Rich and creamy Hokkaido Milk Tea with a velvety smooth milk flavour and hints of vanilla. Made with black tea, this Japanese milk tea takes only minutes to make and it’s absolutely delicious! Recipe includes substitutes for fresh Hokkaido milk.
It’s no secret that Japan produces some of the most delicious milk teas. From Okinawa Milk Tea to Hokkaido Milk Tea, Japanese take teas to a whole different level.
If you love all things milk teas and bubble teas, you’ve come to the right place. Hokkaido Boba is probably one of the milkiest and smoothest types of milk teas. The milk to tea ratio is much higher than other bubble teas, so it’s a very rich and creamy tea.
In this step-by-step guide you will find out how to make the creamiest and velvety smooth Hokkaido Milk Tea.
If you're a bubble tea fan, you might want to try fan favourite Taro Milk Tea from scratch.
What is Hokkaido Milk Tea?
Hokkaido Milk Tea is a sweet drink made with black tea, milk and brown sugar. Sometimes it can also contain tapioca pearls. Hokkaido Bubble Tea gets its name from the Hokkaido prefecture in Japan.
Hokkaido Boba is very popular because of its smooth and creamy texture given by Hokkaido milk. Produced only in Hokkaido, this milk is said to be much smoother than Western milks.
In Japan, Hokkaido Milk Tea is also known as Royal Milk Tea (ロイヤルミルクティー “Roiyarumirukutī”) or Nidashi Milk Tea (にだしミルクティー “Ni dashi mirukutī”).
Similar to Okinawa Milk Tea, Hokkaido Tea is made with a black tea base, usually Assam or Darjeeling. There are different variations of this milk tea, and some also include tapioca pearls. However, there is a clear distinction between Hokkaido Milk Tea and regular Bubble Tea. The difference is that Hokkaido Milk Tea is Japanese, whereas Bubble Tea comes from Taiwan. Also, regular bubble tea is nowhere near as milky and smooth as Hokkaido Tea.
What flavour is Hokkaido Milk Tea?
Authentic Hokkaido Milk Tea is smooth, with subtle earthy and light vanilla notes. The earthy flavour comes from the black tea. Depending on what black tea variety you use, the finished taste of Hokkaido Bubble Tea can vary a lot.
This type of milk tea is made with Hokkaido milk, which has a very creamy texture and naturally tastes a little like vanilla. However, since Hokkaido milk can only be found in Japan and surrounding countries, it’s difficult to source in the West. Instead, most Western recipes will use full fat milk or cream. I like to also add a little vanilla to mimic the original, authentic flavour.
Lastly, Hokkaido Milk Tea is commonly made with Japanese light brown sugar called ‘sanonto’. This type of sugar is very light and has a subtle hint of vanilla.
What is Hokkaido Milk?
Hokkaido Milk is a type of milk made in the Hokkaido prefecture in Japan. Renowned all across Japan for its dairy production, Hokkaido makes some of the world’s smoothest and richest milks.
Hokkaido Milk is different from most Western milks because of its flavour and texture. This Japanese milk has a much higher fat content, making it appear smoother and creamier. Also, given the local cow’s diet, the milk they produce has a subtle vanilla flavour and is naturally sweeter. A lot of people describe Hokkaido milk as incredibly creamy, rich and mouth coating.
Hokkaido Milk Substitutes
Hokkaido milk can only be found in Japan and surrounding neighbouring countries. Sadly, it’s very difficult to source it in Europe or America due to long travel distances.
Through extensive testing, I have found two ways to get close to the texture and flavour of Hokkaido milk:
- Use Hokkaido Milk Powder and mix it into full fat milk.
- Find a full fat milk with at least 5% fat percentage and enrich it with double cream for extra creaminess. I like to also add a little vanilla bean paste to mimic the flavour of Hokkaido milk.
In this recipe we will be using the second method, as it is more widely available in most countries.
Hokkaido Milk Tea vs Regular Milk Tea
The main difference between the two milk teas is the type of milk used. Regular Milk Tea uses plain milk, which can be skimmed, semi-skimmed or whole milk. Hokkaido Milk Tea uses Hokkaido milk, which is much fatter, creamier, and flavourful.
Both regular milk tea and Hokkaido Milk Tea are made using a black tea base. For regular milk tea, this can be anything from Assam to Darjeeling or Ceylon. For Hokkaido Bubble Tea the most common choice is Assam tea.
Lastly, Regular Milk Tea can use any type of sugar – white, brown, or dark brown. Hokkaido Bubble Tea uses Japanese light brown sugar, which is lighter and more delicate in flavour.
Overall, I would say that Hokkaido Milk Tea is superior to Regular Milk Tea in terms of flavour and texture.
Which is better Okinawa or Hokkaido Milk Tea?
