Fresh and sweet wintermelon milk tea made from scratch with ash gourd. This authentic Taiwanese bubble tea is naturally refreshing and perfect for hot summer days.
Wintermelon milk tea has become increasingly popular in Western countries over the past few years. Originally invented in Taiwan, wintermelon tea is loved across Taiwan, China, Vietnam, India, and other Asian countries.
Wintermelon bubble tea is known for its subtle taste and freshness. The most amazing thing about this drink is that it’s incredibly refreshing even without a lot of ice. This is what makes winter melon milk tea such a great drink to have on hot summer days.
Boba pearls are then added to the drink to introduce a chewy texture. This also makes the wintermelon bubble tea very filling.
What is Wintermelon Milk Tea?
Wintermelon milk tea is a sweet Taiwanese drink made with wintermelon syrup, tea, and milk. In Taiwan and China this drink is known as 冬瓜奶茶, which means wintermelon milk tea.
Wintermelon bubble tea is very popular across Asia because the wintermelon fruit is naturally very refreshing. Even without lots of ice, this milk tea will quench your thirst on a hot summer day.
The base for wintermelon milk tea is winter melon syrup. Making the syrup is key in giving this bubble tea an authentic flavour. Wintermelon syrup can be made in advance and enjoyed all throughout summer.
Here’s a video showing how this milk tea is traditionally prepared in Taiwan:
What is it made of?
The main ingredients in Wintermelon Milk Tea are wintermelon syrup, milk, tea (or water) and ice cubes. Tapioca pearls can also be added to turn the drink into bubble tea.
Winter melon tea gets its name from the fruit used to make it. Also known as ash gourd, wintermelon is a large oblong fruit with a mild flavour. Closely related to cucumber and zucchini, wintermelon tastes fresh, light, and grassy. Its subtle flavour is what makes it perfect for refreshing summer drinks.
Fresh wintermelon, also known as ash gourd, is cooked with sugar to make a sweet syrup. After cooking, the mixture is either blended into a paste or the fruit is removed and only the liquid syrup is used.
Many Asian shops do not use actual tea when making Wintermelon Milk Tea. The ash gourd syrup is simply mixed with water, ice, and milk. Other recipes also call for a tea base, which I think gives a much better flavour. The most used teas for wintermelon bubble tea are green tea, Oolong or Jasmine tea.
Lastly, boba pearls can also be added for extra texture. This can be either brown sugar tapioca pearls or plain pearls.
Is Winter Melon Milk Tea healthy?
Wintermelon Milk Tea can be considered healthier than most bubble teas. Winter melon is high in vitamins and antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation and reduce blood sugar levels.
However, wintermelon syrup is made with quite a lot of sugar. For this reason, I advise you exercise caution when using the syrup if you have health concerns. You can adjust the level of sweetness by adding less winter melon syrup.
What does it taste like?
Wintermelon Milk Tea has a very light and fresh flavour that’s almost a bit grassy. The closest flavour match would be fresh cucumber. Some describe it similar in flavour to the white rind of watermelon.
Its fresh and leafy flavour makes this bubble tea drink extremely refreshing, even without adding ice. The light melon flavour with hints of grass pairs very well with fresh teas such as Jasmine or green tea.
Adding milk to the wintermelon tea makes it creamier and smoother, whilst also bringing out the delicious natural flavours.
Why Wintermelon Milk Tea is great
- Perfect for hot summer days: Wintermelon has a very fresh and cool taste, which is ideal for summer. The light flavour is guaranteed to quench your thirst even without a lot of ice!
- Subtle and natural flavour: This wintermelon bubble tea recipe is made only with natural flavours and ingredients. The subtle flavour of wintermelon works perfectly with milk to make a refreshing and delicious drink.
- Authentic taste: Extensive research and testing have gone into developing this recipe. The method for making this wintermelon boba is entirely authentic, as made on the streets of Taiwan.
- Great to make in advance: The wintermelon syrup can be made in advance and stored for a few weeks. Then you can have winter melon milk tea on demand whenever needed!
The main component of winter melon tea is the syrup. Here’s what ingredients are needed to prepare it:
- Fresh winter melon fruit: the main ingredient in this recipe. It’s important to use fresh fruit for the most authentic flavour.
- Brown sugar: any kind of brown sugar can be used.
