This delicious hot bubble tea recipe is very easy to prepare right at home and features warm black tea with sweet vanilla milk and chewy tapioca pearls. Makes for a tasty and fun boba tea you can serve during the colder months. 100% dairy-free and plant-based.
Bubble tea or milk tea is traditionally served cold over ice. But when it is cold outside, you can also make a cup of hot bubble tea to cozy up over!
We absolutely love bubble teas and actually, we prefer making them ourselves at home compared to buying them at the tea shop. That way, we can experiment with flavoring ingredients and it is possible to add just enough sweetener to our taste. Also, it is so much cheaper and healthier to make homemade boba!
Now that the weather is growing colder and crisper, we crave warm drinks more and more, so now we make warm boba instead of serving it cold. It is delicious and fun to scoop the boba with a spoon.
The idea of a warm milk tea is about the same as making regular iced bubble tea using black tea, but it is even quicker to prepare since you won't have to chill the brewed tea before serving.
In this case, the dairy-free milk is flavored with a hint of vanilla extract and sweetener (I used maple syrup). Then to serve, combine the chewy boba tapioca balls with hot brewed black tea and vanilla milk.
The combination of sweet vanilla milk with the caramel-flavored chewy boba is so satisfying and delicious, plus the black tea adds that complexity of mellow flavor that's unique and addictive.
Then, you can sit back and slowly sip on your warm bubble tea while scooping the chewy balls as you go. So fun!
Let me know how you liked it! ❤️
Why you will love this recipe
- Easy recipe you can make right at home
- The chewy tapioca balls add such a nice texture to a regular cup of tea
- Versatile: can be flavored in different ways and you can use different types of tea
- Warm and cozy, perfect drink for the fall and winter
- Healthier than the ones from the tea shop (sweetened lightly to taste, no preservatives)
- Vegan, dairy-free and naturally gluten-free
Classic Bubble Milk Tea
Bubble tea is a Chinese tea-based drink (from Taiwan) that took off in the 1980s. It is now a very trendy and popular drink you can find all over Southeast Asia, but also fairly easily all over the United States and the world. There are constantly new boba shops opening up in larger cities, making boba drinks more accessible nowadays. Bubble tea can also be called boba (refers to the tapioca balls at the bottom of the drink) or milk tea (which can have boba pearls or not).
Traditional Chinese milk tea pairs brewed black tea, milk (regular or plant-based), sweetener of choice and chewy tapioca balls (made out of cassava root). Plus, they are more often served cold. The particularity of bubble tea is the pleasant chewy bites coming from the pearls in the drink, which adds sweetness and texture.
Bubble teas now widely vary depending on the tea shops and how you make them. It can now also include fruits or fruit juices, chocolate, and spices and can even be served warm.
Ingredients you will need
- Boba tapioca pearls: Boba balls are small chewy balls made out of tapioca starch. You can make your own boba balls or buy them already made. For convenience, I simply buy quick-cooking boba pearls online, they are not very expensive and the bag is large, which lasts for a while. If you have a local Asian grocery store, check them out too, they usually have some instant tapioca pearls ready to go (usually just require a quick boil). You might have regular tapioca pearls (not quick cooking), which might require boiling for up to 30 minutes, so be sure to check your packaging.
- Black tea: You can use different kinds of tea (see below), but I made mine with a classic twist using black tea. For this recipe, you will need 2 tea bags. If you prefer using loose tea leaves, then steep enough for 2 cups or use about 2 heaping teaspoons.
- Plant-based milk: I used plain oat milk (unsweetened and unflavored) to make it. You can use your favorite kinds of milk, such as almond milk (nutty flavor), cashew milk (ultra creamy) or soy milk (higher in protein). They all work!
- Vanilla extract: optional, but boosts the sweetness of your warm drink and pairs well with the black tea.
- Sweetener: I added a little maple syrup to my boba, but you can use agave nectar, simple syrup or even regular granulated sugar.
How to make a hot bubble tea
This warm milk tea guide is very simple and although it seems like there are a few steps, they all are quick and easy to make, plus they mostly all happen simultaneously.
Prepare the boba pearls
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil (about 3 cups). Once boiling, add the tapioca balls and let them simmer for 5-7 minutes.
Then, remove the pot from the heat and let them soak for another 5 minutes. Drain the balls (I like using a large slotted spoon) and transfer to a small bowl. Add a little sweetener and stir.
Brew the tea
Meanwhile, bring 2 ½ cups of water to a boil (on the stove or use a kettle), remove from the heat and add the tea bags to the hot water. Brew the tea for about 5-7 minutes.
Once done, press on the bags to extract all the flavor and discard them.
Flavor the milk
Meanwhile, simply combine the milk with vanilla extract and sweetener. For a super hot tea, I also recommend warming up the milk briefly or until steamy.
Assemble and serve
If you made the black tea a little while ago, you may want to re-warm it just before serving.
Divide the cooked boba pearls in between 2 serving mugs and then, pour the warm brewed tea over. Add flavored warm milk to your personal preference and enjoy your delicious bubble tea right away with a spoon!
- The longer you brew your tea, the stronger and potentially bitter it will become. For making bubble tea, you can brew your tea a little stronger than usual. You want to make sure that the tea flavor shines through the flavor from the added milk and caramel-like tapioca balls.
- You can taste the tapioca balls as they boil to check for doneness. For quick-cooking balls, they should be ready after boiling for 5-7 minutes. You want them chewy and tender, but still with an "al dente" bite.
- For serving, I do not recommend enjoying with a typical bubble tea wide straw to avoid burning. Scoop the large tapioca pearls with a spoon instead!
