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Homemade Maple Chai Bubble Tea {vegan}

This maple chai bubble tea tastes like heaven from a straw! Made with brewed cinnamon-spiced chai tea and almond milk and sweetened with maple syrup, it looks like a milky-tan iced latte with little dark brown bubbles floating in the bottom. The bubbles have a pleasant soft chewy texture–fun to roll around on your tongue! Here’s how to make healthy and vegan homemade bubble tea.

Maple Chai Bubble Tea in round glasses with straws.

Click here to PIN Maple Chai Bubble Tea!

Have you ever slurped bubble tea?

I’d never even heard of bubble tea until I linked on a random email telling me to make bubble tea at home. Their bubble tea was made with sweetened condensed milk and Lipton tea. Not my cup of tea. 😉

In this healthier bubble tea, the little brown-black bubbles are infused with iron-rich molasses instead of brown sugar. The bubbles settle in layers near the bottom of the cup and you slurp the bubbles through a wide straw, rolling the pearls all over your tongue while sipping the sweet milk tea.

Those curious dark bubbles got me to thinking about a healthier vegan version. For this maple-sweetened vegan bubble tea the the tapioca pearls have natural color and flavor from soaking in molasses syrup. 

Like Goldilocks, you decide when the bubbles are “just right.” They need to be soft, not too soft, and chewy but not too chewy.

How to make healthy maple chai bubble tea:

Prepare the bubbles and refrigerate.

Brew tea, stir in milk and sweetener and refrigerate.

When it’s time for a refreshing fun drink, spoon several tablespoons of the dark bubbles in a glass, and the pour milk tea over the bubbles. Drink with a big wide straw!

Tapioca Bubbles for Maple Chai Bubble Tea

For sure this homemade maple chai bubble tea is better for you than any you can buy. Brewed with quality chai tea, naturally sweetened with maple syrup, dairy-free with almond milk, and pure tapioca bubbles, also naturally sweetened. I’m fine if this is the only bubble tea I’ll ever sip!

4 bags of richly spiced Chai Tea steeping in hot water

*** I started making healthy bubble tea with Yogi brand Chai Tea, but they stopped selling it. Now I use Numi Golden Chai tea bags or Allegro Tea Organic Indian Chai. (Affiliate links.) Both make delicious vegan bubble tea. Alternatively a good quality black tea makes a tasty healthy bubble tea too.

What’s the deal about bubble tea?

Bubble tea originated in Taiwan and has spread like wildfire to tea and coffee shops. Popular with teenagers, you’ll find it on menus in Asian restaurants and strip mall franchise and mom and pop stores all over the world. Milky black tea with tapioca pearl bubbles is the original bubble tea. Now bubble juices come in just about any flavor you can dream up.

The tapioca bubbles are also known as bobo. Most of those bubbles are sweet potato-based and colored with caramel. You can purchase them already sweetened with sugar and with additives–not real food. Homemade bobo contain just tapioca and molasses.

If you don’t feel like making the bubble part, skip that step. Iced maple sweetened chai tea with almond milk makes a refreshing pick-me-up all on its own, especially on hot summer days!

What is tapioca?

  • Tapioca is a starchy edible extracted from a tropical root plant yuca, also known as cassava. You can find tapioca in several forms including tapioca pearls like those used to make bobos for homemade bubble tea. Tapioca starch, aka tapioca flour, is a gluten-free thickener used to thicken the juices in fruit pies. I like it better than flour or cornstarch because the thickened juices run clear, translucent, after baking.
  • Tapioca starch also helps the ingredients bind together in these gluten-free Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Muffins.
  • A package of tapioca pearls contains a lot more than you need for this recipe. You might want to whip up a batch of Dark Chocolate Tapioca Pudding, my Dad’s favorite.

Straws for Maple Chai Bubble Tea slurping:

  • Traditionally, bubble tea is made with large tapioca pearls and you sip it through wider than normal straws, about 1/2-inch.
  • You can buy reusable 1/2-inch wide silicone straws through my Amazon affiliate link. 
  • If you prefer paper, these are wide for slurping bobo and thick smoothies. (Affiliate)
  • If you don’t have the straws on hand, you can use spoons to scoop out the tapioca pearls.

*** A 2013 German study warned of dangerous ingredients in pre-made processed bobo pearls. In a 2019 article, Dr. Andrew Weil asks if bubble tea is bad and writes that the unhealthy part is that bobo shop teas contain a lot of sugar and fat. He also reassures us that the German study contained misinformation about processed pearls.

Make it a fabulous week–get in the kitchen and make yourself a refreshing cold beverage!

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  • Sammie

    I made this drink with soy milk instead of almond milk and it was delicious! Thanks for sharing! Reply · 2 December, 2015

    • Love it! Bubble Tea is such a fun treat! Reply · 3 December, 2015

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