Like so many beloved recipes, the story of bubble tea begins at a street food stall. It was in Taiwan in the 1980s that a vendor made the decision to combine milk tea, already a national favorite, and softened and sweetened tapioca pearls, a cherished Taiwanese dessert. It was an instant hit amongst Taiwanese who not only enjoyed its flavor but also loved the fun of sucking the oversized tapioca balls up through jumbo straws.
The trend quickly spread throughout Europe and America where storefronts exclusively devoted to bubble tea have emerged. The tea is referred to as boba in Taiwan, a word that means breasts, and while the pearls are often mixed with milk, tea, and fruit powders in retail shops, they are even tastier when combined with real fruit and other natural flavors.
Boba come in a wide variety of colors and flavors and are readily available in Asian markets as well as online, as are the wide straws required for a truly perfect glass of bubble tea. The drink is a favorite of adults and children alike and because it is such a treat to drink and kids won’t notice if you slip something healthy into it like green tea, almond milk, or fruit.
- Create a simple syrup by bringing 1/4 cup of water to a boil. Remove from the heat and add 1/4 cup of granulated sugar. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolves. Cool to room temperature.
- Prepare a cup of tea using your favorite variety. Use two tea bags to make it more robustly flavored. Discard the tea bags and cool the tea to room temperature.
- The ratio of boba to water should be 1/4 cup boba to two cups of water. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan.
- Add the boba and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook gently for 15 minutes then remove from the heat.
- Set the pan aside for an additional 15 minutes. Drain the boba in a colander then stir them together in a bowl with the simple syrup. The syrup will not only sweeten the boba but will also help keep them soft and chewy. Boba are best when they are freshly prepared but they can also be stored with the syrup in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
- In a tall glass, combine the tea and the boba and pour your liquid of choice up to the top. Ideas include milk, almond milk, or fruit juice.
- Add additional flavorings, if desired, and serve with a jumbo straw.
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— Head photo: Brit + Co.