Also commonly called Thai milk tea or Thai bubble tea, this deliciously spiced, flavorful, creamy drink has its origins in the streets of both Thailand and Taiwan. It’s rich and flavorful, with added pops of boba to make it even more delightful. In this article we’re going over exactly how to make this delicious treat right at home. It’s an amazing spring and summer drink and is incredibly easy to make!
What is Thai Boba Tea?
Thai boba tea is, as the name suggests, a type of boba tea, also commonly called bubble tea. While boba tea originated in Taiwan in the 1940s, this drink borrows traditional flavors from Thailand, like star anise, cardamom, and vanilla. Then, it’s combined with brown sugar, sweetened condensed milk, a bit of regular milk, and of course, tapioca pearls (AKA boba) for that pop of flavor everyone loves!
But Wait – What Exactly is Boba and Where Do I Buy It?
Boba is made of tapioca starch, which is pressed together to create chewy balls with a gummy texture. These delicious little gems originated in Taiwan and became popular as an addition to cold tea, which later took on the name bubble tea. You can find them at most Asian grocery stores or on Amazon, but keep in mind that you do have to cook them before adding them to your tea. They should also be used immediately or the pearls will harden and won’t be chewy.
Where Do I Buy Thai Tea?
I prefer to make my own Thai tea blend, but you can also purchase a premade blend. My personal favorite is the Cha Tra Mue brand, but any variety will work.
If you want to make your own Thai blend, I recommend purchasing a high quality black tea, like Art of Tea’s Yunnan Black Tea. You’ll also need to purchase the spices:
- Whole star anise
- Cinnamon sticks
- Vanilla extract
Why is Thai Boba Tea orange?
When you brew Thai tea and add condensed milk, it takes on a mild orange color. However, to help it stand out from other varieties of boba tea, shops started adding a bit of red food coloring to amplify the color. This became more common in American boba shops as the tea was popularized in Western cultures.
Today, you’ll often find that Thai tea, even in Thailand, is made with a bit of food coloring to give it that now well-known orange hue.
How to make Thai Boba Tea
The first step is to cook your boba. Make sure to do this just before you make your Thai boba tea or the pearls will harden and not have that chewy texture.
How to cook and prepare boba
- Prepare your boba based on the instructions on the boba packaging. This will require you to cook the boba in a saucepan. While instant boba becomes ready very quickly, non-instant boba should simmer in hot water for about 25 minutes while covered. If using instant boba, you’ll only need to cook them for about 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and allow the boba to sit in the saucepan covered for another 30 minutes–if using instant boba, you can skip this step. Drain the liquid and run boba under cold water.
Recipe for Thai Boba Tea
To Make the Thai Tea:
- 5 black tea bags
- 2 cups Water
- 2 whole star anise
- 1 tablespoon whole cardamom
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1.5 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 drop food coloring, optional
To Make the Sweetened Milk
- ¼ cup sweetened condensed milk
- 2.5 tablespoons milk of choice (I prefer using regular whole milk)
Don’t forget your Boba pearls!
- First things first, cook your boba pearls according to the directions above or on the package.
- If using a Thai tea mix, simply boil 2 cups of water and mix in ½ cup of Thai tea mix. Stir to dissolve and add food coloring, if using. Allow to cool.
- If making your tea from scratch, combine black tea, water, and spices in a medium pot and allow to simmer. Reduce the heat to low and allow it to steep for 3-5 minutes.
- Remove the tea bags and strain the spices. Add 1 drop of food coloring, if using. Allow the tea to cool.
- Mix sweetened condensed milk and regular mix together.
- Assemble your Thai boba tea: Once your tea has cooled, spoon a few tablespoons of boba pearls on the bottom of each glass. Top with ice and pour half of the tea into each glass. Top with milk mixture and enjoy!