Popping Boba at Home?

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The Struggle:

Bubble tea and popping boba have become more and more common the world over in the last few years. You can’t really blame people for wanting to hop on this trend. The cups, the straws, the boba; every aspect of it is fun and delicious. Whether it be the chewy tapioca balls or the bursting flavor packed boba everyone seems to love it. When something gets this popular it begins to spark the creative bug in Culinarians around the world. The thought of having a customer create a unique flavor combination as they have a drink is exciting. When those creative juices start flowing the questions start to develop. When this happens it’s quite often we get asked, “how can I make popping boba at home”? 


“How can I make popping boba at home?” 


A Series of Spheres


Popping boba is made through a technique called reverse spherification. Reverse spherification is a technique we have covered a few times before but let’s do a quick overview. A flavorful liquid (whatever juice you want to make into your popping boba) is mixed with a flavorless calcium such as calcium lactate. A bath of sodium alginate and distilled water is prepared separate from the flavorful liquid. The sodium alginate will thicken the water, more on this later. As the flavorful liquid is dropped into the sodium alginate bath the calcium reacts with the sodium alginate and encapsulates the flavorful liquid in a thin gel. This is what makes that poppable membrane around the liquid in boba. That is the basic concept of how spherification works. 


But there are also some issues that will arise when trying to make enough boba to place in even one bubble tea. The smaller the spheres are the more difficult they will be to sink into the thickened sodium alginate bath. The thicker a liquid is the more surface tension it will have. Depending on the viscosity of the flavorful liquid it may or may not sink into the sodium alginate mixture. The best way around this issue is to create what is known as frozen reverse spherification. This is where you create small hemi-spherical ice cubes and drop them into the sodium alginate solution. Now when making these spheres they must be kept…. Well… socially distant. The spheres can stick together and this makes for a whole new headache. 


So I haven’t really answered the questions of if popping boba can be made at home. Technically the answer is, yes. Is it easy to make spheres. But when you are attempting to make spheres that are precisely the same size so they can be drunk through a straw one by one you will need quite a bit of practice. The liquid from each sphere will need to be precisely measured. The time in the bath will also need to be timed exactly for every sphere. This is important because the longer the sphere sits in the water the thicker the gel will become. So when attempting to make these popping boba be sure to fully understand the amount of time that will be put into making sure the recipe is 100% correct. Personally, a quick hack I like to apply is a spoon full of Christine le tennier flavor pearls and bingo. I’ve got “mini” bubble tea in seconds. 


Do you have a recipe you just can’t seem to figure out? Shoot us an email or drop us a line and we will do our best to guide you to the right option. 



  • Hi so I tried this recipe. Everything was going great until it was time to take them out. I looked the bottom and realized the spheres lost there shape and turned into a big mush. I’m not sure what went wrong

    • So the recipe you followed is for cold oil spherification. This makes solid pearls in oil that do not pop. Sadly this recipe you tried is misleading. the issue you are having could be caused by two things. the first is that the oil is not cold enough, so when the spheres get to the bottom they are still liquid and then merge into a puck. Second the mixture wasn’t heated enough to hydrate the agar and the gel will not form. I would suggest heating the mixture to a full boil and allowing it to cool slightly before making the cold oil spheres. Also allow the oil to chill for longer than 40 minutes. 1-2 hours is ideal.

  • Tiffany Collins
    June 12, 2021 10:04 pm

    Tried this and got exact same as the person above got.. a mushy mess at the bottom… :/

    • Cole Whitney
      June 14, 2021 10:40 am

      Here is a link to a cold oil spherification recipe we have. The method you will want to follow in your recipe will be the same method as the carrot spheres in this. Hope this is helpful!


      • will johanson
        August 18, 2021 4:41 pm

        I tried with your recipe a few times and its working. I wanted to hook some other recipes and I have been trying to make with this one https://quenchlist.com/tea/popping-bobas/ but bubble do not take shape of ball they do take a shop but its not a ball. cna you please help me. sorry if i feel like some betraying guy but i do follow your recipe. i just wanna try others too

        • We encourage experimentation so definitely feel free to try any recipe or even make your own! You won’t always get the perfect ball shape with the droppers because of the way that they fall into the water. Try varying the distance above the water that you’re dropping, it sounds like you may need to lower the distance so that it’s not hitting the water with as much force.

  • I tried this and it went amazing I had 6 trial runs and won the science fair at school. I’m in 8th grade, and it was easy, doable, and fun. I used orange juice, grape juice, orange soda, mint tea, coke, and coffee, all went amazing! It didn’t taste very good, and only stayed good for about 20 mins, but they were poppable and easy to make!!

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