Make your own homemade Bubble Tea!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

I must confess that my first real taste of Bubble Tea was only just this year. And it wasn't even here in Sydney, it was in Japan. I'm not quite sure what EasyWay or Chatime Bubble Tea tastes like - I'm still to try them - but I only know that the milky, sweet bubble tea I tasted in Japan was pure bliss on a hot, sunny day. A bliss that was made even better with the addition of chewy, sticky, jet black tapioca pearls.

My first taste of pearls, however was 4 years ago in Mango Milk Tea. Not such a good combination, if you ask me, and it put me off them for a long long time. Up until now.

I was always hesitant of buying my own pearl milk tea for fear that I'd spend four dollars on a drink that I wouldn't like and end up wasting. But, desperate to recreate the lovely milky goodness I first fell in love with in Japan, I decided that I would try making my very own Pearl Milk Tea.

Knowing that I'd need tapioca pearls to make an real pearl milk tea, upon visiting an Asian grocer recently I picked up a packet of large black tapioca pearls, which cost less than $3.

Upon scouring numerous websites and blogs that demonstrate how to make your own bubble tea, I found that most of them used this brand of tapioca, which take around about 5 minutes to cook. I looked at the Kitchn and this blog, and deducted that there were a few steps to making homemade bubble tea:

  1. Make the tea

  1. Make the pearls

  1. Combine the tea and pearls along with the milk

These steps require a little bit of patience as you have to wait for each component to cool to achieve a really refreshing bubble tea, otherwise you'll end up with a warm milky drink. I don't like my tea to be too sweet, so combined the two above recipes to make my own version which involves cooking the pearls, adding the sweetener and then adding both to the cooled tea. Some recipes call for you to make a separate sugar syrup, and others just add the sweetener at the end, but I found this was the most convenient way that saves washing up and lets you determine how sweet you want your tea to be, depending on how much of the cooking syrup you choose to add. You could also add some honey if you like. Otherwise, the method of preparing the tea and pearls are pretty much the same. I added ice to the finished product to get a really cold tea as well as a splash of milk.

Cooked pearls

I read that the pearls could be saved in the cooking liquid for a couple of days or overnight if refrigerated, provided the has a high sugar content and the pearls are submerged completely. They could also be heated up in the microwave if they've gone a bit hard, but when I took them out a couple of days later they had gone a bit gluggy and weren't very nice reheated. The best bet is to make a fresh batch each time, and you can choose to alter it by adding your favourite tea or having it with or without milk. The only thing that was missing was a straw wide enough to suck the pearls through, which I later found could be easily bought on eBay - made especially for bubble tea. Oh well. I coped by using a spoon instead.


Making your own pearl tea creates wonderfully refreshing homemade drink that you know is made without any of the artificial sweeteners or additives that can be found in the store-bought version. I highly recommend you try it - it doesn't take very much effort and will give you the satisfaction of having made your very own bubble tea!

Recipe for Homemade Bubble Tea
Adapted from Honey I Shrunk the Gretchen
Makes 2 servings


  • 1 black tea bag
  • 1/4 cup uncooked large tapioca pearls, rinsed
  • 2/3 cup water 
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Milk and ice to serve
  1. Steep the tea in one cup (250mL) of boiling water for 10 minutes, then refrigerate until cool. 
  2. Bring the 2/3 cup water to the boil in a small saucepan and add the tapioca pearls, stirring to ensure they don't stick to each other or the bottom of the pot.Cook for 3-4 minutes - by now they should have changed colour to a shiny, jet black and be floating to the top. Take one out and test if cooked to your liking, ideally still slightly chewy in the middle. Add the sugar, stir and remove from the heat. Let sit for 2 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved completely. 
  3. Transfer to a bowl or container and refrigerate until cool. 
  4. Once both the tea and pearls have cooled, divide the tea into two tall glasses, add ice and a splash of milk if desired. Divide pearls among the glasses, adding sugar water to taste. 
  5. Enjoy!

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