Eileen Wagner

My Homemade Bubble Tea Recipe

Bubble tea (珍珠奶茶) in the streets – if indeed you can find a store these days – has a bad reputation: the colourful bubbles, combined with artificial flavourings and milk powder kept in large, unlabelled containers, look distinctly carcinogenic. Luckily for me, I am a fan of the traditional milk tea with tapioca pearls (vegetarian, in case you were wondering). But with over 3€ a cup, it’s not something a student can afford to drink every other day. And if you are like me and very picky about the quality, you will want to know how to produce your perfect cup of bubble tea at home. Here’s how I do it.

For roughly 4 cups of bubble tea…

You Will Need

  • 100g dried tapioca pearls (available only in bigger Asian/Taiwanese supermarkets, for less than 2€)
  • 50g molasses sugar (available in organic supermarkets, 2-3€ for 500g)
  • 2 tea bags, any kind of black tea will do (I’m using Cafédirect’s Hand-picked Tea, £2.50 for 80 tea bags)
  • 100ml cream
  • 0.75-1 l milk
  • some water
  • some sugar

Equipment

  • Saucepan
  • Bowl/cup/jar for the pearls
  • Measuring cups
  • Strainer
  • Whisk
  • Bubble Tea straws (£2.40 for 100)

Instructions

  1. Cook the tapioca pearls: Boil about 0.75 l of water in a saucepan, and then add the pearls (you will end up with a mush otherwise). Turn the heat to medium and cook the pearls for about 40 minutes. Keep stirring now and then, preferably with a whisk. The pearls are ready when they are completely soft inside. Remove the pan from heat, cover, and let the pearls sit for another 10-15 minutes.
  2. Quenching and sweetening: Put the molasses into your bowl/cup/jar (I use mason jars to preserve the leftover pearls). The molasses will give it a more interesting taste, and its syrupy texture keeps the pearls moist. When the pearls are done, rinse them in a strainer with cold water – this ensures the chewiness. Then add them to your jar of sugar, and stir until the sugar has melted completely. Set aside to cool.
  3. Prepare the tea: The simplest way to do it is to make a strong cup of tea, let it cool, and then add some milk. But I’ve noticed that the original Taiwanese milk tea is much creamier than your ordinary cup of British tea. So I would suggest the following: Boil some water (perhaps 100ml), add it to your tea of choice, and let it cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add some milk and cream, according to you own taste. My finished tea had roughly 4/5 milk, 1/10 cream and 1/10 water. I added 2 spoons of sugar, which was just right for me. Cook until it boils, and then remove from heat.
  4. Serving: If you like hot bubble tea, simply take a forth of the pearls and add your freshly made milk tea. If you prefer to drink it cold, then let it cool for about an hour. You can make it extra-chilly by putting the milk tea in a cocktail shaker. Add a few ice cubes and shake for 20 seconds, then pour into a tall glass and add the pearls. Et voilà! Finished!

Finished!

NB

The straw problem. It is a little awkward drinking bubble tea with a spoon. Think ahead and keep your old straws, or ask nicely at your bubble tea store… I ended up buying some from Cream Supplies.

Variations? As is probably clear by now, I’m a purist and hate those silly balls in poisonous green liquids. Although I’m really happy with my current bubble tea supply, I can imagine altering the flavour of the milk tea. How about chai tea latte or mocha powder as the base of the milk tea? Or try adding a little Amaretto or Baileys for those cold winter days…