- Rock sugar: strongly recommended for the most authentic flavour. Rock sugar is less sweet than granulated sugar, making it an ideal sweetener for drinks. It can be found in most Asian supermarkets. If you cannot find it, it can be replaced with granulated sugar, but in lower quantities.
For the winter melon milk tea drink, we will need the following ingredients:
- Wintermelon syrup: the ingredients for making it can be found in the section above.
- Milk: whole milk works best as it adds the most creaminess. You can also use semi-skimmed or plant-based alternatives. For vegan options, I recommend using a flavourless option, like unsweetened almond milk or oat milk.
- Tapioca pearls: brown sugar boba pearls work best. I recommend using 5-minute Wu Fu Yuan brown sugar tapioca pearls because they’re quick and easy to make.
- Green or Jasmine Green Tea: optional but recommended. Green tea and Jasmine green tea are the best choices, as they also have a very fresh and green tastes. This pairs very well with the wintermelon flavour.
Where can I find fresh wintermelon?
Fresh wintermelon can be found in most Asian markets that sell fresh fruit. Because the fruit is quite large, most shops sell smaller slices which only cost $1-2.
If you have trouble finding it, wintermelon is also known under these names:
- Dong gua or tong gua (Chinese name)
- Puhul (Indian name)
- Bi dao (Vietnamese name)
- Chinese preserving melon
- Wax gourd
- Ash gourd
- Tallow gourd
- White gourd
- Ash pumpkin
Pro tip: when buying wintermelon slices, choose the ones that look firm and white in colour. If the flesh appears slightly yellow, the fruit isn’t fresh.
How to make Wintermelon Milk Tea at home
I have broken down the recipe into three phases, so it's easier to follow. These are: preparing the syrup, making the other component and assembling the milk tea.
Preparing Wintermelon Syrup
Making Wintermelon Milk Tea at home is quite easy, but it does require a little patience. First, we will need to prepare the wintermelon syrup:
- Peel and chop fresh wintermelon into small cubes. Mix it with brown sugar, then set aside until a lot of syrup forms at the bottom of the bowl.
- Transfer the mixture into a pot and cooking it over medium heat. Add in the rock sugar.
- Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring every few minutes.
- It’s ready when the fruit looks transparent.
For the final step there are two options:
- Use a sieve to keep only the liquid syrup and discard the fruit pieces. This will yield less syrup, with a milder flavour and extra smooth texture.
- Blend the mixture in a food processor to obtain a syrup paste, which is slightly thicker. The paste has a stronger flavour, and the final drink will have a grainier texture from the fruit flesh.
You can choose whichever option you prefer best. I recommend the second, as this yields the most flavourful wintermelon milk tea. The syrup will need to cool down completely before being used.
Pro tip: Option 2, pass the blended mixture through a sieve to remove any larger bit of flesh. This will give a smoother texture.
If you don’t have enough time to prepare the syrup, you can also get store-bought wintermelon syrup. However, commercial syrup will not be entirely natural, and the taste will be inferior to homemade syrup.
Preparing the other components
- Brew the Jasmine green tea as indicated on the package. Let it cool down completely, then refrigerate until cold. See my post on How to Brew Perfect Jasmine Tea.
- Cook the brown sugar boba pearls as indicated on the package.
Pro tip: never steep Jasmine green tea for longer than 3 minutes, as it can make the tea taste bitter. For a stronger tasting flavour, just add more tea
Assembling the Wintermelon Bubble Tea
Once all the components are ready, we can begin assembling the Winter melon Milk Tea:
- Into a large serving glass add 1-2 tablespoons of wintermelon syrup.
- Pour the cold tea on top and mix well to combine.
- Add cooked brown sugar boba pearls.
- Pour cold milk on top and finish with a few ice cubes. Serve immediately.
Success Tips & Tricks
- Fresh wintermelon: It’s essential you use fresh wintermelon to make the syrup. This will result in the most vibrant flavour and authentic taste.
- Patience when making the syrup: Take your time when simmering the wintermelon syrup. Do not increase heat to cut down time, as this can make the syrup taste bitter or burnt.
- Keep stirring the syrup: When cooking, ensure you stir the fruit mixture at least every 5-10 minutes to prevent it from sticking to the bottom.
