Happy National Ice Cream Day!
In honor of this most esteemed, essential-to-life, food-themed national holiday, I’m here to bring you a whole new way to celebrate: making your very own tea-based ice cream bars.
And these aren’t just any kind of tea infused ice cream popsicles, these are boba tea ice cream bars.
Yes, just like the infamous Costco brown sugar boba ice cream bars, these pops are swirled with rich brown sugar and filled with the bubble tea signature tapioca pearls (of original Taiwanese fame - learn more about the history of bubble tea here).
Here we go:
- How to make the classic brown sugar boba ice cream bar (without an ice cream machine) + how to make your own tapioca pearls & brown sugar syrup
- How To Make a Vegan Boba Tea Ice Cream Bars
- Fun and tasty variations to try
So if you love bubble tea or ice cream these simple but delicious bars are just the thing for you! And making it at home always tastes better too :-)
From left to right: Vegan moringa & coconut boba tea popsicle; butterfly pea tea + hojicha boba tea popsicle; and cranberry & hibiscus rooibos popsicle with frozen peach pieces instead of bubbles
Brown Sugar Boba Tea-Infused Ice Cream Bars Recipe
Makes 4-8 popsicles, depending on the size of your mould.
Fair warning on prep time: Preparing your components is the big time sink for this recipe! So you should have started yesterday. ;-)
Here’s a rough time estimate of times for you:
- Infusing your cream with the tea is the longest part: overnight for cold steeping, or 30+ minutes for the concentrate method
- The homemade tapioca balls take ~45 minutes
- Chilling your creams and equipment takes ~2 hours
- The actual cooking and assembly only takes around 30 minutes
- Freezing the popsicles takes 4+ hours
Everything you'll need to make both the vegan and non-vegan popsicles. Cat optional.
- 1 pint of cold heavy whipping cream (2 cups)
- ½ cup of unsweetened condensed milk (well chilled)
- ¼ cup brown sugar*
- 2 ½ cups of water*
- ½ cup of tapioca pearls (homemade or store bought)
- 2tsp tea of your choice (I used our Cranberry Hibiscus Rooibos, Butterfly Pea Tea mixed with Sleep Easy Hojicha Roasted Green Tea, and Superior Organic Moringa Tea Powder to make the 3 different flavors)
- ¼ cup water (if making tea concentrate)
- You’ll need a large metal bowl that’s been chilled, an electric mixer, and popsicle moulds (or cups + popsicle sticks or spoons will also work!)
* Not required if using another syrup, e.g. maple syrup, agave syrup, etc
The ingredients for the ice cream itself are super simple, same as if you were making a nice tall glass of bubble tea: heavy cream and condensed milk.
It's so simple I’m almost upset I’ve never tried to make ice cream this way before now!
Your ice cream bars will need tapioca pearls, a brown sugar syrup, and tea-infused condensed milk and cream. So to begin we are going to make each of these and then combine then.
You can buy the boba pearls and syrup if you prefer, but you’ll need to infuse your milk and cream in any case.
Step 1) Tapioca Pearls: Make your own boba pearls
Let’s talk tapioca: As some of you more boba-crazed readers may know, earlier this year there was a major shortage of tapioca pearls for boba tea in the USA. Quelle horreur! Which led to a run on many bubble tea products from the packaged instant-tapioca pearls to the aforementioned delicious Costco brown sugar boba ice cream bars.
Unsatisfied by the lack of boba-related products in my life (just another Tuesday), this spring I taught myself how to make my own bubble tea, complete with some homemade tapioca pearls.
Important Tip: Make sure you overcook the boba just a bit for the below ice cream bars, as the pearls keep a better texture once frozen.
Of the whole process, figuring out how to make my own actually edible tapioca pearls was definitely the hardest and most emotionally taxing part of the whole experience. But success! I did learn how to make them quickly and easily by the end. Use my recipe to save yourself the same ordeal!
Fortunately, tapioca pearls seem to be in much greater supply now, so if you do have easy access and are not interested in making your own, you can take a trip to your local store and totally skip this step.
Step 2) Infuse Your Milk & Cream with Tea
While brown sugar boba is technically considered a tea drink, there often aren’t any actual tea leaves added/infused. Sometimes it’s just a lot of cream, condensed milk, sugar and tapioca pearls!
Of course as a tea company and tea-loving company, we strongly stand by the idea that everything is better when you add tea, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do!
There are quite a few different ways to add tea to your ice cream. I’m going to focus on 2 methods: cold steeping and tea concentrates.
2a) Cold Steeping
Cold steeping is when you add tea leaves to the liquid (i.e. not only water) of your choice without heating it and then allowing the tea to slowly infuse into the liquid while it sits in the fridge.
This is definitely the slower of the two methods, but it allows you to steep the tea directly into your milk or milk substitute so you don’t run the risk of messing up your ice cream consistency by adding additional liquid.
When testing this recipe, I chose to cold steep some of our teas in both the low-fat coconut milk and heavy whipping cream.
Result: a richer taste, but requires planning ahead!
- Use of a ratio of ~2 teaspoons looseleaf tea per 1 cup of liquid, i.e., 2tsp looseleaf tea for 1 cup heavy whipping cream, and 2tsp looseleaf for 1 cup condensed milk.
