Thai tea boba is an iced, creamy drink that tastes refreshing on a hot day. You can always order it from a Thai restaurant, but sometimes you want to have that drink right within reach. The only way is to get that is to do it yourself!
We know it's getting pretty warm outside, so we searched the web for the best recipes for you to brew this satisfying beverage. If you’re ready, let’s get started!
What is Thai Tea Boba?
Thai tea boba in its simplest form is cold black tea with evaporated milk that includes chewy tapioca flour balls known as boba.
Some recipes add exotic spices such as star anise and cloves for a bolder flavour to the drink. Some people also prefer to use sweetened condensed milk. In many restaurants, the trend has been to add bright orange food colouring to make the beverage look attractive for customers.
History of Thai Tea Boba
In Thailand, the locals call this drink Cha Yen. Traditionally, the base is just made of black tea and milk. The Thais likely invented this drink around the 15th to 19th century. This invention was probably when British and Chinese immigrants settled around Thai trading ports and brought their caffeine habits.
But the addition of ice and dairy milk is an idea from Thai military commanders who enjoyed the Western way of drinking tea. They popularised adding these ingredients to Thai tea boba, giving rise to the way it is drunk in many Western countries now.
Locals usually brew this drink from a homegrown version of the Assam plant, Bai Miang. The stall vendors will blend the plant with a mix of ingredients, including orange blossom water, star anise, and crushed tamarind seed. The beverage is then infused with red and yellow food colouring. As Thailand is warm all year round, you will see that the drink is always served with crushed ice.
Why is it orange?
The bright orange colour of Thai tea boba has an equally intriguing story. Foreigners who came to Thailand in the 19th century also brought their tea leaves with them. Domestic workers employed in these houses would brew the drink again rather than discard the leaves.
As the colour faded, they would add tamarind and spices to make the drink more appealing. Another theory is that many restaurants added the orange colour to differentiate it from Thai coffee, which has the same orangey colouring.
Many Thai restaurants serve the drink in a tall glass. You will get it in a plastic cup if you buy it from street and market stalls in Thailand. As it became more popular worldwide, we also saw that people started to add other ingredients such as honey and cinnamon to the beverage. Some versions also have jelly pudding and ice cream, apart from pearls.
Thai tea boba tastes slightly like thickened vanilla, but it is intensely sweeter and milkier. You can adjust the recipe to suit your tastebuds. Generally, the drink is velvety smooth with nutty undertones and a tinge of spice. Usually, people who like this drink also prefer it to taste bitter to counter the sweetness of the added milk.
Thai tea boba is such a well-loved beverage that innovative cooks worldwide have included it in desserts.
You can find Cha Yen in biscuits, in ice-cream form, or even as a mochi flavour. The drink's bitterness is an excellent contrast to the usual sweetness of these desserts.
A 310 ml cup of Thai tea boba contains 150 calories with 23g total carbs, 23g of fats, and 1 g of protein. Of course, the calories count increases when you add more sweetened milk to it.
This article will teach you to make delicious Thai tea boba using instant Thai tea mix with instant tapioca pearls. To do that, you will need to buy black tea either in powder form or in teabags. These ready-made mixes have infused spices, so you do not need to purchase additional ingredients. That will save you a lot of time!
You will also need to buy condensed milk and quick-cook tapioca pearls. The boba comes in convenient packets of dried tapioca balls that you can quickly boil for consumption.
You need to look for authentic mixes, usually dyed with yellow food colouring. The packaging should advertise the bright hues of the contents. We recommend this tea powder from Qbubble, which looks like a cheery sight with its yellow packaging. You can also use tea bags, such as these sachets from Thailand.
Ready to brew your Thai tea boba? Then you'll need a strainer, such as this cloth filter. Passing the mix through the strainer several times maximizes the beverage's taste.
If you think you can make it from scratch, purchase black tea leaves. Add your spices. Star anise, cinnamon, turmeric are some options you can try.
You can also make your boba from scratch. You'll need to buy tapioca and potato starch. Combine the two ingredients into a mixture. Then, get your hands busy by rolling them into spheres. You should check out our guide to homemade Thai tea for more information.
How to make Thai Tea Boba
This section is a quick guide to making a refreshing cup of Thai tea boba. First, you put your instant powder, water and ice into a cup. Stir vigorously for a few minutes to blend ingredients together or shake them together if you use a shaker cup.
Then throw in your cooked tapioca pearls into a glass. Pour in milk (evaporated or condensed), ice, and voila - you are ready to slurp up the drink!
The traditional version of Thai tea boba has condensed milk, which adds a lot of carbs to your diet. Since ketogenic diets require high fat and low carb ingredients, you will need to find a substitute for the milk to make it keto-friendly.
