Is it just me or are tapioca pearls just a little bit scary?
When they're coming up the straw, they come fast. You have to prepare yourself because you never know how many you'll end up having to chew at a time. It could be none or it could be five. It's completely unexpected. Also the thought of having all of those half chewed pearls dancing around in your stomach is a little bizarre if you think about it. You don't ever fully chew them (or at least I don't).
Uncooked they look like animal droppings or animal feed, you take your pick. And when you cook them they expand into what look like chocolate malt balls. As they cool, they shrink and are kinda slimy, kinda squishy, and not the most beautiful thing in the world.
Yet, I'm completely disregarding all of this for the sake of making a homemade version of this drink. Boba/bubble tea/bubble drink, or however you choose to call it is such a popular drink and also such an easy one to tackle at home. Although it took me two tries to get it right, it's not as hard as it may seem.
For my endeavors, I went with two different types. First, the classic milk tea. Second, a smoothie version of my own invention when I was dreaming of combining my two favorite yellow-orange fruits; the peach and the mango.
You want to get the drink started before moving on to the pearls; the fresher the better. The pearls should be consumed immediately or else their texture gets firm and it is really not good.
For the milk tea, we start with making the black tea so it has time to steep and chill completely. Make the tea extra strong using 2 tea bags to 1 1/2 cups of water because you would potentially be adding ice and milk to dilute it. Let it steep for 5 minutes before removing the tea bags, dissolving the sugar for desired sweetness and chilling in the refrigerator for at least an hour (more time is acceptable of course).
For the smoothie, you only need three ingredients and a blender. 1 peach and 1 mango, peeled and cubed, and 1/2 cup of milk. Blitz until completely smooth. Keep the smoothie cold in the refrigerator until the final assembly.
When the tea is almost chilled completely, move on to the tapioca pearls. You can find these at any Asian grocery store.
The key to getting the desired chewiness is taste one at the minimum cooking time on the packaging. Continue tasting one until you get the right amount of chew. Overcooking them turns them to a soggy mush which you don't want. You also don't want them to be gnawing on them either.
Another key is to sweeten them after they are finished cooking. The first time I made the tapioca pearls, I forgot to sweeten them and they were quite tasteless. Rinse the cooked pearls, cover with cold water and add 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Make sure to let that sit for 15 minutes before adding to your drink.
And now we assemble! Drain and scoop 1/4 to 1/2 cup of tapioca pearls at the bottom of your glass.
For the milk tea version, pour in the chilled black tea, the milk, and ice if desired. For the smoothie version, pour the smoothie over the pearls. Swirl both drinks vigorously with the straw to combine.
One for me, and one for you.
Milk Tea with Pearls
Yields: 1 drink // Inactive Time: 1 hour // Active Time: 20 minutes
Mango Peach Smoothie with Pearls
Yields: 1 drink // Time: 20 minutes