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Zhen Zhu Nai Cha {Taiwanese Bubble Tea}

Authentic Taiwanese Boba Tea Made From Scratch

by Shirley
Taiwanese bubble tea recipe

Zhen Zhu Nai Cha {珍珠奶茶}, or Boba {波霸} Tea is a popular Taiwanese Style milk tea. Boba, or semi-sweet chewy mini rounds that look like black pearls are the iconic add-on. You will love this authentic Tainese Bubble Tea made from scratch, so yummy satisfying, and super nutritious.

Zhen Zhu Nai Cha {Bubble Tea} Recipe

What is behind the iconic Taiwanese bubble tea’s unique pleasant flavor?

The secret of the unique milk tea flavor is mainly from a type of traditional Chinese red tea, or Hong Cha {红茶} in Chinese.

You might have heard of green tea or black tea, but what is red tea? Well, simply put, black tea is fermented tea and green tea is unfermented tea. As for red tea, they are semi-fermented.

Taiwanese zhen zhu nai cha {bubble tea} ingredients

Needless to say, there are many different red teas out there based on where they are growing, what type of tea tree they are coming from, and how people make the tea. Rest assured, not every red tea is equal. The Da Hong Pao {大红袍}, which loosely translates as Grand Red Robe, for instance, is great for classic Chinese Eight Treasure Tea, but not so much for Milk Tea.

For Chinese milk tea, a special type of red tea that has a nutty, sweet aftertaste works the best. My go-to red tea is Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong {正山小种}. Jin Jun Mei {金骏眉}, which literally means Golden Beautiful Eyebrows, also works perfectly. Both teas grow in the same Wuyi Mountain {武夷山} area in China’s Fu Jian province.

What is the main ingredient of makes Boba {Zhen Zhu 珍珠}?

People usually refer to Boba “Zhen Zhu” which means “pearl” in Mandarin Chinese. They are semi-sweet pearl-shaped chewy mini balls, similar in size to Shanghai-style Red Bean Xiao Yuan Zi {红豆小圆子}. Unlike Xiao Yuan Zi, which literally translates as mini rounds by the way, which is made of water-milled sweet rice flour, Boba is made from starch.

The traditional starch to make Boba is tapioca, which is a starch from the roots of the cassava plant. Since I have access to the superfood arrowroot four, I just use arrowroot flour instead. Needless to say, tapioca and arrowroot flour behave very similarly as a food starch.

It is actually easier than you think to make Boba at home from scratch using either tapioca or arrowroot flour. See here for a step-by-step tutorial and recipe.

how to make boba part 1/3
how to make boba part 2/3
how to make boba part 3/3

For Taiwanese Zhen Zhu Nai Cha {bubble tea}, where is Boba’s color coming from?

The color is directly from the black sugar. The traditional handmade black sugar, which has a deep black is best suitable for a dark color-looking Boba.

I use the same black sugar for the iconic Brown Sugar Rice Cake {Hong Tang Nian Gao {红糖年糕}.

Handmade Black Sugar
Taiwanese bubble tea recipe

Taiwanese Zhen Zhu Nai Cha {Bubble Tea} Recipe

Yield: 2 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

You will love this authentic Tainese Bubble Tea made from scratch using homemade boba, so yummy satisfying, and super nutritious


  • 2 tbsp traditional Chinese red tea, Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong or Jin Jun Mei
  • 3 English black tea bags, such as PG tips
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 4 tbsp brown sugar, organic preferred
  • 8 cups of boiling water
  • 2 handfuls of boba, homemade boba or store-bought


Make Homemade Boba in Advance:

  • If you want to make boba from scratch, see here for a step-by-step tutorial and recipe.
    roll boba between hands

Making Taiwanese Bubble Tea:

  • Gather ingredients.
    Taiwanese bubble tea ingredients
  • Fill a kettle with water, turn the heat to medium-high, and cook until it reaches a boil.
  • While waiting on the boiling water, add 2 tbsp traditional Chinese red tea such as Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong or Jin Jun Mei, along with 3 PG tips black tea bags to a 34-oz French Press. Add about 1/4 cup of whole milk to each of the bubble tea glasses.
    chinese loose red tea and black tea bags in a French Press
  • Pour the boiling water slowly into the French Press, until it reaches the very top. Use a bamboo chopstick to give it a good stir and let it brew for about 5 minutes.
    brewing tea in French Press
  • Add previously made boba into the glasses. Pour the tea into each of the two glasses slowly, alternating the two glasses to have an evenly distributed tea between the two glasses. Add 1-2 tbsp brown sugar to the glass, Stir to mix. Enjoy a super satisfying yummy Taiwanese Bubble tea.
    homemade scratch Taiwanese bubble tea recipe


  • I use a blend of Chinese red tea and English breakfast black tea for optimal taste and color appeal. A specific Chinese red tea such as Zheng Shao Xiao Zhong or Jin Jun Mei is a must for the unique taste. The classic English breakfast tea supports the deep color and strong tea flavor.
  • I found organic brown sugar naturally fits this tea so well.
  • This recipe is for 1 liter (or approximately 34 oz or 8 cups) of French Press, fill the boiling water all the way to the top. It can make 2x24 oz bubble tea.

Nutrition Information
Yield 2 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 159Total Fat 2gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 1gCholesterol 6mgSodium 73mgCarbohydrates 34gFiber 0gSugar 27gProtein 2g

Nutrition calculation is provided by Nutritionix to the best knowledge per ingredients description and isn't always accurate.

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