This oolong milk tea has the perfect balance of creaminess and strong tea flavor!
Technically, all oolong teas are roasted, though similar to coffee, you can have a tea that is anywhere from a light roast to a dark roast (or heavy roast). That being said, I’d consider roasted oolong milk tea to be fairly interchangeable with oolong milk tea.
Oolongs that aren’t roasted as heavily are more floral and subtle in taste, compared to the cozier, richer flavor of dark roasted oolongs. Pick your tea based on what you’re in the mood for!
Since the majority of the flavor comes from the tea, opt for one that you like sipping on plain (the milk, sugar and boba can only go so far lol). I personally like using loose leaf more (better quality, less tea dust), though you can go with tea bags instead.
As for boba – you can roll your own bubbles if you’d like.
However, I’m assuming most of us are exhausted and no longer in the 2020 dalgona coffee/sourdough phase. So, the five minute boba from WuFuYuan (linked here so you can see a picture of what the packaging looks like, though I’ve never used this site before) is my go to.
It’s fast, reliable, and has a good chew to it, unlike some of the other, more inconsistent brands I’ve tried.
You can buy the boba using that store I have linked above (not sponsored or affiliate), though I usually have good luck finding it at Ranch 99 or any other big Chinese grocery store.
How to Make
Start by heating up the milk until steaming. Doesn’t have to be boiling!
I like to use the microwave for ease and convenience, though over the stovetop or in a milk steamer work well instead.
Stir in the granulated sugar and salt, making sure that they dissolve into the hot milk.
Add the oolong tea leaves, and let the tea steep into the milk for about 30 minutes. You should see the milk start to take on a pale brown color.
After the tea has finished steeping, remove and discard the tea leaves, pressing on the solids to extract any liquid trapped in/between them.
Let the milk tea cool completely.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil, then add the boba and cook according to the package instructions. The boba is done when the exterior is shiny and slightly translucent (not matte like its uncooked form).
If you’re not sure, cut the boba open: powdery on the inside = needs cook longer. You can taste it, and if it’s too hard or powdery, that’s another sign that the boba needs a little longer in the water.
Drain the water off from the boba, then stir in the honey until the honey is melted into a syrup.
(You might be wondering why I don’t run the boba under cold water. I don’t think it’s necessary, since the boba will get chilled soon enough by all that ice in your drink, and it’ll bounce back to its chewy form).
In a glass, spoon the boba and any syrup into the bottom. Add a few handfuls of ice, then pour in the milk tea.
Drop in a boba straw, give it a stir to distribute some of that honeyed syrup and sip away!
Long ago (okay, summer of 2020), I’d be able to achieve the kind of creaminess that shop-made milk tea had, but at the expense of a strong tea flavor. Or vice versa.
The single thing that changed my homemade milk tea game was steeping the tea in milk, rather than steeping it in water and then adding milk or creamer at the end.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t shoutout Jun and Tonic, since his recipe was the first place I’d heard about doing such a thing.
Oh, and some of my family is still very hesitant about this method, even after I’ve cajoled them into trying batches I’ve made like this. Isn’t that too creamy and that’s just so much milk and blah blah.
So why did I drink two whole glasses of milk every day as a kid??
Ignoring my mild saltiness over the past, I promise that the milk tea gets diluted enough with all that ice to mellow out the creaminess. This isn’t the time to pull out your no ice tendencies.
And yes, it’s a lot of milk, but if you make it with water, you’re gonna be disappointed and want to go out for $8 boba anyways.
Salt is a must in anything I make, including drinks. It helps emphasize the other flavors, and I swear that you don’t have to add as much sugar when there’s a little bit of salt.
You can make the milk tea ahead and store in the fridge for up to a week! Try not to add any ice until serving so that it doesn’t get watered down.
Leftover boba isn’t great (it gets super hard on the inside), so enjoy it on the same day that you boil it if possible. You can re-heat one day old boba in the microwave until soft, though this can be somewhat of a wildcard.
Variations and Substitutions
You’re probably here because you’re craving oolong milk tea, not a coffee and tea hybrid, but just in case you’re feeling a little open minded right now, maybe you should check out this coffee milk tea (aka yūn yēung in Cantonese).
Okay okay, onto some ideas if you need and/or want to make adjustments without making it into a whole other concoction.
This milk tea recipe is set up to use loose leaf tea. If you don’t want to use loose leaf, or can only find oolong tea bags, feel free to use those instead.
Use one to two tea bags, depending on how strong you typically like your tea.
