Homemade Starbucks Boba: How to Make Coffee Popping Pearls

Homemade Starbucks Boba: How to Make Coffee Popping Pearls

Formation of a Pearl | Secret Life of Pearls
Formation of a Pearl | Secret Life of Pearls

Starbucks boba made of coffee popping pearls and Starbucks coffee might just be our new favourite bubble tea drink!

In recent months, Starbucks has been testing out different boba drinks and people have been sharing their Starbucks hack to order boba tea on Tiktok. Here’s our take on this hot new trend that is sure to take the gastronomy community by storm.

Our Starbucks boba recipe is an easy drink to make. It’s tasty and will take you back to doing fun science experiments at school!

Homemade Starbucks Boba: How to Make Coffee Popping Pearls

Jump to:
  • What is Starbucks Boba?
  • What are coffee-popping pearls?
  • What does Starbucks Boba taste like?
  • Starbucks Boba Calories
  • How to make coffee popping pearls
  • Coffee Popping Boba Cooking Tips
  • Starbucks Boba Ingredients
  • Starbucks Boba (Coffee Popping Pearls & Coffee)
  • Starbucks Boba without Sodium Alginate or Calcium Lactate

What is Starbucks Boba?

Starbucks Boba refers to Starbucks coffee and bubble tea pearls. The globally popular chain Starbucks is capitalising on the current popularity of boba tea in Western countries by creating drinks with coffee boba balls and popular bubble tea flavours like brown sugar milk tea.

An employee leaked two potential drinks on Tiktok that Starbucks is testing, probably soon to be sold in stores in California and Washington. One is a chai latte with coffee pearls, and the other is a cafe latte with the same pearls.

It is important to note that Coffee Boba is different from Starbucks Boba in two ways. Coffee Boba is coffee and tapioca boba pearls while Starbucks Boba is coffee popping pearls and their own branded coffee.

Combining coffee with boba is an exciting trend that other chains are sure to catch on.

What are coffee-popping pearls?

Coffee popping pearls are a drink topping similar to tapioca boba but made of different ingredients. These little spheres of heaven are drink toppings known as popping boba or popping pearls. As the name suggests, they pop in your mouth and burst with the liquid inside. These pearls are also called coffee caviar due to their size.

You can also use them in other popular boba drinks like Dalgona Coffee or Coffee boba for an added caffeine hit.

Coffee Popping Pearls made using Starbucks House Blend coffee

Unlike the more common traditional boba pearls (or bubble tea pearls), these are made using a chemical process called spherification. Traditionally, you will encase fruit juice spheres inside these boba juice balls with a thin skin which bursts when pierced or bitten. In this case, we will encase black coffee inside.

Making these coffee-popping pearls at home might sound tricky, but there are ways to mimic the spherification process with widely available ingredients and a simplified method.

coffee popping boba and whipped cream

What does Starbucks Boba taste like?

Starbucks Boba tastes like Starbucks coffee but with added pearls.

Our Starbucks boba is sweet, cold milk coffee with the exciting pop of coffee popping pearls. The texture of these pearls is somewhat reminiscent of tapioca pearls or boba. This is at least until you take the first bite – after that, they burst in your mouth!

The taste and texture of any popping pearl are definitely worth trying out at least once. The coffee popping bubbles combine that texture with the irresistible flavour of a Frappuccino. You can have it ice blended or on the rocks with whole ice cubes. Make sure to give our recipe a try and taste it for yourself!

dark caramel coffee sphere starbucks

Starbucks Boba Calories

2 tablespoons of coffee popping pearls contain 30 calories. Since the chemicals used to make the pearls, sodium alginate and calcium lactate, do not contain any calories, the only calories are from the coffee. Add this to black coffee or tea, and you can enjoy as many of these boba balls as you like.

The ice-blended pseudo-Starbucks drink, on the other hand, contains around 400 calories because of the milk and sugar. This means our Starbucks boba drink has about 430 calories.

