What is Bubble Tea?

Move over, Champagne! There’s another popular drink that’s taken the world by storm. Bubble tea, or boba, is a refreshingly sweet tea-based drink that can be made in a number of ways and with a diverse range of flavours. Here, we give you some background on this bubbly beverage and share with you with a delicious bubble tea recipe for how to make bubble tea at home, using our Nerada Black tea of course.

Bubble tea goes by quite a few names. In addition to bubble tea and boba (named for the tapioca ‘pearls’ that are a key ingredient), its other monikers include pearl milk tea, bubble milk tea, tapioca milk tea, boba tea and zhen zhu nai cha. The drink has its origins in Taiwan, where it began ‘popping up’ in the early 1980s.

Like the bubbles in your mouth, its popularity exploded in the 1990s, especially among young people, and spread quickly throughout East Asia and South-East Asia. Originally, it featured hot Taiwanese black tea, but these days, you’ll most often find it served cold.

What’s in bubble tea?

Bubble tea comes in many varieties and flavours. There are both milk teas and non-milk teas, and, of the non-milk varieties, there are even fruity, juice-based versions.

Tea, of course, serves as the base, and standard recipes typically call for black tea, green tea, or oolong. Milk options vary, too, with bubble tea incorporating regular milk, condensed milk, powdered milk, soy milk, coconut milk or almond milk. Then – and most important – there are the unique ‘bubbles’ for which the tea is famous. Generally, these are indeed tapioca pearls, small balls of tapioca starch that comes from the cassava plant.

In their pure form, these pearls are hard, white, and lacking in flavour. However, by cooking them with flavoured syrups, they evolve into those springy, textural, slurp-worthy bubbles that make this drink one of a kind. Even the colour of the pearls can change depending on the ingredients combined with the tapioca. The most common are black tapioca pearls, which get their colour from blending with brown sugar.

There are alternatives to tapioca pearls, such as flavoured jellies in varying shapes and sizes, that deliver a similar unique texture to boba. Flavours can include coconut, lychee, mango, coffee and more. Then there are ‘popping boba’, similar to tapioca pearls but with fruit juices or syrups inside them. These come in myriad flavours, such as mango, passionfruit, melon, strawberry, kiwi or coconut.

Too many options? Just want to try the classic? Go for a basic milk tea, which typically comprises black tea, frothy milk, ice, and the famed tapioca pearls.

Bubble Tea Near Me

These days, you’ll find lots of cafes specialising in bubble tea. In Australia, a number of chain bubble tea stores have burst onto the scene where you can taste the sensation. These include Chatime, ShareTea, and Gong Cha. Typically, your bubble tea will come to you in one of two ways: in a plastic cup with a big, appropriately bubble-shaped lid, or more traditionally, sealed with heated plastic cellophane, a spill-free option that allows the drinker to shake the bubble tea in the serving cup. In either instance, it comes with an oversized straw large enough to accommodate the tasty bubbles. 

How to Make Bubble Tea

If you don’t feel like venturing out, you can even make bubble tea at home. Try this delicious recipe that serves 4 and heroes our Nerada Black Tea.


  • 8 tea bags or 3 tbs loose-leaf Nerada Black Tea
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • ½ cup cold water
  • ½ cup white, brown or coconut sugar
  • 1 cup quick-cooking tapioca pearls (you can find these at some supermarkets, Asian grocers, and online)
  • Ice cubes, to serve
  • Full-cream milk (or your preferred milk), to serve
  • Extra-large straws or spoons, to serve


  1. Steep tea in boiling water until water completely cools.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine cold water and sugar over medium-high heat, stirring, until the water just boils and the sugar completely dissolves. Remove from heat, let cool, and transfer simple syrup to a glass jar.
  3. In another small saucepan, bring a litre of water to the boil and add tapioca pearls. Once they float to the top, cook them for an additional 5 minutes. (You can test them to determine whether they reached the preferred softness; if they are too stiff, cook them a few minutes more.)
  4. Drain the pearls with a small sieve and quickly rinse them under water. Transfer the pearls to a small bowl, then add a small amount of simple syrup to taste. (You will need more simple syrup below.)
  5. Strain tea into a jug. Divide pearls among 4 large glasses. Add some ice cubes to each glass. Pour 1 cup tea into each glass. Add 1½ tbs milk and 1 ½ tbs simple syrup to each glass. Shake or stir, then try the milk tea. Add more milk or syrup to taste if necessary. (You can refrigerate any remaining simple syrup in a sealed jar for 3 to 4 weeks.) Slurp and enjoy!