Although Hokkaido Milk Tea and Okinawa Milk Tea are commonly confused, there are quite a few differences between the two.
Okinawa Milk Tea is renowned for its distinct roasted flavour, which comes from the kokuto sugar used to prepare it. Hokkaido Milk Tea is famous for its creamy and rich texture, with much more subtle flavours than Okinawan tea.
Hokkaido Milk Tea
- Made with light brown Japanese sugar, “sanonto”
- Sanonto is a very light sugar with a subtle vanilla caramel flavour
- Uses black tea, typically Assam
- Made with Hokkaido milk, a creamy milk with hints of vanilla.
- It contains more milk than tea, so it’s milkier.
- Contains tapioca pearls.
- Cream on top is a must.
Okinawa Milk Tea
- Made with Okinawa Brown Sugar, “kokuto”
- Kokuto has a deep, rich and malty flavour, like roasted caramel
- Uses black tea, typically Assam
- Made with any type of milk, but generally whole milk.
- It contains more tea than milk, so it’s not overly milky.
- Contains tapioca pearls.
- Frothy milk on top is optional.
Why Hokkaido Milk Tea is amazing
- Extra creamy: Hokkaido Milk Tea is made with Hokkaido milk, which is a very rich and creamy milk. This type of milk is much fattier, making the milk tea very smooth. In this recipe we will be using a combination of whole milk and cream to achieve a similar level or creaminess.
- Perfect level of sweetness: Hokkaido Boba is made with Japanese light brown sugar, which is very subtle in flavour and not overly sweet. The finished drink is not too sweet either, as emphasis is placed more on the creaminess of the milk tea.
- Very light flavour: The combination of creamy milk, a hint of vanilla and light brown sugar makes a very light flavour. This drink is very elegant and subtle in taste.
- Authentic taste: This recipe tastes very similar to the authentic Japanese Hokkaido Milk Tea. Extensive testing and research have gone into developing this recipe, so it tastes as authentic as possible.
- Easy to make at home: This recipe is very easy to follow and takes only minutes to make at home. Also, most ingredients can be easily found in regular kitchens.
- Black tea – Assam tea is most used in this recipe. I recommend using loose leaf Assam tea for a more intense flavour.
- Milk – Full fat with a fat content of a t least 5% is essential for this recipe. You can check the percentage on the nutrition label on the back of the milk bottle. Alternatively, you can use regular whole milk and Hokkaido Milk Powder.
- Cream – used to give the milk a higher fat content, similar to Hokkaido milk. I recommend using heavy or double cream. This can also be whipped up and added on top of the milk tea. Skip the cream if using Hokkaido Milk Powder.
- Vanilla – I like to use real vanilla pods or vanilla bean paste for a more intense flavour. You can also use vanilla extract, but make sure it’s real vanilla, not synthetic.
- Light brown sugar – this recipe calls for Japanese light brown sugar, known as sanonto. It can be found in most Japanese or Asian grocery shops. Alternatively, use regular light brown sugar.
- Tapioca pearls – Optional, but personally I recommend using them for a more interesting texture. You can use either Brown Sugar Boba Pearls or Plain Tapioca Pearls.
Note: for a less authentic Hokkaido Boba, you can also find ready-made Royal Milk Tea powder to buy. Although this is slightly faster, it does not compare to Hokkaido Milk Tea made from scratch.
How to make Hokkaido Milk Tea from scratch
- Prepare the sugar syrup by cooking the water and light brown sugar until thickened.
- Cook the tapioca pearls. Drain and add them into the hot sugar syrup, then cook for a few minutes so they soak up the flavour.
- In a bowl combine the milk and cream. Heat them up in the microwave, then add the vanilla paste and mix well to combine.
- Prepare the tea by infusing it with boiling water.
Pro tip: Let the tea brew for a maximum of 5 minutes. For a stronger flavour, add more tea to the same quantity of water. Do not brew for longer as this will make the tea bitter.
You can serve Hokkaido Bubble Tea either hot or cold. I like to have it hot in winter and cold in summer – but it’s entirely up to you! If you want the drink cold, let everything cool down to room temperature before proceeding. Add some ice cubes to make it even cooler.
Let’s begin putting the drink together:
- Pour the brewed tea into a large bubble tea glass. Fill ⅓ or ½ of the way to the top.
- Add the milk mixture on top. Do not fill the glass to the top, leave about 1 inch from the top.
- Add in the tapioca pearls with sugar syrup. Adjust the amount of syrup to your own taste. I recommend using about 1 tablespoon of syrup and 2 tablespoons of pearls.
- Whip up a little extra cream and pour it on top, filling the glass to the brim.
