Milk Black Tea with Tapioca Pearls (Boba)

“One of my favorite memories from college was walking down to The Old Teahouse next to my apartment complex. That is where my friends, Joyce and Pat, introduced me to Tapioca Milk Tea (aka Boba). My favorite flavors were mango and pineapple, but plain old milk tea is great on its own as well. Living now in Woodland, I don’t make the trip to The Old Teahouse much anymore since it is out of the way and it isn’t the same after several ownership changes, so I’m really excited to be able to make this at home.” – April Ferre

Milk Black Tea with Tapioca (Boba)

Course: Beverages
Cuisine: Chinese


  • 2 Cups Water
  • 2 Cups Dark Brown Sugar
  • 4 Cups Water
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 8 Strong Black Tea Bags Or 3 Tablespoons Loose Leaf Tea
  • 2/3 Cup Water Plus More As Needed
  • 1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1 1/2 Cup Tapioca Flour Plus More for Dusting
  • 2 Cups Ice
  • 1 Cup Half & Half
  • 1 Tablespoon Flavored Syrup If Desired (Per Serving)


Make Brown Sugar Syrup:

  • Combine 2 cups water and 2 cups dark brown sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes or until slightly reduced.
  • Can be made ahead and stored in a jar in the refrigerator where it can keep for months.

Brew Black Tea:

  • Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add sugar and tea. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Cover and steep tea 15 minutes. Strain tea and cool.
  • Can be made ahead and cooled in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Note: I used Numi Chinese Breakfast Tea (Yunnan Black Tea) and it tastes just like what you get in the teahouse.

Make Tapioca Pearls:

  • Add 2/3 cup water and 1/2 cup dark brown sugar to a medium saucepan and cook over high heat until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to medium and add a spoonful of tapioca flour. Cook, stirring constantly until smooth, as like thickening a sauce with cornstarch. Add half the remaining flour and stir until a sticky dough forms. Remove from heat and add remaining flour. Stir until dough comes together to form a ball (not all flour will be incorporated yet).
  • Turn dough out onto a clean surface and knead until all the flour is incorporated and dough is smooth. Add more flour or water as needed.
  • Divide dough into smaller portions, keeping dough covered in plastic wrap while working so that it doesn't dry out. Roll each portion into a thin rope, approximately 1/4-inch thick. Cut each rope into 1/4-inch pieces.
  • Dust hand with a small amount of flour and roll each piece into a ball. Place in a tray with tapioca flour to coat and prevent balls from sticking to each other. Work quickly as it gets harder to roll the balls as they cool.
  • For the last couple portions, it may be necessary to put them in the microwave briefly to warm the dough back up, no more than 10 seconds.
  • Put pearls in a fine mesh sieve and shake to remove excess flour.
  • Note: Alternatively, you can purchase quick cooking, premade tapioca pearls in your local Asian supermarket or online. Cook according to manufacturer's instructions and add to brown sugar syrup as described below. I use WuFuYuan Black Sugar Flavored 5 Minute Quick Cooking Tapioca Pearls.

Cook or Freeze Tapioca Pearls:

  • Cook only the amount of tapioca pearls which you will consume in the next couple hours. One serving is 1/3 cup pearls. Place the rest in a ziploc bag and freeze until ready to use.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Tapioca pearls make be cooked directly from fresh or frozen pearls. Stir to keep pearls separated then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer gently. After pearls begin to float, cook for about 20 to 30 minutes or until cooked through, stirring occasionally. Drain and rise with cold water.
  • If brown sugar syrup is cold, reheat again until slightly hot. Add 1 tablespoon syrup for each 1/3 cup pearls and let sit for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Assemble Drink:

  • Put 1/3 cup tapioca pearls in syrup in the bottom of the glass. If desired, mix in flavored syrup (i.e. mango, pineapple, lychee, strawberry, taro. Tea Zone brand recommended.) Add 1/2 cup ice. Pour over tea and mix in half and half. Taste and adjust sweetness with extra brown sugar syrup if desired.
  • Insert a wide-opening boba straw and enjoy! Makes 4 servings.

2021 Recipe – April Ferre

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