Sipping what was then a novelty in New York City’s Chinatown, my first impression of bubble tea was its resemblance to an ingredient from my childhood. The jelly-like bubbles, resembling frog eggs, came up through the straw along with the perfect amount of sweetened tea. In the Indian drink, falooda, the taste of the black pearl-shaped bubbles is camouflaged by ice cream and rose syrup, but in bubble tea, the texture and taste of larger tapioca pearls are up-front and center.
Tapioca pearls are made from cassava root, and swell up when boiled in water. The swollen pearl has a firm core, and they look very similar to bubbles of eggs in ponds, tucked under leaves and algae. Used in both sweet and savory dishes, tapioca pearls have a teeny bite to the otherwise smooth jelly-like consistency.
Bubble tea, often called pearl tea or Boba tea, started out as a simple concoction of black tea, sweetened milk, and small tapioca pearls. However, it is now available with flavorings of honey, fruit juice, and bigger “boba’ pearls. As A. and N. are more familiar with the modern version of bubble tea, I wanted them to experience the less sweet version.
Boba (dried tapioca pearls) – ¼ cup
Tea bags –1-2 (depending on strength)
Sugar – ¼ cup
Condensed Milk – ¼ cup
Regular Milk – ¼ cup
Fruit juice or honey – optional
- Boil 2 cups of water
- Add the dried tapioca pearls. Cook until soft (from 5-15 minutes depending on their size).
- Drain using a fine colander, so that the pearls don’t drain through. Let the softened tapioca pearls cool.
- Boil ¼ cup water. Add sugar and mix until you have a simple syrup or sugar solution.
- Pour the syrup over the cooked pearls. Refrigerate.
- Bring 1 cup of water to boil. Add the tea bag (s) to make a strong tea. Let the bags steep for 5 minutes. Discard the tea bags. Refrigerate the tea.
- When ready to serve, add boba pearls to the cold tea.
- Add milk, condensed milk, and simple syrup. Adjust according to your sweet tooth.
- Shake the entire mixture so that the bubbles distribute uniformly through the tea.
Note: I used Indian tapioca pearls that are smaller, but the larger dried tapioca pearls are readily available at Chinese supermarkets.
The next few weeks will be busy, but I look forward to catching up with you in June! If you have any suggestions on what you would like to see covered, please let me know