Also, if you want to change the strength of your tea, there are two main levers you can pull:
- Amount of tea
- Time of steeping
I’d recommend adjusting the amount of tea leaves or tea bags first. If you steep the tea for too long, it can get a little bitter.
This milk tea does have caffeine, which might be a problem if you find yourself with a hankering for it late at night but still need to sleep.
You can definitely make this beverage with decaf tea if you want/need to!
Any milk goes here! I typically have soy milk on hand, so that’s what I used, though I’m usually a whole milk person at coffee and boba shops.
I’m not a huge fan of oat milk since I don’t find it as creamy as people hype it to be (I’m also not lactose intolerant, so there’s that), but it can be a great alternative for anyone trying to stay away from dairy or nuts.
This is the main ingredient you need to watch out for if you want to try to make this drink vegan, so keep that in mind.
The recipe as written uses granulated sugar (aka white sugar) to sweeten the tea, and honey to sweeten the boba.
That being said, you can stray away from those options if you’d like.
I usually reach for brown sugar to melt into the boba, but when I was developing this recipe and shooting these pictures, I had a bottle of the most fragrant, floral honey from a family friend, and I couldn’t not use it.
I’d recommend using a flavorful sweetener for the boba, since it’s fairly bland alone. Aside from brown sugar or honey, the usuals, the idea of maple syrup in the boba has been lingering in my mind recently (let me know if you try that!).
For a brown sugar oolong milk tea (or as close as you can get to making Hokkaido oolong milk tea at home), use brown sugar in both the milk tea and the boba!
You can caramelize the brown sugar a bit (it should get darker and smell caramel-y) before tossing in the boba. This step will get you closer to the kind of brown sugar pearl milk tea that Tiger Sugar, The Alley and Xing Fu Tang sell.
Sometimes the idea of a traditional oolong milk tea is a little boring. So how about adding other flavorings to it?
Rose Oolong Milk Tea
Oolong is already a fairly floral tea, so rosewater would be a natural addition! Add a little bit to the milk tea, stir it in, and you’re good to go.
Rosewater can be pretty strong, so I’d start with ⅛ teaspoon per serving and increase gradually from there to taste.
Sesame Oolong Milk Tea
I love black sesame lattes, but they’re typically decaf. Great for a nighttime treat, not as great if you’re in the mood for a bit of tea.
So you can combine the two ideas! I’d start with the amount of ground black sesame that’s called for in the recipe linked above (2 tablespoons), and add to the oolong milk tea. Add more to taste!
You can definitely use white or brown sesame seeds instead, so long as you make sure to toast them for maximum nuttiness.
Osmanthus Oolong Milk Tea
Osmanthus tea is another variation, especially should you be interested in a drink that leans a little more floral!
Since osmanthus is on the more mild side, I would try to pick an oolong that is more lightly roasted to pair with the osmanthus.
I’d use equal amounts of osmanthus and oolong tea, maybe ¾ tablespoon each for 1 serving. Mix together and steep in the hot milk!
Boba is my go to topping for this milk tea, but maybe you’re feeling a little decadent (I’m typing this up on a lazy Friday, so I can relate). In that case, using a generous scoop of crème brûlée pudding might be in your future, and maybe even a shower of toffee bits to garnish as well.
Or maybe you need a little more caffeine in your life to push through the rest of the day: little coffee flavored jelly cubes are fun additions.
Or or or you might only have the ingredients for mochi on hand but no boba or tapicoa starch - in that case, how about making a batch of drinkable mochi?
Of course, should you not want any toppings, you can omit the boba and forgo adding anything extra.
Zebra Oolong Milk Tea
You can “zebraify” this beverage by using boba and crystal boba! Then you get the best of both worlds – the chewy, softness of the normal boba, as well as the crunchy bite from the crystal boba.
- 1 cup milk
- ½ tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 tablespoon oolong tea leaves
- ¼ cup raw boba
- ½ tablespoon honey
Heat the milk until steaming (I prefer using the microwave, but the stove is fine too).
Stir in the sugar and salt until dissolved, then add the tea. Let the tea steep for 30 minutes.
Remove the tea leaves, pressing on them to release any trapped milk, then discard the tea leaves.
Let the milk tea cool completely.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the boba and cook according to the package instructions. The boba is done when it’s translucent and a little shiny; it shouldn’t be powdery or hard when bitten into.
Drain the water from the boba, and stir the honey into the hot boba.
In your serving glass, spoon in the boba, add a few handfuls of ice and pour in the milk tea.
Any milk works (whole milk and soy milk are my favorites, but anything is fine).
Feel free to use maple syrup or brown sugar in place of the honey.