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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.