How to Make Bubble Tea

Monday, January 23, 2012

There is something slightly childish about bubble tea. It seems like a rather purposeless drink, designed neither to awake, nor calm, nor nourish, nor give a requisite afternoon burst of energy, nor intoxicate. It is, quite simply, fun. It involves a sweet milk (or soy) tea or a fruit-based drink, a really big straw, and sweet, chewy, gummy tapioca balls which are consumed using the big straw (the “pearls”). The problem is, that it’s extremely addictive.

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There was a Thai and Japanese takeout place near where I lived catering primarily to college students and professors, which also had a bubble tea bar. And it all went downhill from there. There was something about the soothing, aromatic flavor of jasmine tea, creamy and lightly sweetened, together with the expectancy of the irresistible treat of the tapioca pearls, which, having been soaked in syrup, were like candy. It opened up a need I didn’t know I had, and which could only be satisfied with more bubble tea.

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During the day, when the bubble tea place was out of reach, I found another bubble tea shop near my school. There I'd get one to last me through a long lecture.

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And now to my absolute delight I have found a place nearby that not only has a café which serves bubble tea, but has an adjacent Asian supermarket (which has become my source of, inter alia, Sriracha sauce, soba noodles, kimchi, various teas, and the occasional durian).

So we went in looking for the black tapioca pearls to make our own bubble tea. Navigating our way around people quickly zipping between the aisles and grabbing products they can’t get anywhere else, we finally found boba in the refrigerated section, the only place we hadn't looked, because the tapioca pearls made specifically for bubble tea aren’t fully dehydrated.

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There were black, green and multi-colored pearls. We grabbed several packets and went home. We made the tea, and realized we didn’t have any straws to consume the pearls with (we used teaspoons).

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Next weekend, we came back to the shop, and being unable to find bubble tea straws for sale anywhere, somehow persuaded a lady behind the bubble tea counter to sell us an industrial package of straws they used themselves to serve drinks to customers. It was worth it.

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Jasmine Bubble Tea
Serves 2

You will need:
1/2 cup black tapioca pearls (available at Asian markets)
1-2 tbsp agave (or other) syrup, more if desired
24 oz brewed jasmine green tea, cooled
1/4 cup soy milk
Ice

Directions:
1. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add tapioca pearls and stir to prevent them from sticking (they will sink to the bottom before floating up to the surface). Reduce to a simmer and cook until desired chewiness, 10-15 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water to cool. Place in a small bowl and add the agave syrup. Mix and let stand for about 10 minutes to let the pearls absorb the sweetness.
2. Spoon the pearls into two tall glasses, dividing evenly, followed by the tea and soy milk. Add more syrup for desired sweetness. Add the ice and stir well. Serve with a bubble tea straw or a spoon.

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