they’ll expand so try to keep them small-ish at least. Roll them into balls if you want to have the iconic look but you can skip that step if you so desire. Once all the dough has been rolled out and cut into these pieces and rolled into tiny balls you can store them in an airtight container. Do not put them in the fridge, as it changes their consistency. But you can freeze them so making these pearls ahead of time is definitely an option.

How to cook them?

Get enough water to a boil to cover as many of the pearls you’ll want/need. Carefully put them into that boiling water and constantly stir them to avoid them from sticking to the bottom or to each other. Doing this with the back of a spoon is the safest way to prevent harming the pearls. After a bit you can cover your pot with a lid and let them simmer for 20 minutes. Turn the heat off and let them rest for another 20 minutes. Drain and serve! You can of course make a sugar syrup to make it extra yummy.

Different bubble teas in tall glasses lined up. (Shutterstock Photo)

Let’s talk teas!

There are so many different kinds of teas to choose from and it would be a shame not to mention at least a few of them.

The first one would be the classic black tea-based one. This plain version of the tea requires you to boil some black tea and let it cool off after steeping it. Once cooled off, add your bobas into the glass you like (tall slim ones look the best to be honest) and pour the tea over it. Adding a few cubes of ice to make it nice and cool and squeeze in a bit of lemon to give it a bit of acidity. If you prepare your black tea the Turkish-style it might be a bit too strong, so definitely add water to get the right taste for your liking. Adding syrup is an option to sweeten the deal here, but a bit of honey will do the trick just as well. Plus you won’t need to cook the syrup in this heat.

The second and probably more iconic of them is the milk one. Again you get the pearls and add the tea, but instead of adding more water to the mix, you add milk. To make this yummier, try to use whole milk, meaning milk with the fat not removed or at least not completely. Again ice is a must here to keep it nice and cool.

Fruity teas are another way to make this. Rosehip and lemon balm have an especially soft and almost sweet-ish taste to them making them great for hot days. You can get the teabag versions of them, but making the tea yourself would be the best as the taste can unfold much stronger. Just keep in mind that you don’t directly pour boiling hot water onto the tea leaves/fruit pieces. Give it a minute or two to cool off a bit and then let it steep for about 10 minutes. If it is too strong you can always add some water or even milk if you like that combination

A more unusual version and probably not even considered a tea directly would be the version where you use fruit and run it through a blender with milk, honey and ice until it is all smooth. Again plop in those bobas and pour that over it.

A few tips

If you don’t want to water down your tea in this heat you can always prepare ice cubes that are not made out of water. If there’s any tea left over from your last brewing freeze those and you’ll get a better version. Or even freezing milk in this manner is an alternative. For the fruity versions, both the tea and the smoothy-like one, you can use frozen fruit, which will both look great and make for a nice addition to the taste.

Don’t get bogged down with only tea. You can make this with iced coffee as well. Try around until you get the right taste!

If you are especially lazy, and who can blame you for that in this heat, you can get yourself some iced tea to make this even quicker.

Courtesy: Daily Sabah