How to make coffee popping pearls

There are several different ways you can make coffee popping pearls.


The most common method of making the pearls involves a process known in molecular gastronomy as “spherification”. The liquid turns into delicious spheres using sodium alginate and calcium lactate which helps form a thin skin that explodes in your mouth when bitten.

Using a syringe or dropper to form the individual spheres, you can try this at home if you have these specific additives. However, we do recommend investing in a caviar maker if you want to make a lot of coffee caviar. The caviar maker is a gastronomy instrument specifically for making small spheres out of liquids using spherification.

How to make coffee popping pearls

First, add sodium alginate to the coffee used to make the popping coffee bursting bubbles. This liquid with the calcium salt solution stabilises the pearls and produces a thin coating on their exterior.

However, the salt ratios must be exact for the textures to be right. If they are incorrect, it will affect the outside film of the Starbucks boba. They will either be too thick to pop with your teeth or too thin to contain the liquid inside.

Agar Powder

You can also make a decent imitation of these popping boba using agar powder. Agar powder sets when chilled, so by adding the drops of agar-infused coffee to a cold liquid medium, the outside sets while the inside remains liquid.

The film, in this case, is less fragile and more slippery, so the texture is not as good as when using spherification. However, the recipe still makes pretty good coffee caviar, so it is worth trying out if you can’t find sodium alginate or calcium lactate. It also keeps the recipe vegan so that everyone can enjoy it.

Coffee Popping Boba Cooking Tips

You can add these coffee-popping pearls to just about anything, from ice cream to cakes. However, you must remember to be delicate when handling them because they are fragile and can easily pop.

Below is our recipe for making a copycat Starbucks boba we imagine it would be like! First, you will need a blender to make the signature ice-blended Frappuccino.

However, if you don’t have one, you can add the bursting boba to a simple iced coffee. You can add them to coffee and tea if you want to let their texture be the main focus of the drink.

coffee boba cake

Starbucks Boba Ingredients

To make Starbucks boba at home, your main ingredients are coffee, milk, syrup, ice and water. However, what you need specifically for Starbucks coffee pearls are sodium alginate and calcium lactate.

starbucks boba making

Coffee and Milk

We recommend using Starbucks’ own House blend coffee so that you mimic closely the taste of the original drink. However, you can certainly use your preferred coffee brand and prepare it to your desired consistency and richness.

For milk, we suggest using regular full-fat dairy milk. This will result in a rich and creamy texture for your drink. Otherwise, you can always opt for plant-based milk such as almond, oat or soy milk.

Flavoured syrup or simple syrup

You can use any flavoured syrup to make the Starbucks boba drink. Some of the favourite syrups for the Starbucks blended ice drinks are caramel, chocolate, vanilla and Starbucks brown sugar syrup.

But, of course, you can always omit the syrup and add one more tablespoon of simple syrup instead for a straight coffee flavour.

starbucks syrups

To make the simple syrup, combine and heat up 1 cup of sugar and water in a saucepan until all the sugar is dissolved and the liquid is smooth. Once dissolved, set aside to use later.

You can store the syrup in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 month. You can also adjust the quantities to make more or less syrup per your requirements.

Xantham Gum

Xanthan gum is a food additive to make the Starbucks boba drink. Without this gum, the milk, coffee, and ice will separate after sitting for a few minutes. Xanthan gum stabilises the drink and gives it a silky smooth texture. You can omit it, but the drink will separate into layers.

Starbuck popping pearls ingredients

The sodium alginate and calcium lactate are essential for the spherification of the coffee popping pearls. The additives are perfectly food safe and are used separately in several other packaged foods, such as ice cream or cheese.

If you live somewhere you cannot find these additives, we have included an alternate method of how to make bursting boba below the main recipe. The other method uses agar-agar powder instead. All of these ingredients and additives are entirely vegan.