- Steep overnight in the fridge
- Strain when you’re ready to make the whipped cream
2b) Tea Concentrate
If you don’t want to or don’t have the time to wait for your tea to steep so slowly, add tea concentrate instead:
- Steep 2tsp looseleaf tea in ¼ cup of boiling water
- Brew for 30+ minutes
- Chill and save until Step 5
The addition of this little bit of water won’t impact the recipe very much so it is the better option if you have time constraints on your ice cream making. (Tea infuses into water faster than milk or coconut water, and also infuses faster into hot water.)
Brown sugar syrup (left) with the homemade boba pearls (right)
Step 3) Make Your Brown Sugar Syrup
The recipe for the brown sugar syrup is in my bubble tea recipe from above, and also here for ease:
- Add your brown sugar to your 2 ½ cups water in a saucepan
- Bring the mixture to a boil on medium heat, stirring constantly
- Cook the mixture down until it thickens slightly and leaves a streak in the pot as you stir
That’s it! Put aside.
Cream whipped to stiff peaks, ready for your boba pearls
Step 4) Whip Your Creams & Add Your Boba
- Take your heavy cream, condensed milk and metal bowl from the fridge. The colder they all are, the better the results!
- Pour your heavy cream into your chilled bowl and whip to soft peaks. At this stage, the cream should have some definition while whipping but shouldn’t really hold its shape for long (i.e. not stiff peaks yet).
- Add in your condensed milk and tea concentrate (if using this method) as you continue whipping until you reach stiff peaks. You’ll know you’ve reached this stage when you can remove your whisk or electric mixer and the cream stands on its own and holds its form.
- Gently fold your cooked boba pearls into the whipped cream mixture.
Step 5) Assemble Your Ice Cream Bars
There are definitely a bunch of different ways you can assemble your ice cream pops. This is the method that I’ve found works best for me:
- Pour 1-2 tablespoons of brown sugar syrup into each popsicle mold to line the side with the syrup, á la a traditional cup of brown sugar bubble tea
- Pour any leftover syrup into the whipped mixture and fold in as you prefer, or leave for some dipping later!
- Spoon your ice cream mixture into the molds, add your popsicle sticks and stick in the freezer
- Freeze for 4+ hours
Vegan Homemade Boba Tea Popsicle Recipe
So, for all the boba drinkers and ice cream lovers who can’t or choose not to have dairy, here’s a great alternative for some yummy homemade vegan ice cream bars!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- ½ cup of cashews (unsalted and unroasted)
- 1 can of full-fat coconut milk
- 1 can of low-fat or lite coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar or maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- ¼ cup looseleaf tea concentrate (see Step 2b above) or Superior Organic Moringa Tea Powder
You’ll need a blender and popsicle moulds (or glasses + popsicle sticks will also work!)
Vegan Step 1) Soak Your Nuts & Chill
- Soak your cashews in water for 3 hours or overnight
- Chill your cans of coconut milk in the fridge
Vegan Step 2) Blend Baby Blend
- Drain your cashews and add the nuts plus ½ can low-fat coconut milk to a blender. Blend on high until fully incorporated and smooth.
- Add the ½ can of your low-fat coconut milk, your vanilla extract and sweetener of your choice*. Blend until everything is combined.
- Open your can of full-fat coconut milk and pour off all the clearer, thinner liquid. Don’t waste the liquid though! Save it instead as a great addition to a protein shake like our Moringa Powder Vegan Protein Shake.
- Add the coconut fat and your tea concentrate to the blender and mix until smooth
* Because I made this recipe for the brown sugar bars, I added only one tablespoon of maple syrup to not overdo the sweetness.
Combining everything, including the moringa powder, in the blender
Vegan Step 3) Popsicles Assemble!
For assembly, your vegan ice cream base should be a similar consistency to the whipped mixture from the non-vegan version so you should be able to follow the same steps as above.
- Follow Step 5 of the original recipe above.
- Freeze and enjoy!
My vegan moringa bubble tea ice cream bar - it was DELICIOUS
Bonus: Cool ways to change up your boba ice cream bars
There are a bunch of ways to make this recipe your own: From riffing on other types of boba, like making a Thai tea bar or adding lychee pieces instead of tapioca, making it your own can be the most fun part!
While experimenting, I added a bunch of different teas, used moringa flavored tapioca, and, once I had run out of bubbles I even substituted in fruit!
My favorite experiment was a vegan bar I made with our Cranberry Hibiscus Rooibos mixed with cut up peaches. The flavors worked so well together and, while it may not have been a boba bar, it tasted like summer in a popsicle!
All three types of ice cream bar, with their different delicious teas on display
A Note from Anna...
Now go and enjoy National Ice Cream Day! I know I will be using this as an excuse to eat ice cream for every meal today… and maybe tomorrow. And the rest of this week.
And I hope that this boba ice cream bar recipe inspires you to do some testing of your own. If you come up with any cool recipes using our teas make sure to message us or tag us in SM posts on Instagram @MatchaAlternatives or Facebook /MatchaAlternatives
Now, time to make your own:
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