- Once you serve the bubble tea, enjoy it right away! The chewy balls will change in texture after soaking in the hot liquid, which can make their consistency chewier and less pleasant after some time.
Variations and Serving suggestions
I like serving this tea very simply with brewed black tea, boba pearls and vanilla sweet milk. That being said, you can play around with the ingredients and make different combinations. Here are a few ideas:
- Flavoring ingredients: I love vanilla flavor paired with black tea, but if you don't have it or looking for a different flavor profile, you can swap the vanilla for cinnamon, chai spices or almond extract. Even a little touch of raw cacao powder would add a fun earthy and mild chocolate taste.
- Milk: for a nice treat and creamier result, you can use canned coconut milk instead of regular plant-based milk. The milk tea would also have a coconut-y taste that would be great here.
- Cold: you can certainly serve this drink cold by allowing some time for the brewed tea to cool down (put it in the fridge if needed). Then, add the chewy balls to the bottom of a tall glass, top with ice cubes, pour the cold tea over and add the milk to taste.
You can also decorate your tea when serving, such as dusting some cinnamon or cacao powder over. If you have some chocolate sauce ready to go, then try adding a little drizzle.
What kind of tea to use in this recipe
Hot milk tea is classically made with black tea (English breakfast or Earl Grey) for its earthy and aromatic flavor. This is what I used when making mine.
That being said, there are no solid rules on which tea you have to use. Feel free to try a different kind, such as:
- Green tea: it gives a flowery and almost vegetal taste to drinks. Green tea pairs well with vanilla flavor and it is also rich in antioxidants.
- Rooibos: I love making boba with rooibos when sharing it with my kids since it is naturally caffeine-free. It also has a milder taste and pairs well with many different flavoring ingredients.
- Matcha: another classic in making bubble tea! Matcha simply is a variation of regular green tea that's even richer in antioxidants and flavor. Adding boba pearls to a vanilla matcha latte would make for a delicious treat!
- Others: You can also make your hot bubble tea using jasmine tea, chamomile and oolong tea!
Storage and make-ahead tips
As explained above, once you assemble the tapioca balls with the warm tea, then enjoy it right away. The chewy balls slowly change in texture while soaking in the hot liquid, so you want to sip on it right away for the best experience.
But, you can brew the tea ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. I like to make a large batch of black tea during the weekend to serve as iced tea or warm tea during a busy week. You can simply warm up the tea quickly using the microwave or the stove before serving.
As a side note, the tapioca balls need to be cooked just before serving since they do not store well.
This will depend on the type of tea that you are using. If using black tea, then this would bring about 45 mg of caffeine per cup.
I think this can be up for discussion. Tapioca balls are pretty much only carbohydrates, which in itself, isn’t bringing any nutrients to your drink. But, they have a fun chewy texture and simply add a pleasant new dimension to the rest of your otherwise healthy drink. Brewed teas (any kind!) have been shown to be rich in antioxidants and can help you stay better hydrated too.
More bubble tea recipes to try
- Cardamom latte
- Lavender milk tea
- Creamy peanut butter coffee
- Oat milk hot chocolate
- Iced strawberry latte
- Pink latte
- Orange peel tea
I hope you like this hot bubble tea as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
Hot Bubble Milk Tea (Boba Tea)
For the black tea
- 2½ cups water
- 2 bags black tea - or about 2 heaping teaspoons of loose black tea leaves
For the sweet milk
- ½ cup plant-based milk - I used oat milk from Oatly
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1-2 tbsp sweetener (I used maple syrup) - or to taste
For the boba pearls
- ½ cup boba pearls - I used quick-cooking tapioca pearls that I bought online.
- 3 cups water
- ½ tbsp maple syrup
Prepare the boba
- Add the 3 cups of water to a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the tapioca pearls and keep cooking for about 5-7 minutes. You can taste-test them while they boil to check for doneness.
- Then, remove from the pot from the heat and let the balls sit in the hot water for another 3-5 minutes.
- Drain (I like using a large slotted spoon for that), transfer the balls to a small bowl and add ½ tablespoon of maple syrup. Stir and set aside until ready to use.
Brew the tea
- While the boba is boiling, brew the tea. Heat up 2 ½ cups of water and then, steep the tea bags for 5-7 minutes. Alternatively, you can use loose tea leaves and steep them using a French press or tea steeper. Remove the tea bags and discard them.
Flavor the milk
- Meanwhile, add the vanilla extract to the milk and a little sweetener (you can adjust with more later). For the best result, I recommend warming up the milk until steamy hot (on the stove or in the microwave).
Assemble and serve
- When ready to serve, you may need to briefly reheat the black tea. Then, divide the tapioca balls between 2 serving mugs, then pour the black tea over and add as much milk as you want. Enjoy right away with a spoon to scoop the tapioca balls!
- Storage tip: once the tea is assembled, then it is best to enjoy it right away (the tapioca balls will slowly change in texture while sitting in the hot liquids).
- Make ahead tips: You can brew a large batch of black tea and keep it in the fridge. Reheat just what you need and freshly boil the tapioca balls just before serving (they do not store well).
- You can tweak the flavoring ingredients if you wish. Try adding some cinnamon, chai spices, almond extract or even cacao powder.
- I do not recommend serving hot bubble tea with a straw for the risk of burning. Simply sip on the mug and scoop the tapioca using a spoon.
- You can use other kinds of tea if you prefer, such as green tea, oolong tea, rooibos or jasmine. Check out the blog post for more ideas!
- Be sure to check your boba pearl packaging before cooking them. I used quick cooking or Instant boba, which cooks quickly. If you do not have a quick cooking brand, then you might need to boil for longer, up to 30 minutes.