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How to make Boba at home.

by Emma on July 5, 2011

in Drinks

At the Red Velvet Sweet Shoppe we serve Bubble tea everyday (unless we sell out early). So over the past year I have made boba about 1 million times.

Ok, that’s not true. At all. You got me. BUT I have made boba a lot. And often times I get asked to share tips on how to prepare those tricky little tapioca pearls at home. So I thought I’d show you some tricks for preparing perfect boba in your home kitchen. Once you have boba (the ‘bubbles’) you can add them in to any beverage you like.

But first you need to get your hands on some boba. Many Asian markets sell it, but if you don’t have a supplier in your area you can order it online. I shop with Boba Tea Direct, and I buy in bulk since I’m using it commercially. If you are just planning to use this at home you may not want that much, but you can store unprepared boba in an air tight container once it’s opened. So there’s that.

I’ve read a lot of different directions for preparing boba, some from the internet and some from the pre-packaged directions that came with my boba purchase. None of them worked as well for me as this method.

1. Measure out your unprepared boba. However much you plan to use. I don’t think exact amounts of this to that matter as much as just knowing how much you need for you personal use/party for friends. Keep in mind that boba can only be prepared 24 hours in advance. Don’t try to keep it for days, it will just get hard.

2. Boil water. How much water, you ask? You need enough water that once you pour the boba in they will have plenty of room to move around when stirred. So it depends, based on how much boba you are preparing. When making boba at home I use a big stock pot (pictured) and I fill it up about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way.

Let water get to a rolling boil. Not just hot, but really boiling. If you don’t wait until the water is all the way boiling the boba won’t cook properly and you will have to start all over. Trust me. :)

3. When the water is boiling and ready give it a good stir with a metal or wooden spoon, pour the boba into the swirling water. The pearls should rise the surface of the water and float. Now just let the water continue to boil for 10-12 minutes, stir every once in a while to ensure the pearls don’t stick together.

4. Turn the heat off and move your pot off the heat. Cover with a lid and allow the bobas to continue to cook in the hot steam and water for another 10-12 minutes.

5. Drain the pearls in a metal strainer or colander. Don’t use a plastic strainer as the water will still be very hot and could melt it.

6. Now your boba are ready! I always sweeten mine by sprinkling 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup (depending on how much boba I have prepared) brown sugar on top and stirring it in. Many methods will tell you to use a sugar syrup, I think that’s more work and not necessary. But you can do as you like at this stage.

If you are not using the boba right away store them in an airtight container with a little water (just enough to keep them moist and from drying out).

If you have any questions leave them in the comments below and I will do my best to answer. I am no expert, but I have made boba quite a few times, so I may have an answer for you.


xo. Emma


Michelle E July 5, 2011 at 9:47 pm

What is the difference between these “pearls” and the ones that are really dark? I’ve had both…

Emma July 6, 2011 at 1:49 pm

The colored pearls and the darker pearls are made of slightly different ingredients, but you can prepare them the same and I think they taste nearly identical. I just like the colors, so I get those. :)

Laura January 8, 2012 at 8:13 pm

The black pearls the poster is likely describing are prepared (already cooked) so they are “instant” and they include caramel coloring and maple flavoring. They take about 5 minutes to cook and rehydrate, so you do *not* want to cook them as above, or they will turn into mush. *Colored* tapioca pearls are just that, colored. They are, unless otherwise labeled, not already cooked, and still require cooking as above described (though there are some non-black instant versions, too; I’ve seen them in white and taro (light purple) colors; neither are flavored, just colored).

Emily H July 5, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Can you share some of your favorite recipes for Boba tea at home?

Emma July 6, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Emily- I usually just make tea and then add in a sweet fruit syrup. I buy those commercially as well, so I use most it at the shop. But I have seen recipes for the tea part of boba more often then tips for making the boba, so I decided to concentrate my efforts here for now. :) Thanks!

Jena March 27, 2012 at 1:58 am

How much syrup to how much tea? I can never get this ratio quite right at home…

Emma March 27, 2012 at 1:38 pm

it really just depends how sweet you like it.

Tammy July 5, 2011 at 11:49 pm

This post takes me back to my childhood days when my mom would make me and my brothers boba with a brown sugar syrup (back then we just called them giant balls- I didn’t know they were called boba until I was older). We have a big asian community where I live and there’s lots of good boba stores so I haven’t made them at home in a long time- but I just might this summer!