One way is to use a keto-friendly, low-carb, high-fat whipping cream. Another method is coconut milk, which adds a rich milk taste without the carbs overload. The whipping cream can provide a light sweetness to the drink without overpowering it. You also will have a sugar-free beverage!
Full fat unsweetened coconut milk is an equally convincing substitute. It is also perfect for those who need to make vegan versions of this drink.
Here are some cooking tips you should heed if you want your Thai tea boba to taste great. First, you should steep your tea leaves for 5-10 minutes in boiled water to make the tea from scratch. If you steep it longer, black tea will taste more robust. But be warned - if you do not like bitter drinks, keep it to no more than ten minutes.
Another thing is to note: if you are using quick-cook tapioca pearls, cook only the quantity you think you need. The pearls stiffen when they cool, so you should not keep them overnight. If you make them from scratch, leaving them in their cooking water longer will maintain their softness.
So, don't drain the hot water when you are done. Leave the tapioca balls to steep for a while. Just remove whatever you need when you boil them to make your Thai tea boba. Leave the rest to cool in the warm water before storing them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
How many pearls to add to your drink is subjective since some people like to chew on the pearls, but others are not too fond of them. But as they are starchy and can cause indigestion, it is advisable to limit your consumption.
Read more cooking tips in our comprehensive guide to making your own homemade boba tea.
How to Serve
We recommend serving refreshing Thai tea boba in a huge glass with a large, wide-brimmed straw. This beverage is a soothing addition to spicy Thai green curry. Or you can enjoy the cold drink alone as a dessert, which honestly is the best way to have it since the drink's taste is so decadent!
While straws are not environmentally-friendly, it is the best way to scoop up the pearls within the drink. Hence, we recommend getting a reusable stainless steel straw or glass straw from Boba Green to keep at home! Alternatively, you can always use a spoon.
How to Store
You might want to prepare the ingredients of your Thai tea boba beforehand, so here's a trick to store boba overnight. You can prepare the tapioca balls beforehand, then immerse them in a sugar syrup to keep them soft and bouncy. That is how many bubble tea shops keep their stock fresh.
To do that, boil sugar and water in a saucepan. Place your pearls in the sugar syrup and cover them in an airtight container. They can last up to 36 hours and will start to harden in the middle after that. It is not good to keep them after 36 hours as the boba will taste dry and sticky.
Tea, whether in powder or leaves, can be stored for a long time as long as you keep them dry and in an airtight container. Be sure to store the box away from sunlight, as heat will cause the contents to oxidize.
If you want to keep Thai tea boba that has already been made, you can leave the drink in the refrigerator, but it will not taste as good as when it was first made fresh. Therefore, we advise only boiling the boba when you make the drink.
Thai Tea Boba Recipe | How to Make Thai Bubble Tea
- 80 g Instant tea mix
- 240 ml Evaporated milk
- 240 ml Condensed milk
- Quick-cook tapioca pearls
- Crushed ice
- Prepare the tea. Bring 5 cups of water to boil, then add the tea mix. Add sweetener and mix well to combine. Let the mixture cook for 10-15 minutes. Pass the mixture through a tea strainer several times. Then, set aside to cool.
- Boil the quick-cook tapioca pearls for 5-10 minutes. Let them cool.
- Strain your tea mix using a cloth filter. Mix both types of milk in a small jug.
- Pour the tapioca pearls into your glasses. Follow that with your tea mix. Add your milk to the brim. Pour your crushed ice, and now you can serve these ice-cold glasses of Thai tea boba!
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
La Cocina De Jannett on Youtube has a great video recipe showing the whole process of how to make this remarkable drink at home! She even makes sure to soak her tapioca pearls in brown sugar to recreate sweet pearls just like how it’s made in specialist milk tea shops!
In this heat, an iced cup of Cha Yen with chewy tapioca pearls is going to be such a sweet treat. It takes a mere few minutes, so have fun trying to make this drink for your next gathering! We guarantee that this sweet treat will make your guests happy.
We hope you enjoyed this quick and easy guide to making Thai tea boba! For more of these recipes, you should follow us on Instagram @honestfoodtalks.
I made this with coconut milk instead - turned out so much sweeter but slightly sourish for those who prefer to make it vegan friendly!
What kind of mix do you recommend us getting in UK? I used the normal tetley black tea bags but didn't turn out so good. I need to use the actual thai tea mix then i guess? Thanks for guide btw
Yea, I think you should get the thai mix. I bought mine from the link above - turned out just like the Thai shops. Hope that helps