Boba Tea – What It is How To Make It

boba tea

What is Boba Tea?

A close up of a flower

Boba tea is a drink that originated in Taiwan during the 1980s. It originally started as a dessert beverage, but eventually became popular all over the world. Boba tea is also known as bubble tea, boba juice, boba milk tea, boba nai cha (in Chinese), or simply boba.

The term boba comes from “bubble” because the drink typically has small chewy tapioca balls in it that are sucked up through an extra-wide straw. The word boba itself was originally “baba” which means “father’s brother’s wife” in the Hokkien dialect of the Chinese language. This refers to the appearance of large breasts when looking at the drink through a clear plastic cup because the boba/tapioca pearls resemble nipples.

The boba pearls are also referred to as boba or boba pearls/balls, and the boba drink is sometimes called baba.

Boba tea varies in flavors (such as vanilla, chocolate, honeydew, etc.), but the most popular flavor is the classic tapioca milk tea.

How To Make Boba Tea

A man holding a cup

When boba tea first originated in Taiwan, it was made with iced black coffee and shaken with ice cubes until it became frothy (similar to how boba juice is made). Over time, boba drinks evolved into their modern form of teas mixed with crushed ice and boba pearls. Milk was later added to create the creamy taste of boba milk tea.

Today boba tea is commonly made with boba pearls, ice, sweetened condensed milk, and black tea or green tea. Some boba places replace the boba pearls with pieces of fruit or jelly.

Boba can be added to any boba drink, and it costs about $1-$2 extra depending on the boba shop/chain and how many boba pearls are added. Because boba is becoming increasingly popular, there are boba shops all over the world now. It’s possible to order boba tea from nearly any boba place online as well.

To make a good boba drink yourself at home you’ll need ice cubes, sweetened condensed milk (or cream), black tea or green tea leaves (and a cup for serving), tapioca pearls/boba pearls, a stovetop kettle for boiling water, a boba straw or boba pot, boba pitcher/container with lid, boba scoop (optional), boba strainer (optional), normal teaspoon, boba spoon.

The boba pearls are typically cooked for about an hour before they’re added to the boba drink. To cook boba first fill a pot with water and bring it to a boil until bubbles start to appear. Add the boba pearls and immediately lower the heat to low-medium so that it simmers but doesn’t overflow. Let them simmer for around 25 minutes until transparent all over, then remove from the stovetop.

Most stores will sell pre-cooked boba pearls instead of uncooked boba if you don’t have time to cook them yourself. boba pearls can also be cooked ahead of time if the boba drink will be made in a few days, but it’s best to add boba when you’re ready to serve boba tea because boba gets soggy/over-cooked if left out for too long.

After cooking boba, drain and rinse them in a strainer before adding them to boba drinks.

To cook black or green tea first fill a cup with boiled water just short of boiling (ideally 180°F), then add the desired amount of loose leaves and cover with a lid or another cup to trap heat (don’t let the leaves sit too long or else they’ll get bitter). After steeping for 5-10 minutes, remove the leaves and enjoy boba tea.

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