An unstoppable trend sweeping the globe, tapioca pearls, or famously known as boba, have captured the attention of millions. With its jelly like consistency and chewy texture, tapioca pearls are versatile, gelatinous translucent spheres made from cassava starch. They emerged as a cheaper alternative to pearl sago and originate from the Taiwanese culture.
Originally, tapioca pearls were used in shaved ice desserts, as a gelling agent, or paired with syrups and beans. However, after a café owner ingeniously (and thankfully) combined the regularly consumed milk tea with large tapioca pearls and named it boba, bubble tea because a quick favourite and rose in popularity over the past few years. With stands popping up nationwide, bubble tea is the new coffee. With many variations and flavours available, the list of possibilities is endless. This is the general method of how bubble tea is made:
Bubble tea - how it is made:
The process starts with the prime base and the heart of the bubble tea. This is where the flavour originates from. Some popular bases include:
• Black tea
• Green tea
These teas are often customised with a syrup of choice such as strawberry, peach and other delicious flavours. Milk is also a popular addition to create a creamy milk tea.
Some bubble teas stray away from the traditional black and green teas and opt for fruit tea with fresh slices of fruit in them to create a caffeine free option.
This is where the fun begins. The different textures, shapes and flavours all play the very important role of creating a unique and customised drink.
• Tapioca pearls - Of course we must begin with the master of all toppings. Tapioca pearls. Chewy, squishy and packed full of character, this is the first addition. Some people stop here but you can add more.
• Grass jelly or flavoured jelly – A fun alternative to tapioca pearls or even a delicious addition on top of the boba.
• Puddings – I’m not talking about the likes of rice pudding or a sticky toffee pudding. This is a softer slightly chewy pudding. It pairs great with creamy milk teas and adds a great variety to the textures in the bubble tea
• Aloe vera – available in firm cubes soaked in sweet syrup, aloe vera is a great addition to add to fruity bubble teas. Aloe vera is rich in antioxidants therefore making your bubble tea delicious and wholesome.
• Whipped creams – Not the store brought cheap whipped creams. I’,m referring to silky smooth cremes. Some can be salty, others sweet and rich. They add a great balance to the tea and add to the experience of experimenting with different textures.
As amazing bubble tea is, traditionally in the countries of origin, tapioca pearls are used to create traditional desserts and often act as a gelling agent. There are so many possible recipes but we decided to share one of our favourite traditional recipes to make;
- 64g small pearl tapioca (not the instant type)
- 710ml whole milk
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 64g sugar
- 1 tsp of vanilla extract
- In a pan add the tapioca pearls, milk and salt. Heat on medium high heat and stir until the mixture is just barely simmering.
- Lower the heat to the lowest possible and gradually add the sugar. Stir occasionally. Cook until the tapioca pearls are plump and thickened.
- Beat the eggs in a bowl. Temper the eggs by whisking about ½ cup (64g) of the hot tapioca pearls into it. You want to equalise the temperature to prevent curdling.
- Add the eggs to the tapioca and increase the heat to medium. Stir and heat until you get a pudding like thick consistency. The consistency is just right if it coats the back of a wooden spoon.
- Remove from the heat and cool for 15 minutes.
- Stir in the vanilla extract
- Serve up and enjoy. You can add a sprinkle of crushed pistachios and some desiccated coconut to decorate if you wish.