Leanne Whitehead July 6, 2011 at 12:09 am

We don’t really have many bubble tea shops in the England.
I have made it a couple of times at home but obviously its a lot of work for the tasty treat.
Your tips will come in handy when I next make some though.
Looks like I will have to stick to the canned version until it finally takes England by storm.

Lace July 6, 2011 at 12:29 am

good idea! I’m going to have to try that!


Lauren Helen July 6, 2011 at 1:38 am

Gosh darn it, I thought I’d be able to try this out because it seems simple enough, but there is no way my mother would let me order food from the internet :P Is there any way to actually MAKE these or is that impossible?

Oh, and Emma, I wanted to let you know that I mentioned your name and linked to your blog in my very first blogpost at my new and first blog, I named you as one of my Chef Heroes (someone whose cooking skills I aspire to match) because I always read your blog and wish I could cook :P

Emma July 6, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Lauren- Chef Heroes?! Awe, that’s too kind of you! Thank you! :)

It is probably possible to make the boba pearls at home, but I have never tried to or heard how. Sorry.

chelsea July 6, 2011 at 2:34 am

Yes! Emma, I have been curious about boba for so long… I love it, but the only bubble tea place remotely near my home is too far away for extra-frequent visits. I’ve been dying to make it but was worried I would do it wrong and even considered emailing you for a tip (but wasn’t brave enough). Thank you so much for sharing your expertise! :)

Katia July 6, 2011 at 1:06 pm


Becca July 6, 2011 at 4:41 pm

My most favorite thing to do with boba is put it in “milk-tea” (which doesn’t even have tea)

I use milk (the fattier the better, I say!) and add coconut creamer and a smidge of sweetner. Add boba and its oh-so delicious!

A lot of places make milktea with powder flavors, but I find a good coconut creamer straight from the grocery store is more delicious- creamier, and less overpowering! so delicious!

Elizabeth@rosalilium July 6, 2011 at 9:44 pm

I have never heard of bubble tea. Or boba. It is not something I have come across in England at all.
What is it exactly? What does it taste like?
I am so curious!

Emma July 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm

The pearls are gummy, like over-sized tapioca (think tapioca pudding). The tea is served all sorts of ways, like a smoothie or just a sweetened tea. It’s a lot of fun! :)

sal August 31, 2011 at 11:09 pm

there are a couple of bubble tea places in birmingham. you can usually get them at china town :)

Elizabeth@rosalilium September 2, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Sweet. Thanks Emma and Sal. And incidentally, I live near Birmingham so I will be sure to venture to China Town next time and discover some Bubble Tea for myself. :-)

Bekah July 6, 2011 at 11:41 pm

Thanks for the how-to! These little pearls are so strangely addictive, but I don’t have any where near by to get bubble tea on a regular basis. Now I can try preparing it myself!


Jos July 7, 2011 at 6:04 am

Oh cool! And here I was thinking it was just an Asian thing. I love bubble tea! So you call the bubbles Boba? that’s a cute name.

Sarah Kate July 7, 2011 at 12:31 pm

I’m oh so very excited about this post! I live/go to school in Iowa (so I TOTALLY understand your Midwestern heat posts!) but sadly there are absolutely no bubble tea shops =(

But whenever I visit my friends on the east coast we always go out for bubble tea! I’ll have to stop by an asian market and get some Boba before I head back! =D

What is your favorite bubble tea flavor? I’ve tried so many but still haven’t found a “favorite” yet.

PS- Can I post a link to this on my blog? =)

Emma July 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm

I try different flavors when I am out, but I think my favorite is green tea with mango. :)

And yes, feel free to link to this if you like. Thanks!

emily jean July 7, 2011 at 2:43 pm

YUM. Korean roommate freshman year=bubble tea withdrawals sophomore year.

Random Q: Where do you find your straws?? Obviously the bigger, boba-suitable ones, but also the cute stripey paper ones I’ve seen on your party tables before? I’ve seen them on etsy, but wondered if you had some commercial/adorable hookup.

Thanks for the tips lovely lady!

Emma July 7, 2011 at 4:52 pm

I get the straws from, yeah the big ones are best so you can slurp up the boba pearls. :)

KatieEE July 8, 2011 at 3:09 pm

I love bubble tea! The first time I had it was when I studied in China for a few weeks. The Chinese students who ordered it for us didn’t know how to communicate what we were about to experience, we just thought it was more tea. We ended up having quite a surprise!

