If you’re a Bay Area local, it's safe to assume that you are already aware of boba culture. Every time you turn a corner, there is a shop selling the irresistible chewy tapioca balls. But what if you could build your own boba? While there are many fantastic boba stops, drinking boba can become so habitual that your wallet may suffer. 

Though cost is a major downside of boba, another is that buying boba uses an excessive amount of plastic. Boba straws and lids aren't recyclable. The cups don't count either, unless you thoroughly rinse them before disposal. One of the best ways to still enjoy customizable boba on the cheap and be more eco-friendly is to do it yourself. It’s easy, affordable, adjustable, and can be enjoyed in the comfort of your home.

I took inspiration from Veggiekins’, a plant-based blog's recipe; both of our recipes leave plenty of room for interpretation and a personal touch for creativity. I'd like to start with three popular flavors: classic milk tea, trendy matcha, and floral jasmine.

#SpoonTip: I recommend bringing a jar or reusable bag to your local grocery store to buy your tea in bulk. It's another way to save on plastic, purchase exactly as much as you need, and even sample new flavors.

Build Your Own Boba

  • Prep Time:5 mins
  • Cook Time:30 mins
  • Total Time:35 mins
  • Servings:1
  • Easy


  • 32 ounces water to boil
  • 1/2 cup dry tapioca pearls
  • 1 teaspoon matcha powder OR
  • 2 tablespoons jasmine or black tea leaves—substitute with tea bags if preferred
  • 1 cup milk—substitute with alternative dairy products like coconut milk
  • Honey or sweetener your choice
Anna Chang
  • Step 1

    Pour tapioca pearls into boiling water and stir occasionally for 15 minutes.

    Anna Chang
  • Step 2

    Turn off heat, cover pot, and allow pearls to simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

  • Step 3

    While the pearls are resting in hot water, boil an additional 8 ounces of water.
    #SpoonTip: Use an electric kettle for quick results.

    Anna Chang
  • Step 4

    If you are using jasmine or black tea leaves, steep them in a French press with boiling hot water for 5 minutes. For matcha, mix powder into the water thoroughly until dissolved.

    Anna Chang
  • Step 5

    Once boba pearls have spent 15 minutes soaking, drain and rinse them in cold water.

  • Step 6

    Drizzle in your desired amount of sweetener. Since I generally ask for 25% sweetness at boba shops, I use 2 teaspoons of honey.

    Anna Chang
  • Step 7

    Pour boba pearls into your desired cup, then pour in your brewed tea and top it off with your choice of milk or dairy alternative.

    Anna Chang
  • Step 8

    Stick in your straw, sit back, relax (until the caffeine kicks in), and enjoy!
    #SpoonTip: Without a resuable boba straw, how else would you gulp your drink? I purchased mine at a local boba shop, but you can also check out popular retailers such as Amazon.

    Anna Chang

Some optional flavors to boost your drink can include lavender flowers, cinnamon or even fruit flavors. I would also suggest trying other tea varieties like hojicha, early grey, or chai. Even cold brew coffee works as a great base.

If you want to stick to your college budget and become your own connoisseur of customizable boba, explore and experiment with what flavors work best for you. Next time your tastebuds are longing for this sweet and chewy beverage, remind yourself that you have the power to easily satisfy your cravings