Bubble Tea Recipe feat. Tea Bar’s Cardamom Chai
Here’s the [bubble] tea.
Friends, if there ever was a foundational part of my identity, it is my love of bubble tea. In my personal food pyramid, bubble tea is solidly in the largest block on the bottom. Last weekend I had bubble tea three times in one day, and okay it was partly due to foolproofing this recipe (the things I do for you!), but partly because sometimes the holy trinity of brown sugar soaked tapioca pearls, whole milk, and tea make the perfect nutritional trifecta. (Nutritionists, don’t @ me.)
I frequently make big batches of boba (say that 5 times fast) to have on hand when it’s been a long week and I need some comfort food, and I find that it works as great bribery material to get friends to run boring or otherwise undesirable errands with you. (“Heyyyy wanna come with me to go grocery shopping/get a passport photo taken/return all these experimental clothing items I stress-bought online but didn’t like because I simultaneously want to ~branch out~ in style but am also really picky about clothes and am too cheap to pay for the return shipping? I made you bubble tea!” are all great openers.)
Finally, after batch after batch of boba, and years of painstaking personal research, I’m ready to share my recipe with you. It ain’t much, but it’s honest work.
So here’s the scoop.
The first step is to buy the right kind of boba. You want to browse an Asian food store for sandy brown boba in a vacuum-sealed pack that you could crush with your finger if you pinched too hard. This boba is fresh (ish), and the vacuum sealing helps protect their fragile shape. These tapioca pearls are darker brown than what you’d see in a traditional tapioca pudding because they have brown sugar & often caramel coloring added to the tapioca starch when processed. If you don’t have access to an Asian food store or can’t be bothered to leave your couch, here’s the boba I’ve bought off Amazon:
Practice makes perfect.
Once you’ve got the right boba on hand, patience is key! The secret to cooking tapioca pearls that don’t end up hard inside is to avoid boiling them too vigorously for too long, or else the outside will cook too fast before the inside of the pearl can catch up. Longer, gentler cooking times, plus a long rest at the end, helps ensure that the boba cook evenly, and helps ensure that you get consistent results.
Best when fresh.
The texture of boba is best when freshly made, so I recommend consuming it same day. The recipe below makes enough for 6 people (what, no one else makes bubble tea appetizers at a dinner party? just me?) so if you’re flying solo, halve or quarter the recipe depending on your bubble tea consumption ability.
If you do have leftover boba, you can store it at room temp for a couple days, but I would recommend microwaving them with a little added sugar syrup to try and restore some of that soft, original texture. Once you put boba in the fridge, they’ll turn hard and cold, and it’s hard to bring them back from that even if you reheat them. Really, what I’m trying to say is to not cook up more than you can feasibly chew in a day. But once you try this recipe out, I don’t think leftover boba is going to be a big problem for you.
Perfect Boba Recipe
If you've ever failed at making your own bubble tea...DON'T DESPAIR. I got you! Just do as I say!
- 2 cups raw tapioca pearls
- 1 gallon water
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup wintermelon syrup optional
Boil about a gallon of water in a big pot. You'll want about a 1:7 ratio of raw pearls to water to make sure it doesn't become too thick while boiling.
Once your large pot of water has reached a rolling boil, use a ladle to make a vortex in the water and dump your boba in, continuing to stir for a minute.
Leave your pot lid partially uncovered to let steam escape, and boil on high for 5 minutes.
Stir boba, turn heat down to medium, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often to avoid boba sticking to bottom of pot. Leave the lit partially uncovered.
Fully cover the pot with the lid and turn off heat. Let boba sit in the residual heat of the pot for 30 mins. Stir once halfway through (at the 15-minute mark), being sure to replace the lid afterwards.
Drain and rinse boba with room-temp water and transfer to jar. Add 1/2 cup of dark brown sugar or wintermelon syrup, and stir to combine.
Let boba absorb the sweetness for at least 10 minutes before adding to beverage of your choice. Boba is best when freshly made - consume it same day.
Did I say there was a secret ingredient? There’s a secret ingredient.
If you skimmed the recipe and are wondering what wintermelon syrup is…it’s a Taiwanese syrup that is often diluted into wintermelon “tea” that you might see at more traditional Taiwanese bubble tea shops. When in doubt, order the wintermelon. The flavor is hard to describe, but it’s like a deep roasted brown sugar, but somehow…better?? And it’s not necessary, but if you soak your freshly cooked boba in wintermelon syrup…it’s really a game changer. If you’re already buying boba off Amazon, just add this to your cart & thank me later.
Once you’ve got your perfect tapioca pearls, you can go crazy with drink options! Add them to smoothies, a London Fog, or even plain milk (wintermelon soaked pearls + whole milk = truly one of the simplest and best things on this planet).
But if you really want the cozy fall vibes in full effect…can I go off for a minute? Use this cardamom chai concentrate that Tea Bar makes. It’s PEAK FALL. It’s got a great warmth, slight spiciness, and kick of cardamom without being too sweet, which is my biggest issue with most (all) other chai concentrates.
Not to diss the coffee shop darling Oregon Chai, but one standard 1/2 cup serving of Oregon Chai concentrate has 19 grams of sugar, compared to 5 grams of sugar in the 1/2 cup serving of Tea Bar’s concentrate. Five!!! (Tea Bar’s entire bottle only clocks in around 20 grams of sugar. Hot damn.) And that’s why their concentrate actually tastes like really good tea, instead of really sweet syrup.
Friends, that’s all there is to it. I’ve given you all my secrets to launch you to bubble tea success. Good quality ingredients, patience, and some practice will have you making your own insta-worthy bubble tea in no time. Bottoms up!
DIY Cardamom Chai Bubble Tea
- 1/2 cup pre-cooked tapioca pearls
- 1/2 cup cardamom chai concentrate
- 8 oz milk of choice warmed
Add 1/2 cup of your pre-cooked tapioca pearls to a tall glass.
Top with a quarter bottle (1/2 cup) of cardamom chai concentrate.
Add 8 oz of warmed milk of choice. I always recommend organic grassfed milk for best flavor!
Stir with a fat boba straw and enjoy!
That’s it! I promise, once you do it once or fifty times (guilty as charged) it’ll feel easy peasy. Buy some boba, make a Saturday afternoon of it, and impress your friends/secret crush/longtime lover with your skills.
Lastly…let’s talk about straws. You need specialty boba straws to appropriately slurp up your concoction, and I’ve got a couple recommendations. For at-home use, I love these chic glass straws. For a hardier metal straw that is great for throwing into a bag and taking to bubble tea shops, these rainbow straws are quite glam. Yes, I know, it’s another thing you have to shell out for. But we’re saving sea turtles here, not money.
Congrats, now you’re ready to make your own at-home bubble tea.
Psst: if you decide to spring for that chai concentrate, 1) yay! I’m proud of you for buying the good stuff! 2) be sure to use the code MIA10 for 10% off Tea Bar’s entire online shop, including the cardamom chai concentrate. Or if you read this recipe and it all just feels like too much, stop by Tea Bar and just buy one. (And invite me when you do.)