Ah, milk tea – the quintessential beverage of childhood memories, and afternoon pick-me-ups. Whether you’re a die-hard fan of the classic variation or a newcomer to the world of tea, there’s no denying the allure of a perfectly brewed cup of milk tea.
And, my friends, today we’re going back to basics with a traditional milk tea (also known as Hong Kong-style milk tea) recipe that’ll transport you straight to the heart of tea culture.

So, put on your comfiest tea cosies and get ready to indulge in a little nostalgia, as we take a deep dive into the world of classic milk tea. In this post you’ll find everything you need, from choosing the right tea leaves to the perfect ratio of milk to tea, and even some tips and tricks to elevate your brew game.

You’ll be sipping on a delicious cup of milk tea that’ll make you feel like you’re sitting in the garden of your grandparents’ house, surrounded by the warmth and love of family.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Then, let’s get started!

Image of Classic Milk Tea

Traditional | Classic Milk Tea Recipe

Milk tea, also known as bubble tea, is a popular drink that originated in Taiwan in the 1980s. It typically consists of black tea, milk, sugar, and tapioca pearls.
Our classic milk tea recipe is a simple and delicious way to enjoy this beloved drink at home.
With just a few ingredients and some basic kitchen tools, you can create a perfect cup of milk tea that's just like the real thing.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Drinks
Cuisine Taiwanese
Servings 4
Calories 230 kcal


  • Large pot
  • Medium saucepan
  • Strainer
  • Measuring cups (1 cup and 1/4 cup)
  • Measuring spoons (tablespoon and teaspoon)
  • Whisk
  • Spoon
  • Glasses or mugs
  • Blender (optional)


  • 2 tea bags black tea
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 cup tapioca pearls
  • Ice cubes
  • Optional: honey or sugar syrup for sweetness adjustment


  • Start by boiling the water in a large pot.
  • While waiting for the water to boil, prepare the tapioca pearls according to package instructions. Rinse them in cold water, then soak them in a mixture of equal parts water and sugar for at least 30 minutes. Drain and rinse the pearls again before using them.
  • Once the water is boiling, remove it from heat and add the tea bags. Let them steep for 3-5 minutes, or until the desired strength of tea flavor is achieved.
  • Fill a medium saucepan with milk and place it over low heat. Warm the milk until it’s hot but not boiling.
  • Add the sugar to the warm milk and stir until it’s fully dissolved.
  • Remove the tea bags from the pot and discard them. Pour the tea into a strainer placed over a large bowl or container. Discard any loose tea leaves or sediment.
  • Stir the tapioca pearls into the tea and let them soak for a few minutes. This will allow them to absorb some of the tea flavor.
  • To serve, pour the tea and tapioca pearls into glasses or mugs filled with ice cubes. You can blend the tea and pearls together using a blender if desired.
  • Adjust the sweetness level to taste using honey or sugar syrup. Serve immediately and enjoy!


Nutritional Facts (per serving):
Calories: 230
Total fat: 12g
Saturated fat: 8g
Cholesterol: 20mg
Sodium: 300mg
Carbohydrates: 40g
Dietary fiber: 0g
Sugars: 30g
Protein: 8g
Keyword boba tea, Bubble Tea, Milk Tea
Image of Traditional Milk Tea

Pairing Food:

Traditional Milk Tea Recipe, also known as Hong Kong-style milk tea, is a strong and rich tea beverage that is often enjoyed with various types of food.
Here’s a comprehensive list of some common foods that pair well with Traditional Milk Tea Recipe:

  • Dim sum: Steamed or fried Cantonese-style small dishes like har gow (shrimp dumplings), siu mai (pork and shrimp dumplings), and cha siu bao (barbecue pork buns) complement the robust flavors of milk tea.
  • Breakfast items: Milk tea is a popular breakfast choice in Hong Kong, often served with eggs, toast, and noodles. Try dipping your egg sandwich or noodles in a bowl of steaming hot milk tea for a satisfying start to your day.
  • Chinese pastries: Flaky, buttery pastry products like egg tarts, coconut tarts, and wife cakes go nicely with a cup of milk tea. Their sweetness balances out the bitterness of the tea leaves.
  • Mochi or rice cakes: These Japanese-inspired desserts have gained popularity in Hong Kong and pair well with milk tea due to their soft, chewy texture and mild sweetness.
  • Fried snacks: Salty, crispy treats such as potato chips, peanuts, or fried dough sticks can offset the richness of milk tea. Enjoy them as a side snack while sipping on your tea.
  • Sweet breads: Buttered toast, croissants, or sweet breads like polo buns or cocktail buns can soak up the excess liquid from the tea, making it easier to eat while enjoying your beverage.
  • Custard or egg tart: A classic Hong Kong treat, these tartlets filled with smooth custard or egg custard complement the strong tea flavors without overpowering them.
  • Sandwiches: Western-style sandwiches made with bread, meat, and vegetables work surprisingly well with milk tea. Try a grilled chicken or egg salad sandwich for a satisfying combination.
  • Noodle soup: Milk tea goes well with many Asian noodle soups, especially those containing wontons or fish balls. Slurping noodles between sips of tea creates a comforting and filling meal.
  • Rice bowls: Simple rice bowls adorned with savory toppings like grilled chicken, beef, or vegetables won’t compete with the bold flavors of milk tea. Instead, they provide a subtle base that complements the tea without overwhelming it.

Remember, feel free to experiment with different combinations to find your perfect pairing!

Tips for a great Milk Tea:

  • Experiment with different types of tea, such as green tea or oolong tea, for a unique twist on traditional milk tea.
  • Try adding other flavors like vanilla extract or cinnamon sticks to the tea for added depth.
  • For a vegan version, substitute dairy milk with almond milk or coconut milk.
  • Store leftover tapioca pearls in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


Can I use loose leaf tea instead of tea bags?

Yes, absolutely! Simply steep 1 tablespoon of loose leaf tea per 8 ounces of water.

What type of sugar works best for this recipe?

Granulated white sugar is ideal because it dissolves quickly and evenly. However, feel free to experiment with brown sugar or raw sugar for a slightly different flavor profile.

How do I adjust the sweetness level without using honey or sugar syrup?

You can add more or fewer tapioca pearls to suit your taste preferences. The pearls absorb some of the tea’s natural bitterness, which affects the overall sweetness.

What type of tea leaves should I use for this recipe?

For traditional milk tea, it’s best to use black tea leaves. You can use any variety of black tea leaves you like, but Assam tea leaves are a popular choice because they have a strong flavor that holds up well against the addition of milk and sugar.

How much tea should I use per cup of water?

The general rule of thumb for making tea is to use one teaspoon of loose-leaf tea or one tea bag for every 8 ounces (240 ml) of water. So for a 3-cup (720 ml) batch of milk tea, you would need 3 teaspoons of loose-leaf tea or 3 tea bags.

Should I use whole milk, skim milk, or a non-dairy milk alternative?

Whole milk is traditional in milk tea, but you can also use skim milk if you prefer a lower-fat version. Non-dairy milk alternatives like almond milk or soy milk work too, but keep in mind that they may affect the flavor slightly.

Can I add sugar to taste while the tea is still hot?

Yes, absolutely! In fact, many people find that adding sugar to the tea while it’s still hot helps dissolve the sugar more evenly throughout the drink. Just stir until the sugar has fully dissolved before adding ice cubes.

Is there an easy way to froth the milk without using a frothing pitcher?

Yes, there is! One method is to heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat, then whisk it vigorously with a wire whisk just before it reaches boiling point. This will create a nice foamy texture on top.
Alternatively, you can shake milk vigorously in a sealed jar or bottle for about 15 seconds to froth it.

Help! My milk tea tastes bitter! What went wrong?

There could be several reasons why your milk tea tastes bitter. Maybe the tea leaves were steeped for too long, or maybe the tea wasn’t strained properly before adding milk.
Another possibility is that the tea was made with water that was too hot – try brewing the tea with water at around 190°F (88°C) next time.
Finally, check whether the tea leaves used were old or low quality; fresh high-quality tea leaves should yield a smoother flavor.

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