There's something about boba that makes you go back for more every single time. Whether it's the novelty of different tea flavors, the chewy texture of the little pearls, or the satisfying richness of milk tea, it's a drink that definitely deserves the recognition it has amassed. 

From its humble origins in 1988, the creation of boba milk tea can be attributed to a mere stroke of luck. According to CNN Travel,  Lin Hsiu Hui was at a staff meeting when she decided to pour some of her tapioca balls from the traditional dessert fen yuan into her milk tea (fen yuan is basically a bowl of sweetened warm boba). To her surprise, it became revolutionary. 

Nowadays, you can't walk more than five blocks in Taipei without running into a shop selling her famed invention.

beer, wine, alcohol, tea, coffee
Emma Davis

When I was little, boba was a delicacy that I got to enjoy only when we went to Taiwan to visit my relatives, as there weren't a lot of options near the small town I grew up in. However, my mom used to try and replicate this classic drink at home by cooking up some store-bought tapioca pearls. The problem with the store-bought boba was that the pearls were often so dehydrated that no matter how long you cooked them for, they would always have a hard center, which distracted from the rest of the chewy experience. Disappointed, we ended up to waiting until the next time we went back to Taiwan. 

Last year however, my mom and I were so excited when we came across a simple four-ingredient recipe that taught us how to make fresh boba from scratch.

Here's how it went:

Making Boba:

Prep Time: 5 mins

Making Time: 120 minutes

Total Time: 125 minutes

Servings: 8-12 


Tapioca Powder: 70 grams 

Tapioca Starch: 30 grams 

Brown Sugar: 35 grams 

Hot Water: 65 gram

Linnet Chang

I started off by mixing the tapioca starch and powder in with hot water and brown sugar in one bowl. Try to get rid of as many lumps as you can. 

Linnet Chang

As an aside, hot water is critical in making "QQ" boba: "QQ" referring to the Taiwanese slang term for chewy food. The hot water develops the starch in the boba mixture just like how kneading bread dough develops gluten strands, improving the overall chewy mouth-feel that boba delivers. 

Every time that I've followed this recipe, I've ended up with a texture that resembles oobleck (a fluid that solidifies when you apply pressure to it) rather than a doughy consistency that the recipe describes. It is a bit hard to work with since it will get everywhere like a sticky liquid does if you don't keep it contained.

Thus, I like to work with it in small portions. I found it easiest to generously flour the surface I'm working on, and then to pour a fifth of the mixture onto it. Then taking advantage of the oobleck-y properties, I pinched out a bit of boba batter and squished it between my fingers to make it into a solid. I usually aim for a bit less than a centimeter in diameter, but feel free to eyeball the size of your tapioca pearls. Whatever you do, remember that the pearls will expand after you cook them. To maintain the boba's final shape, I found that rolling it in more tapioca starch was helpful. 

Linnet Chang

The first time I tried to make boba, I added more tapioca starch and powder to the mixture to try and alleviate the oobleck texture to make it more dough-like. Don't do this. It makes the boba tough and gives it a not-so-pleasant chewiness after you cook it. 

Linnet Chang

Final Thoughts:

Overall this process took me two hours by myself. If you wanted to only make a single person serving, I think that cutting the recipe in a fifth of its original ratio will be enough (or you could just invite a bunch of friends over for a homemade boba party). You can also freeze these in already portioned sizes to make bulk batches for future cravings.

You can cook this fresh boba the usual way to cook it. If you haven't home-cooked boba before, here's an easy how-to (You can choose to let it rest up to 1 hour for more chewiness as well). 

If you ever have some extra time on your hands and craving a treat-yourself drink, I highly recommend giving this recipe a shot. 

I won't lie, it was a very laborious process. It was a very fun experience however, and there is something stress-relieving about going through the same motions while jamming to some music. And just like a pearl from an oyster, these black tapioca pearls will take time and effort to make, but the product will truly be one-of-a-kind, and better than any boba you can get from a shop.