- Use brown sugar boba pearls: Brown sugar boba pearls are already sweet and do not require additional sugar syrup. This cuts down preparation time and ensures the drink doesn’t get overly sweet.
- Serve ice cold: Wintermelon Milk Tea tastes best when it’s ice cold, as the freshness of the flavours pops out more. Always let the tea and syrup cool down completely and use ice cubes when assembling the drink.
- Bubble tea straws: Boba pearls are too large to go through regular straws, so I recommend getting reusable bubble tea straws.
How to store
This Milk Tea recipe is great because the wintermelon syrup can be prepared well in advance. To store, place the wintermelon syrup in an airtight jar and keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
If you have prepared the wintermelon syrup with the fruit flesh (Option 2), I recommend consuming it within 1 week. Store in the fridge in an airtight jar.
Boba pearls need to be consumed immediately, so only prepare them before assembling the milk tea.
Frequently asked questions
Wintermelon is an entirely different fruit from honeydew melon. Wintermelon has a mild and cool flavour, similar to cucumber. Honeydew melon is much sweeter and tastes fruity with hints of honey.
Wintermelon cannot be replaced with another type of melon in this recipe. For the most authentic flavour, fresh wintermelon is essential.
Yes, you can replace the homemade syrup with commercial wintermelon syrup. However, store-bought syrup will not be entirely natural, and the flavour will be inferior to homemade syrup.
Wintermelon is not usually consumed raw. Unlike most melons, wintermelon is relatively flavourless when raw. It should always be cooked before consuming it.
Wintermelon Milk Tea can contain caffeine, depending on how it’s made. If green or Jasmine tea is added, the milk tea will contain caffeine. However, it can also be made entirely decaf, by using only water.
Homemade wintermelon milk tea contains approximately 200-250Kcal. The number of calories can vary depending on how much wintermelon syrup and boba pearls are used.
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Wintermelon Milk Tea Recipe
- 5 cups wintermelon, peeled and cubes (900 grams)
- ⅔ cup brown sugar (150 grams)
- 1.8 oz. rock sugar (50 grams)
- 9 teaspoons Jasmine green tea, loose leaf
- 6 cups water, filtered (1.5 litres)
- 1 ½ cups whole milk
- ice cubes
- 1 ¾ cups brown sugar boba pearls (300 grams)
- 9 cups water (2 litres)
- Peel and chop fresh wintermelon into small cubes. Place them in a large bowl and sprinkle the brown sugar on top. Mix well to combine, then let it sit for 1 hour. After 1 hour, the wintermelon will produce a lot of juice.
- Transfer the mixture (including juices) into a pot. Cook over medium heat until the liquid starts bubbling.
- Mix in the rock sugar, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour. Mix every 5-10 minutes to prevent the fruit from burning.
- After 1 hour, the fruit should look translucent and the juices will be thicker, like a syrup.
- Option 1: use a large sieve to remove the fruit flesh and keep only the liquid syrup.
- Option 2: place the entire mixture, including fruit flesh into a food processor. Pulse until a very fine paste forms. Pass the mixture through a sieve to remove larger pieces of fruit.
- Let the syrup cool down completely to room temperature.
- Boil filtered water in a kettle to 175°F (80°C). Place the Jasmine green tea leaves into a teapot fitted with a mesh infuser.
- Pour the hot water over the tea leaves, cover and let steep for 3 minutes. Do not steep for longer than this as it can make the tea bitter.
- Remove the tea leaves and discard. Cool down to room temperature, then refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Cook the brown sugar boba pearls as indicated on the package. Once cooked, transfer then to ice water. Use within a few minutes for the best chewy texture.
Assembling the Wintermelon Milk Tea
- In a tall serving glass, place 2-3 tablespoons of wintermelon syrup. Adjust amount to personal preference (more syrup for a sweeter drink, less for a healthier beverage).
- Pour cold tea over the syrup, then mix everything together to dissolve the wintermelon syrup.
- Add in the desired amount of tapioca pearls. Recommended amount is 2-3 tablespoons of cooked boba.
- Top with cold milk and finish with ice cubes. Enjoy immediately!
- Nutritional value is estimative only and is calculated per serving (this recipe makes 6 servings) with 2 tablespoons tapioca pearls and 2 tablespoons of wintermelon syrup.
- Use boba pearls immediately after cooking them.