How to Make Classic Milk Tea
Classic milk tea is the most standard tea in boba shops and it’s beloved for its sweet, pleasing flavor that is both rich and somehow refreshing.
This post will show you how to make a delicious classic milk tea with just a few simple steps.
What is classic milk tea?
Classic milk tea commonly refers to the original, most basic form of boba tea: sweetened black tea with milk and tapioca pearls.
This beverage originated in Taiwan and it tastes smooth, creamy and sweet.
The boba pearls add a chewy element to it.
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Milk tea vs. bubble tea
Milk tea is tea that is served with milk; bubble tea is the name for any type of drink with tapioca pearls in it, even when they don’t actually have tea in it. For example, taro bubble tea usually doesn’t contain actually tea.
In most boba shops, milk “tea” is usually any type of milky beverage assembled with tapioca balls.
The most classic milk tea in bubble shops is milk tea made with black tea (from the plant Camellia sinensis), so this is the type we’ll cover in this post.
Related: How to make taro milk tea at home
How is boba milk tea made?
Milk tea contains tea, milk, sweetener (commonly sugar) and black sugar tapioca balls.
The milk in classic milk tea can be any type of milk, but most commonly it is whole milk or condensed milk.
You can also find variations of this drink with green tea, oolong tea, or Earl Grey tea instead of black tea.
Many bubble tea shops use tea powder mix, but making classic milk tea from real ingredients is not difficult. And it tastes so much better!
Plus, you get to customize everything to your taste: you will be able to choose how sweet you want it or even make a vegan or sugar-free version of milk tea.
How to make classic milk tea at home
While many boba stores use powder mix to flavor their beverages, you can get the best milk tea from quite common ingredients:
How to make taiwanese milk tea
- Prepare the tea: add hot water over a black tea bag and let it steep for 5 minutes. You may also cold steep the tea: leave the tea bags in room temperature water for around 30 minutes (it takes much more if you use whole leaf tea). Sweeten to taste.
- If you prepared it hot, let it cool down by putting it aside.
- Cook the boba (tapioca balls) according to package instructions. Once drained, pour some syrup or honey over.
- Assemble: add boba, tea, milk and optionally serve with some ice cubes.
Be sure to check out the full recipe and ingredient list below
Best tea for classic milk tea
Since you are going to add some milk (and sometimes also ice cubes), it’s recommended that you use robuster tea types such as Assam, English Breakfast or Earl Grey to make classic milk tea.
These teas can stand up to the milk and sweetness without getting lost in the flavor.
Also, while I love loose tea, I find it better to use tea bags for boba milk tea: it isn’t just more convenient, but it also needs less steeping time if you choose to cold brew it.
I usually cold brew my black tea to make this recipe because it saves me energy.
Cold brewing also makes a tea with less caffeine, which can sometimes be a plus point (for example if it’s later in the evening or if you are sensitive to caffeine).
How to make sugar-free milk tea
Bubble tea are known for having lots of sugar.
Fortunately, when you make it at home, it’s not so difficult to reduce the sugar or make a sugar-free version.
You may either:
- reduce the amount of simple syrup or sweetener
- replace it with another type of sugar- free sweetener that goes well with tea, such as stevia, erythritol or xylitol
- use a sugar-free syrup
How to make vegan milk tea
Traditional milk tea is made with whole dairy milk, but you can make a vegan version using any type of plant-based milk: almond milk, soy milk, oat milk or coconut milk.
These types of milks will change the flavor a bit, but if you like them, they will taste as good in boba tea.
Classic milk tea uses black tea therefore it contains caffeine (unless you use decaf tea). How much caffeine in milk tea depends on how long you let the tea bags steep. If you cold brew it, there will be less caffeine in your milk tea.
Even if you use a keto friendlier milk, classic milk tea isn’t suited for low carb diets because the tapioca pearls are usually made from starch and therefore have high levels of carbohydrates.
Yes! Originally, bubble tea didn’t have tapioca balls: the bubbles refer to the bubbles on top, not the tapioca balls (boba).
So, you may take your cold milk tea without chewy elements.
And if you want to substitute the boba pearls with something else, you can use grass jelly or homemade jelly strips instead.
Both options have less calories and carbs than tapioca.
Usually, you use an extra-wide straw so the tapioca balls can come through.
If you don’t have bubble tea straws, you can drink you boba beverage directly from the glass without straw and eat the tapioca balls with a spoon.
You can store brewed black tea for 1-2 days in the fridge, even with some milk in it. Once with tapioca pearls, it is best to consume the milk tea right away, but if you must store it, keep it in the fridge for no more than 12 hours.
Classic milk tea recipe
- 3 black tea bags
- 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoon sugar or sweetener of choice (I usually use erythritol or xylitol)
- 1 cup milk
- ½ cup black tapioca pearls
- Steep tea according to package (usually 5 minutes in freshly boiled hot water) or by cold brewing it. Sweeten to taste.
- While you wait for the tea to cool down (or to cold steep), cook the boba pearls. Once drained, you may pour some syrup or honey over so they get some sweetness.
- Put the cooked tapioca pearls in a cup or glass, add the tea, milk and serve with or without ice cubes.
Happy sipping! I hope you enjoyed this post on how to make classic milk tea. And don’t forget to share this post with your tea-loving friends!
If you are a milk tea enthusiast, you may also like:
- How to make Okinawa milk tea
- How to make Hokkaido milk tea (even if you don’t have Hokkaido tea!)
- Authentic Royal Milk Tea
It’s really a pleasure to read your posts about tea sorts I have never heard before.
Your blog is the best for any tea lovers, thank you very much!
Thank you for the kind comment 🙂