My favorite milk tea flavor was chocolate, but I haven’t been able to find chocolate milk tea in the states. I will have to come up with a concoction!

I am so excited to hear that you have bubble tea at your shop! I will have to stop by for some the next time we travel over to Springfield (Our favorite city in MO, so we are there often!).

chelz July 9, 2011 at 8:26 am

You’re a total lifesaver!! I’ve been looking for a boba recipe for awhile (but not that hard I have to admit :P ) and I’m glad you posted something. Think my local asian market might sell the tapioca pearls, but if not, guess I’ll just have to order some along with the straws one day… (Or I could just wash/reuse the straws at the nearby boba place I usually go to,, xD)

April Walterscheid July 23, 2011 at 11:42 pm

Hi Emma!

Thanks for the Boba Tea post! I started making boba with friends last summer and use the colored pearls too! :D I looked at the Boba Tea Direct website you mentioned – have you tried any of their flavored syrups? In my town, there are a few boba places that sell Rose Boba Tea and it’s so delicious! I could drink it all day! I want to buy the Rose syrup from Boba Tea Direct, but I had a bad experience with buying a Kiwi syrup from a local Asian store recently. It tasted AWFUL! Like, sour… plasticky… tangy… utter nastiness. Luckily I was able to return it to the store the next day.

All in all, I’m pretty scared to buy any syrups online because of the nasty Kiwi syrup experience. Please let me know the most palatable syrup brands if you’ve tried any of them. :0)

Emma July 25, 2011 at 1:22 am

I buy syrups from – I’ve tried a number of the brands/flavors. My personal favorites are raspberry, peach and strawberry. :) Good luck!

Lindsay @ Delighted Momma August 31, 2011 at 4:10 pm

This is so AWESOME!! I am so excited to make this myself!

Lindsay @ Delighted Momma August 31, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Ohh and I am adding you to my blog roll. Love your little space so much!

Kara August 31, 2011 at 4:45 pm

I’m curious if you can dye the white boba pearls and if you can, how?

Lainey September 1, 2011 at 1:10 am

I found your website through your sister’s blog. Thank you so much for the amazing boba recipe. I am such a boba fanatic and would probably drink boba every day if I could. This will definitely save me a lot of money. :)

Molly September 1, 2011 at 7:36 am

Honestly, the idea of boba tea has always grossed me out. I tried it once and got too stressed out wondering if I was going to suck up one of those slimy balls too quickly and choke on it. BUT this post has convinced me to give it another shot. Thanks for changing my mind :) xo

Libertad Leal September 1, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Oh this is all kinds of brilliant and it made my day! I lovelovelove bubble tea but the places that selll it are kind of far so I only have it everyone in a while. It never occurred to me that I could make it a home, what a revelation! Thank you for the recipe and tips! This is just perfect and awesome and I think I love you. The end.

annabelle October 31, 2011 at 6:54 pm
Sandra@FoodieAffair January 8, 2012 at 10:43 pm

Thank you for the best directions on preparing the boba! Like you, I was searching for a good method on preparing them, and was happy to pass by your blog and see you already tested the various ways! Perfect! Thank you!

stella January 24, 2012 at 4:23 am

do you have a recipe for the pudding that most boba shops use in their drinks?

Emma January 24, 2012 at 2:13 pm

nope. sorry!

Anna February 3, 2012 at 2:11 am

Thanks for the advice! I got some dry boba today at the market and I’m going to try it out. Never made my own, so your information will be VERY valuable. I’ll let you know if it turned out!

Also, my new favorite thing is POPPING boba! WOW! Amazing little boba filled with juice and they POP in your mouth! I first had them at a Tawainese restaurant here in the Seattle area (Din Tai Fung) and they were amazing. I found them on the internet and I want to buy some, but they are pricey! If you ever run across them, I highly suggest trying them out. Lots of fun – and I think they come already prepared.

Elle February 27, 2012 at 9:23 pm

I use locally harvested honey to sweeten my boba.
It helps with your allergies by using local honey(bee’s collect local pollen, therefore the honey helps allergies if you buy it from a local bee farmer)
Plus its healthier than using concentrated sugars :-) && very yummy

Elcin March 11, 2012 at 10:20 am

Hi Emma,
Thanks a lot for this great recipe, i have ordered some tapioca pearls online, but they are not colorfull, just white. Is it the same thing or something different?

Thanks in advance,

how to make boba at home