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Does Starbucks Have Boba?

Boba tea is a kind of milk tea originating from Taiwan in the early 1980s. It contains chewy tapioca pearls that have simmered in brown sugar syrup. 

Boba drinks have exploded in popularity over recent years — and for good reason. If you’ve never had one of these creamy sweet drinks, let me help you find one. 

Fortunately, many major coffee chains are bursting onto the bubble tea market. 

Starbucks is one of the largest drink chains in the world. So it’s fair to ask yourself ‘does Starbucks have boba tea’? Read on to find out.

Source: Shameel Mukkath/Pexels

Key Takeaways: Starbucks & Boba Tea

  • Starbucks does not currently sell boba tea.
  • But the coffee giant is testing proprietary “coffee pearls.”
  • There are a few drinks you can order and customize at Starbucks to get you close to a milk tea.
  • Making your own boba tea at home is fun and easy.

Does Starbucks Have Boba Drinks?

Sadly, no. Starbucks does not currently sell boba tea. But this doesn’t mean they won’t offer boba tea, or some variation of it, in the future. 

Starbucks is currently testing “coffee popping pearls” at two locations: Palm Desert, CA and Bellevue, WA. 

These coffee popping pearls are similar to boba pearls. They are chewy and small — about the size of a coffee bean. But these popping pearls come filled with real Starbucks coffee. 

Starbucks is offering them in two drinks. You can try them in the classic iced chai tea latte, and a drink called “In the Dark,” a variation of their cold brew.

Boba fans have obviously asked about the possibility of expansion. But Starbucks doesn’t have a timeframe for the popping pearls to come to any other stores around the U.S. 

If you’re interested in trying these boba-like additions, you’ll have to make a trip of it!

Boba Tea Alternatives at Starbucks

3 types of boba teas
Source: Telly Mina/Pexels

Starbucks doesn’t currently have any boba tea offerings. There are a few drinks you can order at Starbucks that approximate boba tea. As a former Starbucks barista, I’m well-prepared to teach you this menu hack. 

Yes, you will have to settle for bubble tea sans the bubbles — err, pearls. But I promise these milk tea mockups will still be tasty!

One of the easiest ways to order these drinks is through the Starbucks app. The app makes it super easy to input all your customization requirements. 

If that’s not your cup of tea (see what I did there?) you can also chat with the barista to make sure they understand exactly what you’re looking for. Without further ado, the drinks.

Raspberry Milk Tea

Bubble tea is, in its simplest form, a tea base, sweetener, and milk. For this recipe, you’ll be getting a slightly sweet, creamy tea with a pop of raspberry. To order, here’s what you’ll want to ask for. 

  1. First, order an iced shaken black tea. In the U.S. these come unsweetened by default.
  2. Next, ask for half water and half milk. Any kind of milk will do.
  3. For the sweetener, order 1.5 pumps of toffee nut syrup, 1.5 pumps of raspberry syrup, and 1 pump of classic syrup. You can adjust these if you want your drink to be sweeter or less sweet.
  4. Enjoy! You now have a traditional raspberry milk tea.

Want a more traditional flavor? Try ordering the drink with brown sugar syrup instead of classic syrup. Brown sugar provides the traditional molasses-ey flavor that boba tea is famous for.

Note: the syrup pump quantities above assume a standard grande size order. If you’re ordering a different size, ask for half a pump more for each size up and half a pump less for each size down. For example, going up one size to a venti, you’d ask for 1.5 pumps of classic syrup instead of 1.

hands around large boba pearl tea
Source: Rodnae Productions/Pexels

Iced Tea Latte

If my recipe for raspberry milk tea sounds too complicated, there’s an even easier way. Order a standard iced tea latte, another drink similar to a typical boba tea. 

Iced tea lattes are tea, typically black tea, combined with milk and then shaken with ice. Sound familiar? That’s because standard bubble tea is pretty much exactly the same thing!

Want to make this sipping experience more authentic and exciting? There are a few variations you can make to this order.

When ordering, try asking for brown sugar syrup as your sweetener. This addition emulates the brown sugar flavor of the tapioca pearls. It also complements the slight bitterness of the black tea perfectly. 

By default, iced tea lattes at Starbucks come with two percent milk. But you can order the iced tea latte with whole milk or half-and-half for a richer experience. Seriously. Switching to whole milk or half-and-half takes the drink to the next level of creaminess.

You can also switch up the kind of tea. Starbucks typically makes iced tea lattes with black tea. But they also offer green and passion teas that can be used for iced lattes. Green tea is light and refreshing, while passion tea is tangy and vibrant. 

Want to make it a true boba experience? You can take them home and add your own delicious tapioca pearls to either drink.

How To Make A Boba Tea At Home

home made boba
Source: Mikhail Nilov/Pexels

You’ve stopped wondering ‘does Starbucks have boba tea’? Now it’s time to figure out how to make boba tea at home. That way, even if your local coffee shop doesn’t carry boba tea, you won’t have to miss out. 