Serve the drink immediately with a bubble tea straw. I really love these glass bubble tea straws, as they’re reusable and sustainable, plus they look kawaii (cute in Japanese).
Pro tip: Mix the drink with your straw before drinking to distribute the syrup evenly.
Success Tips & Tricks
- Full fat milk – is crucial in this recipe. Look for a milk with at least 5% fat content. Alternatively, add more cream to raise the fat percentage in the milk tea.
- High quality tea – a good quality loose leaf tea is essential in this recipe. Tea can make or break this drink, so opt for a good Assam tea.
- Perfect tea flavour – Always brew the tea for a maximum of 5 minutes. Brewing it for longer can make the tea bitter, thus ruining the subtle flavour of Hokkaido Milk Tea.
- Bubble tea straws – are a must for this drink. Regular bubble tea straws are too thin to allow tapioca pearls to pass through. I recommend getting some reusable bubble tea straws.
- Serve immediately – once the drink is fully assembled, enjoy it within the hour. Leaving the tapioca pearls in liquid for too long will make them become too soggy and soft.
How to store
The key to Hokkaido Milk Tea is freshness, so it is best served as soon as it’s made. Consume the drink within a maximum of 1 hour for the optimal texture and flavour.
The sugar syrup can be prepared in advance and stored in a glass jar or bottle. Keep it in the fridge for up to 2-3 weeks.
The tapioca pearls need to be cooked right before consuming them for the perfect chewy texture.
Frequently asked questions
Hokkaido Milk Tea has a higher percentage of fat compared to other milk teas. For this reason, it cannot be considered exactly healthy. For a healthier alternative, have a look at Okinawa Milk Tea.
Yes, this milk tea contains caffeine. Hokkaido Milk Tea is made with black tea, which has caffeine. For a caffeine-free version, you can use decaffeinated black tea instead.
Hokkaido Milk tea should not taste bitter. If prepared correctly, this milk tea should have a subtle earthy and vanilla flavour. Brewing the black tea for longer than 5 minutes can give it a bitter flavour, which will be passed onto the milk tea. Always keep an eye on the brewing process to avoid a bitter flavour.
Hokkaido Milk Tea with boba pearls recipe contains approximately 320 Kcal per serving. This recipe yields 2 large servings of Hokkaido Milk Tea. Nutritional values can vary according to how much sugar syrup and cream you add to your milk tea.
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Hokkaido Milk Tea Recipe
- ½ cup Japanese light brown sugar 'sanonto' * (100 grams)
- ¼ cup water (60 grams)
- ¾ cup tapioca pearls (100 grams)
- 3 cups water (700 ml)
- 3 teaspoons Assam tea, loose leaf (10 grams)
- 2 cups water, boiling (450 ml)
Hokkaido Milk Substitute
- 1 ¼ cup whole milk* (300 ml)
- ¼ cup heavy cream (60 ml)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- ¼ cup heavy cream, for decoration (60 ml)
- Place the light brown sugar and water into a saucepan. Cook it over medium-high fire until it reaches boiling point, then reduce the heat to medium.
- Continue cooking for another 4-5 minutes or until the syrup looks sticky and thick.
- Separately, cook the tapioca pearls as indicated on the pack. They should be ready once they rise to the surface of the boiling water.
- Drain the tapioca pearls, then add them into the sugar syrup. Cook on low heat for 2-3 minutes.
- To prepare the tea, boil the water then pour it over the loose-leaf tea. Cover with a lid and let brew for 5 minutes. Do not brew longer than 5 minutes to avoid a bitter taste.
- Drain the tea, discarding the tea leaves and set aside.
Hokkaido Milk Substitute
- Pour the milk and heavy cream into a bowl. Microwave for 1-2 minutes or until hot, then mix everything. Hot milk is easier to combine with cream.
- Add in the vanilla bean paste, then mix everything again to combine.
Assembling Hokkaido Milk Tea
- In a large bubble tea glass, pour the tea about ⅓ or ½ way to the top.
- Pour the milk and cream mixture, filling the glass about 1 inch from the top.
- Add in the tapioca pearls and sugar syrup. For regular sweetness add in 1 tablespoon of syrup. Add about 2-3 tablespoons of tapioca pearls or as desired.
- Whip up some extra cream to soft peaks, then pour it over the top, all the way to the brim of the glass.
- Serve immediately with a bubble tea straw and mix before consuming.
- Japanese 'sanonto' sugar can be replaced with light brown sugar.
- Sugar can be adjusted according to personal preference.
- For the Hokkaido milk substitute, use whole milk with a fat percentage of at least 3.5% (for the USA) or 5% (for Europe).
- Nutritional value is estimative and is calculated per serving (this recipe makes 2 large servings) with 1 tablespoon of sugar syrup.
- Use boba pearls immediately after cooking them.