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Making bubble tea at home

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I picked up some of my favorite recipes while traveling. I’ve tried strawberry gelato in Europe and had to try to make it when i got home. I first encountered boba tea, also known as bubble tea, while traveling last year. I was immediately intrigued by the idea!

Despite what the sparkling name might suggest, this is not a sparkling tea. It is a sweetened tea with lots of milk and large tapioca pearls (bubbles). Bubble tea is usually drunk ice cold and requires an extra wide straw for the tapioca pearls to fit through. This popular drink, which originates from Taiwan, is also known as boba.

I think I’m falling behind on this one as bubble tea seems to have become widely popular without me even knowing it! Once I tried it, I started imagining all the possibilities of making it at home. I knew I had to try it.

What exactly are tapioca pearls?

Companies use tapioca starch, a refined flour made from the cassava root, to make tapioca pearls. I occasionally use cassava flour in grain-free baking or in recipes that require an egg white to be “breaded” before frying or baking, such as my coconut shrimp with piña colada sauce

Tapioca starch is similar to cassava flour, but is more refined. Cassava flour uses the whole cassava root while tapioca starch does not. It’s like the difference between whole wheat bread and white bread or brown rice and white rice. The cassava flour has more fiber. However, for tapioca pearls, you don’t want a fibrous texture, so tapioca flour is used.

Tapioca pearls don’t have much flavor on their own. They are added to the tea strictly for texture. They are quite bouncy and slippery. It feels a bit like drinking round gummies through a straw, but that’s part of the appeal.

Where to buy pearls and what kind?

I buy my tapioca pearls online. Amazon sells Boba dry and uncooked in bags, but it’s super easy to cook them. Boil the dry pearls in water until soft. There should be instructions on the packaging. It is possible to make them from scratch, but in my opinion life is just too short for that crap!

The most commonly used tapioca pearls are black. The idea is that the black makes them more visible in the drink. However, more options are becoming available. Here are a few options I’ve tried:

Making bubble tea at home

When I first tried bubble tea, I didn’t ask too many questions. I actually didn’t want to know what was in it and just wanted to enjoy trying it. But when I got home, I decided to do some research.

Not surprisingly, I found that the ingredients often contain hydrogenated oils and artificial sweeteners. And so much sugar! There wasn’t even a place near where I live to buy boba tea, even if I wanted to.

Curious what my kids would think, I started experimenting with making my own. After some trial and error, I figured out how to make a healthier version at home. My kids are still divided on the texture. Three of them love it and three of them declare it feels like eating boogers. Anyway, it was a fun experiment.

If you want to try this to save money or make it a little healthier, here are the basic ingredients you’ll need:

  • Tea: Black tea is the original, but any kind of tea, matcha, or even juice will work. You will need to brew your tea and then let it cool before continuing as boba tea is served ice cold. Save time, pique tea is a great way to brew the tea cold and have it ready in seconds (plus, their tea is great).
  • Milk: Or cream. Any kind you want. Taro milk is becoming a popular option.
  • Sweetener: Optional, but any kind and amount you want; honey, maple syrup, simple syrup, stevia, etc.
  • Tapioca pearls
  • Ice

There are dozens of ways to customize it to your preferences, which makes it a lot of fun! One of my kids’ favorites was a strawberry version that didn’t even have tea in it. I just mashed strawberries with milk and a little honey and added the pearls.

Remark: Tapioca pearls do not retain their texture well once cooked. You can make the tea ahead of time and refrigerate it, but wait until you’re ready to use them before making the tapioca pearls.

Here’s the basic recipe:

bubble tea

Bubble Tea Recipe

Katie Wells

Make a healthier homemade version of this sweetened tea with your favorite milk and large tapioca pearls (bubbles).

Portions 2

calories 220 kcal

Make the tea

  • Make the tea.

  • Refrigerate until cold.

Make the tapioca pearls

  • Follow the instructions on the package to make the pearls.

  • Mix the cooked pearls with enough of the sweetener you are using to coat them. This helps maintain the texture.

Assemble the drinks

  • Mix the cooled tea, sweetener of your choice and milk in a large glass.

  • Divide the cooked tapioca pearls evenly between two additional glasses.

  • Add ice.

  • Pour half of the sweetened milk tea mixture over the ice in each glass.

  • Add boba straws and serve immediately.

You can make and refrigerate the tea in advance, but tapioca pearls don’t retain their texture well over time, so don’t make them until you’re ready to use them.
To increase the protein, add one scoop of collagen per serving before the tea cools.
If you have a fruity tea, you can also add a scoop of Just Thrive prebiotic powder or Kion aminos for an extra boost.

Calories: 220kcalCarbohydrates: 53gEgg white: 1gFat: 1gSaturated fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gcholesterol: 4mgSodium: 18mgPotassium: 126mgFiber: 1gSugar: 20gVitamin A: 49IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 46mgIron: 1mg

Have you ever made bubble tea? What is your favorite combination?

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