With only a few steps and ingredients, it’s a surprisingly fun and easy recipe. 

Making your own boba at home is simple and cost-effective. Best of all, it provides ample opportunity to create your own concoctions. Get creative — you might just create the next big bubble tea flavor.

Buy A Tea

The first thing you’ll need to make your own boba tea is, well, tea. Choose a quality one you enjoy drinking, as the flavor of the tea will play a large role in the final product. 

The most traditional boba tea uses Assam tea. Assam is a black tea named after its growing region in India. 

Other traditional boba tea bases include green tea, honeydew milk teas, jasmine tea, and taro root tea. Or take a page out of the Starbucks book and use an iced chai tea latte for your base. 

You can also brew tea and shake it with fresh fruit juice. This method creates fruit-flavored milky teas that are refreshing with a subtle bite.

For those less tea inclined, I hear you — you can still enjoy some boba. Just substitute the iced tea with some type of cold coffee! Feel free to use iced coffee, coffee concentrates, or cold brew coffee

You can also make the drink with a fruit smoothie base. (I’ve had this drink in many Chinatowns across the country and never get tired of it.) It’s a tasty drink for children instead of coffee or adults who want something caffeine-free.

boba tea with fruits
Source: Rodnae Productions/Pexels

Make It Your Own

Now comes the subjective part. How you want your bubble tea to taste ultimately depends on your preferences. 

One of the best parts about making boba at home is the customizability it allows you. You don’t have to appeal to the entire bubble tea market, just yourself. So remember to experiment! 

You can mix yourself an iced tea latte with any kind of tea imaginable. Or use iced coffee drinks, fruit smoothies, fresh juices, a milky cocktail — really any other drink your heart desires. The possibilities are endless. 

If you’re making milk tea, experiment with different kinds of milk. Each milk will give the drink a different character. 

If you want a rich bubble tea, try using half-and-half or sweetened condensed milk. If you’re dairy-free and still want something superbly creamy, try coconut cream. It is a flavorful addition that really goes well with black tea. 

For a traditional boba tea, you’ll first need to brew the tea as a concentrate. Mix the concentrate with the milk of your choice, and then shake or pour over ice. You can also add sweeteners at this stage.

I recommend using a sugary syrup to sweeten your bubble tea. Granulated sugar often doesn’t dissolve well in cold drinks. 

Want a traditional flavor like brown sugar milk tea? Make a simple syrup using brown sugar

You’ll also need simple syrup to prep the tapioca pearls. Let’s take a look.

Source: Rodnae Productions/Pexels

Add The Tapioca Pearls

The third and final step is to add the tapioca pearls. These pearls are made from tapioca starch which comes from the cassava root. 

Because of their gelatinous texture, people often assume that the pearls contain gelatin. Worry not, vegans and vegetarians! I’m here to put your mind at ease — these delicious tapioca pearls are completely plant-based.

Shop for tapioca pearls online or at many Asian grocery stores. You can buy either regular or quick-cook black tapioca pearls. I recommend the quick-cook variety. They take less time to cook, and it’s easier to achieve the proper texture. 

Before you add them to your tea, you’ll need to prepare the tapioca pearls. Boil them for the recommended amount of time, or until they reach your desired texture. 

Next, remove them from the heat and pour them into a strainer. Gently shake to keep the pearls from sticking together. While shaking the strainer, rinse the pearls under water. This step helps to purge them of any gelatinous coating. By the end of the rinsing process, the water should run clear. 

After you have rinsed the pearls, soak them in sugar syrup for sweetness and flavor. I recommend brown sugar syrup, but other kinds of sugars also work.

You can even add spices and other aromatics to the syrup. Experiment with orange peels, cinnamon sticks, and ginger root. These ingredients and more can bring unusual flavors into your boba tea. 

Soak the boba in this mixture for at least 30 minutes to ensure the pearls absorb the flavor. 

Last, add the tapioca balls to your drink, mix, and enjoy!

Feeling really experimental? Try substituting the pearls with homemade coffee jelly.

Wrapping Up: Boba Tea at Starbucks

Does Starbucks have boba? Sadly, no. Starbucks does not currently sell boba tea. But they are testing coffee popping pearls at two locations on the West Coast. 

Can’t be bothered to search for other coffee shops that carry boba tea? There are a few customized Starbucks orders you can get that are close to the real thing (without the tapioca). 

If you can’t do without the boba pearls, making your own boba tea at home is an easy and fun alternative.

Frequently Asked Questions: Starbucks Boba Tea

What is so special about boba tea?

Boba tea is a special kind of drink with tapioca pearls mixed in. Also known as popping pearls, these boba pearls add a unique texture to the beverage. They also complement the classic flavors of milk and tea.

Do you drink the balls in boba tea?

Yes! Arguably the best part, the balls in the boba tea are traditionally tapioca pearls. They are chewy with a slightly sweet, nutty flavor.

Where is boba tea from?

Boba tea originated in Taiwan.