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What Is Bubble Tea? We’re Clueing You in and Teaching You How to Make It

Have you tried bubble tea yet? Are you still wondering what is bubble tea and is it healthy? We’ve got all the answers, plus eight healthy(er) bubble tea recipes.

What Is Bubble Tea?

First concocted in Taichung in the 1980s, bubble tea is a cold and sweet Taiwanese specialty drink made with tea, milk, and tapioca pearls (also called boba). Tapioca pearls are made from tapioca starch from cassava root, and are a featured ingredient in many Asian desserts.

Also known as boba tea, boba tai cha, momi milk, and pearl tea, bubble tea is named for the froth created after vigorously shaking this sweet treat before serving.

Bubble tea can be made using any tea base and from any juices or concentrates. Favorite bubble tea flavors include mango, lychee, taro, passion fruit, and ginger, just to name a few.

The calorie count in bubble tea depends on the amount and type of sweetener and the kind of milk or dairy-free milk used to create its creamy consistency. As a general guideline, most bubble tea you purchase from a coffee or tea house is not waistline friendly, as they are often over-sweetened with sugar syrup and creamer.

Bubble tea is a unique experience. Fat straws are part of the appeal. They allow you to slurp up the tapioca pearls from time to time while enjoying the drink. The texture of the tapioca pearls should be somewhat soft and chewy, with just a touch of resistance. Tapioca pearls prepared too far in advance become too waterlogged to be pleasant.

How to Make Bubble Tea

You don’t have to travel to Taiwan or even a fancy tea shop downtown to enjoy this sweet iced tea! It's easy to make at home and totally customizable to your taste and dietary concerns. Here are the basics on how to make bubble tea.

Pearl Milk Tea

          🍽 SERVINGS: 1   |  🕐 READY IN: 2 hours

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tea bag, any flavor desired

  • 2 cups water, boiling hot

  • 1-2 teaspoons of honey, maple syrup, or coconut sugar

  • 3-4 tablespoons of cooked tapioca balls

  • 1/4 cup of dairy milk or nut milk

 INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Prepare the tapioca pearls as directed on the package. Set aside to cool. Do not prepare the tapioca pearls too far in advance as they may become soggy.
  2. Carefully pour 2 cups of boiling water over the tea bag and brew for 5-8 minutes.
  3. Stir your sweetener of choice into the brewed tea.
  4. Refrigerate the sweetened tea until cold.
  5. Add 4 or 5 ice cubes to a cocktail shaker and pour in the cold tea.
  6. Pour in 1/4 cup of milk or nut milk, and secure the cocktail shaker’s lid.
  7. Shake and shake and shake!
  8. Spoon 3 to 4 tablespoons of cooked tapioca balls into the bottom of a large glass.
  9. Pour the shaken tea mixture on top and stir with a straw.
  10. Enjoy!

8 Healthy(er) Bubble Tea Recipes

8 Healthy(er) Bubble Tea Recipes

Sure, you can indulge in a boba drink at a bubble tea shop, but if you'd rather ultimate control over your ingredients, here are eight of our favorite bubble tea recipes. All of these recipes can be made vegan by using a milk alternative like almond milk or coconut milk instead of dairy milk, and you can adjust the type of sweetener as desired.

1. Classic Bubble Tea

If you want to dip your toes slowly into the bubble tea drink movement, this recipe from Epicurious is perfect to get you hooked. It uses pure black tea, whole milk, sugar, and tapioca pearls to create a creamy sweet boba milk tea with little bits of tapioca. To make this bubble tea recipe more health-conscious, use honey or coconut sugar instead of white sugar.

2. Iced Bubble Matcha Tea

We love this healthy bubble tea recipe from Vitamix! It combines almond milk, matcha green tea powder, honey, ice, and tapioca pearls in a delicious just-sweet-enough drink. The matcha gives this bubble tea a ton of antioxidants, a touch of caffeine, and a beautiful green hue.

3. Hot-Pink Hibiscus Bubble Tea

Hibiscus tea is caffeine-free and packed with vitamin C, minerals, and antioxidants, including cancer-fighting anthocyanins. Bon Appetit has taken this delicious floral tea and created a recipe that’s perfect for girl’s slumber parties and fabulous brunches.

In addition to the hibiscus tea and almond milk, this bubble tea recipe gets another boost of antioxidants from tart cherry juice, not to mention some sweetly sour flavoring! As with all the bubble tea recipes here, you can easily swap out the white sugar for another natural sweetener of your choice. Personally, we love coconut sugar in this recipe.

4. Ginger Milk Tea with Boba

Strong black tea and fresh ginger are one of our favorite healthy combinations! This Taiwanese tea from East Bay Times makes ginger juice out of raw ginger, and then adds that to turbinado sugar to create a not-so-simple syrup. The recipe calls for sweetened condensed milk, but coconut cream or canned coconut milk is an excellent substitute to make this recipe nearly guilt free.

5. Coconut Bubble Tea

From Savory Tooth comes this healthy bubble tea recipe, tropically inspired and loaded with antioxidants from black tea and vanilla. It’s a bit different than the others on this list, as it sweetens the black tapioca pearls instead of the tea!

6. Wild Blueberry and Green Tea Bubble Smoothie

This bubble tea smoothie is a delightful combination of green tea, frozen blueberries, banana, and almond milk—with chewy tapioca balls. Enjoy this antioxidant-rich smoothie whenever you need a boost of energy from caffeine and protein.

7. Blue Majik Lychee Boba Cooler

If you have some blue or green spirulina powder in your pantry, you must try this bubble tea recipe from Goop. Spirulina is loaded with protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids. And it adds a playful hue to this white tea and lychee slushy. This recipe doesn’t contain dairy or nut milk, making it light, lovely, and perfect for a hot afternoon in the sun.

8. Mango Smoothie with Boba

From the Gourmet Gourmand comes this fresh fruit mango smoothie with boba. Unlike the other bubble tea recipes on this list, we’re drinking boba sans tea—it’s simply partnered with fresh mango, ice, and sweetened condensed milk. To make this fruit juice recipe healthy, swap out the condensed milk for canned coconut milk and enjoy whenever you want a silky smoothie with a twist of tapioca pearls.

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