Starbucks Boba with coffee popping pearls home recipe

Starbucks Boba (Coffee Popping Pearls & Coffee)


For the Coffee Popping Pearls

  • 150 g black coffee (Starbucks House Blend)
  • 5 g sodium alginate (food grade)
  • 1 l (1 kg) distilled water
  • 50 ml (50 g) drinking water
  • 6 g calcium lactate
  • 2 cups clean drinking water for rinsing

For the Starbucks boba

  • 2 cups ice
  • 1 cup Starbucks cold brew
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 3 tbsps flavoured syrup of your choice
  • 4 tbsps simple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • Whipped cream (optional)


For the coffee popping pearls

  • Dissolve the calcium lactate in 1 kg of distilled water. Allow for 4 hours of rest time or overnight. Strain.
  • Combine sodium alginate with drinking water. Stir until thickened and smooth. Then whisk in the 150 grams of cold brew or black coffee. Refrigerate the coffee mixture for up to two hours.
  • Drop the coffee mixture into the calcium lactate solution, drop by drop, with a dropper or a syringe. Allow it to rest for 10 minutes. Rinse the coffee popping pearls in the clean drinking water before setting them aside. They are now ready to use in Starbucks boba.

For the Starbucks boba

  • Make 1 shot of espresso, or brew 1 cup of coffee using your preferred method. You can also use store-bought or instant coffee. Chill the coffee or espresso in the refrigerator for 1 hour. If using espresso, add enough water to make the entire amount of liquid measure 1 cup.
  • Add the ice, milk, syrup, flavoured syrup, xanthan gum, and coffee into the blender. Blend on high speed until the mixture is smooth with no large chunks of ice.
  • In a tall glass, add the coffee popping pearls. Pour the blended coffee on top of it. Top with whipped cream, if desired. Add a boba straw or a spoon and serve cold. Enjoy!



  • Ensure the 150 grams of black coffee or cold brew does not include calcium. This might affect the spherification process. To be safe, use store-bought bottles of cold brew and check the ingredients on the back to make sure there is no calcium in the coffee.
  • The whipped cream is optional. However, it is how Starbucks tops most of their ice-blended drinks. But feel free to omit it if you prefer.
  • These coffee-popping bubbles are entirely vegan (and kosher and halal) as sodium alginate, and calcium lactate are not animal products. Additionally, you can also make the drink with non-dairy milk.
  • For the Starbucks Boba ingredients, we found the combination above to be the best copycat version. However, feel free to choose what base coffee flavour you prefer. In our video recipe, we chose to use Starbucks Caramel Latte as our base for the drink.


Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.

Starbucks Boba without Sodium Alginate or Calcium Lactate


  • 250 ml strong coffee or cold brew
  • 50 grams powdered sugar
  • 2 grams agar agar powder
  • 1 cup vegetable oil


  1. Chill the vegetable oil in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight.
  2. Bring all ingredients to a boil in a saucepan over low heat for 1 minute.
  3. Take the pan off the heat and leave it aside for 10 minutes.
  4. Drop the coffee caviar mixture carefully into a tall container or cup filled with the cold oil (you may not use the entire 1 cup) using a syringe, squeeze bottle or dropper. Coffee pearls will develop and fall to the bottom of the vessel.
  5. Remove the Starbucks coffee pearls from the oil and rinse them in cold water until there is no more oily residue. Refrigerate for up to five days in an airtight container, or use immediately in making Starbucks boba. Enjoy!

starbucks coffee pearls

Hopefully, this article taught you something new about the exciting and ever-shifting food landscape.

If you like tapioca boba and coffee, you will definitely enjoy homemade Starbucks boba made with coffee popping pearls. It is easy and fun to make, and they can also be entirely vegan. You can also use our alternate recipe if you can’t find the required chemical additives. Enjoy!

Don’t forget to check out the rest of our website for other fun food trend recipes to try! And also give us a follow @honestfoodtalks to keep up with new updates!

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