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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bubble Tea

I cannot write a post about milk toast without a follow up on how to make its partner in crime, bubble tea. Bubble tea, also known as pearl tea or boba tea, is traditionally a frothy cold drink made with large tapioca balls at the bottom. A large straw is usually used to be able to suck up the boba tapioca balls at the bottom of the drink, which are a pleasant chewy addition to the drinks. The drinks themselves are usually variants of sweetened milk tea, such as black, green, Earl Grey, and even Thai.

That doesn't mean that you are limited to tea! Boba tea shops usually have tons of flavors: taro, honeydew, strawberry, and other fruits are all fair game. One of my favorite boba drinks at my fave high school hang was actually a sour green apple slushie with boba!

Dry boba
I'd have to say that boba tea shops are a pretty important part of growing up Asian American for a certain generation in America, a place to socialize and sip. I certainly went to a lot of them in high school! Originally Taiwanese, this class of drinks have been embraced by the Asian community and beyond here in the States.

Boba isn't exactly the fastest drink to whip up at home, but if you store the tapioca pearls in simple syrup, you can refrigerate them for a couple days. However once they lose their chewiness and get brittle, they are done for.

The tea itself is easy. You can make it from a powdered mix, or for better tea flavor, make it by mixing sweetened tea and milk. In my pictures, I have milk tea as well as Thai iced tea that is from a mix.

Bubble Tea

preparing the boba:
1 cup boba (large tapioca pearls)
8 cups water
honey/simple syrup to cover

In a large pot, heat the 8 cups of water over high heat until boiling. Stir in the boba, stirring to prevent sticking. Turn the heat down to medium and boil for 25 minutes, stirring ocassionally. Skim a boba out of the pot and taste it after it cools to make sure it is your desired level of chewiness. The boba will turn shiny and dark, like giant caviar. Drain the boba and run under cold water to cool. Pour into a tupperware and stir in enough simple syrup to keep them from sticking together. I like to use about 2 parts simple syrup to 1 part honey to give the boba a nice honey flavor. These are now read to use, or you can refrigerate for a couple days as long as they are nicely covered in syrup to keep them from drying out.
They will start turning darker

making the milk tea:
1 cup tea of your choice
1/2 cup milk
simple syrup, sugar, honey, etc, to taste

Combine the tea and milk, and then add sweetener of your choice until desired amount. Traditionally bubble milk tea is shaken with ice, and the bubble in the name actually refers to the frothiness, not the boba. Chill, or pour over ice (which might dilute it a bit). To assemble, place about a 1/4 cup prepared boba in a tall glass, then top with ice and pour milk tea over the top. Serve with a large straw capable of sucking the boba through.
Shiny like caviar!

Where to get boba? I went to a couple Chinese markets to no avail. They all had places serving boba, but no dried boba to be cooked. Online is your best option, and I was very impressed with an unusual source: They have amazing shipping, you can buy the boba cheap in bulk, and they even have the boba straws and powdered drink mixes! I also liked the fact that it is an American family business with a 100% satisfaction guarantee, and they send you a little gift with your order (mine was yummy raw almonds). My only beef was that it was hard to find where all the bubble tea supplies were hiding on their website, so I provided links. Disclosure: had no part in this recommendation. I bought my boba there, liked the experience, blogged about it. Nothing more.

See Also:
Milk Toast
Marbled Tea Eggs
Yuen Yeung


  1. finally, a recipe to use the boba I bought!

    1. It sounds like a lot of work (25 minutes of boiling?!) but its not that bad. You don't have to stir very often, so I browsed the internet while they bubbled.

  2. Finally a place to buy boba! I'm so excited to place my order.

  3. in present time bubble tea is more popular drink of human and this is not more costly to use but if you want to make this at home than it is not more typical.
    Bubble Tea Supply