Everyone’s favorite photogenic tea, bubble tea is creamy, delicious, chewy, and naturally sweet. This tantalizing tea shot to fame after a Taiwanese tea house created the sweet milky tea and made it even better by adding tapioca pearls into the mix. Now, the world has gone crazy for bubble tea and there’s a whole host of ways to drink this thirst-quenching brew. You don’t even have to track down your nearest bubble tea stand because we have the lowdown on how to make bubble tea from scratch, yep even those mysterious boba pearls too. Keep reading to find out exactly how you turn your home into a bubble tea dream.
Where did Boba/Bubble Tea Originate?
While bubble tea may have only just started popping up on your Instagram feeds this fun and colorful drink has been around since the eighties. It was made huge on Taiwanese and Southeast Asian college campuses before finding its way across to the USA. While everyone associates bubble tea with those dreamy boba pearls, the original version was simply chilled milky tea shaken up until frothy and with a few added extras like seeds and jelly cubes to jazz it up. But now, of course, a huge part of our bubble tea craving is because we love those chewy sweet balls too.
What are Tapioca Pearls?
Back to those tapioca pearls. These are the key ingredient in modern bubble tea and a major factor as to why it’s such a fun and fabulous drink. Also known as boba pearls, they are made from tapioca starch that comes from the cassava root. This starch is mixed up with caramel-like brown sugar and hot water which leads to these tasty little pearls being sweet, chewy, and supremely delicious.
How to Make Tapioca Boba Pearls at Home
While making tapioca pearls may sound like something of an art form its actually relatively easy to DIY it providing you stick to the precise measurements to avoid any errors along the way. Here, we take you through a step-by-step process of crafting your own tapioca pearls. You can also watch the full video below.
- 1 cup Tapioca starch
- 1/2 cup Brown sugar
- 1/3 cup Hot water
Make Starter Dough
Add 1/3 cup of water to a pan.
Add ½ cup of brown sugar.
Heat on medium and keep stirring until all of the sugar dissolves.
Switch to low heat and when the mixture starts to boil add 1 tablespoon of tapioca starch.
Mix the starch in and stir continuously until your mixture thickens (about a minute).
Turn off the heat and add the rest of your cup of tapioca starch (the cup minus a tablespoon).
Keep stirring until you get a sticky dough.
Shaping the Dough
Tip your sticky dough onto a lightly floured surface (tapioca flour of course).
Knead your dough until it becomes elastic and soft, if it gets sticky as you go, just add a touch more flour.
Roll the dough out until flat.
Next, roll the dough into long and thin rod-like pieces.
Using a knife, you can cut the rod into small pieces.
Finally, roll these small pieces with your fingers and hands into tiny balls.
Now you have your pearls!
Spread them out onto a baking tray or a pan sheet and leave these little guys to dry for around four hours. Every hour you can check back in on your pearls and lightly roll them around to make sure they stay round and firm.
If your dough feels too dry and cracks when you try and roll it into a ball, you can dip your finger in water and use it to bring moisture to the dough. Beware too much water though as tapioca starch can quickly become sticky again.
Don’t let your dough get too soft either as it won’t hold its shape when cooking. If your balls feel too soft and sticky you can roll them gently in a little tapioca starch to help give them a drier finish.
Storing Uncooked Boba Pearls
Now you have a whole heap of boba pearls ready to go, you want to cook only those that you are going to use and keep the rest stashed away for your next batch of bubble tea. Store your uncooked dry boba in an airtight container in a cool and shady space for up to six months. There’s no need to refrigerate your boba pearls but if you do keep them in the fridge it won’t do any harm, but it may make the boba a little tougher in texture. You can also freeze your boba pearls and you don’t have to worry about thawing them before cooking.
Cooking Boba Pearls
Cooking your boba pearls is super easy, check out our simple step by step guide below and get those glorious chewy pearls ready to go. You can also check the full video below too.
Boil a pan with enough water to cover the amount of boba you are cooking, for every cup of pearls its recommended to use 4 cups of water.
When the water is boiling, add your tapioca pearls.
Keep stirring the boiling water so your pearls don’t stick together.
Let them simmer and cook for 25 minutes.
Turn off the heat and drain your boba pearls, draining them immediately in cold water to stop any sticking. This step also stops the cooking process and makes the boba even chewier.
Pour your boba into a bowl and add sugar syrup.
You can make a simple syrup by warming up dark brown sugar for a couple of minutes. The sugar doesn’t need to be completely melted as even just warmed will cover the pearls and make your brown sugar boba taste sweet and delicious.
Let your boba pearls cool completely before adding them to your drink.
Boba will be at their chewiest and freshest when used within a few hours of cooking. Keeping them in the fridge and soaked in the sugar syrup will help to keep them feeling moist for a little longer.
Storing Cooked Boba Pearls
You can store leftover cooked homemade boba pearls in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days. You will get better results if you keep them in the sugar syrup as it means they will be less likely to stick together. They will harden as they cool and to get that chewy texture back they need to be warm so you can simply reheat them to get that texture back.
How To Make Bubble Tea
Now you have your boba pearls ready to go, the next step is to brew up a beautiful cup of bubble tea and create your own fun and funky version of this classic drink.
- To make traditional boba milk tea, it's normally black tea that forms the base, but you can pick a different type of tea you love. Green tea makes a good alternative and chai tea brings a sweet and spicy angle to the mix. You can brew your tea bag, loose-leaf tea, or if you want to make it super simple and stress-free, opt for this chai kit from tea drops and simply pop the tea drop into your cup.
- There are two different ways to make the tea – you can steep your tea in your choice of milk for a creamier milk tea or if that’s too much for you, you can simply use hot water. Types of milk that are popular in bubble tea are taro milk, honeydew milk, almond milk, and even Thai tea. Wait for the tea to cool by chilling in the fridge.
- Assemble your bubble tea by adding some of the brown sugar syrup boba to the bottom of a glass. You can use a spoon to streak the inside of the glass with some of the syrup from the cooked tapioca pearls for visual appeal. Fill the glass with ice cubes and top it with your cold milk and chilled tea of choice.
There are endless varieties when it comes to bubble tea, you can swap out the milk and tea for juice and slushies instead of iced tea. You can also make your drink as extravagant as you like by adding everything from cream to jelly, chopped fruit, and anything else that takes your fancy.
If you want to bring extra creamy sweetness to your bubble tea (like the store-bought kind), you can also use condensed milk for a richer flavor profile.
Bubble tea is delicious and making it at home is so rewarding as a self-love treat. While it may take a little effort, every sip is worthwhile when it comes to bubble tea. This perfect brew is all about making the world of tea a fun place to be and when you can whip up a homemade version, you are free to experiment and play around with your own version and you can make it caffeine-rich or caffeine free. While it can be sweet, bubble tea isn’t all sin as it comes with health benefits too especially as it's full of calcium, potassium, and other good stuff that your body loves. You can check out our bubble tea 101 guide to dive in and find out even more about bubble tea.
**Medical Disclaimer: The information in this article is for informative purposes only and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice. Those who have any health-related queries should be sure to reach out to a medical professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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