Exploring Bubble Tea

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As the popularity of bubble tea continues to grow within New Zealand, there's an increasing number of new outlets opening to service this demand. We thought we would dive a little deeper into this distinctive and fun drink, offering a a home made, sugar reduced bubble tea recipe for you to try. 

What is Bubble Tea?

Bubble tea is a tea based drink originating in Taiwan during the early 1980s. In its most basic and popular form, bubble tea is a beverage consisting of brewed tea, milk, ice and chewy tapioca pearls (also known at Boba). All of these ingredients are shaken together and served with a fat straw to draw the pearls through.  You can also prepare it as a non milk option.   

Managing the sugar levels in your Bubble Tea

Store brought bubble tea can contain a lot of added sugar, which has meant some people have dismissed this beverage as an unhealthy choice. This is understandable but does not need to be the case.  If you are having bubble tea when you are out, ensure you communicate your clear preferences on the sugar level you want when ordering. Their menu will generally list the sugar level in percentages, and our advice is to go low.  But even better still, because this drink is so easy to make and prepare at home, you can easily do so and control this element.  Your choice of tea base can also assist with your perception of sugar - we offer some suggestions below for our favourite flavours.  

What's That Floating in My Tea?

Referred to as toppings, tapioca pearls (boba) are the most common ingredient you will find in bubble tea.  The pearls can be clear or mixed with other ingredients to take on a colour. For example, brown sugar will give them a black colour. 

The gluten free tapioca pearls are made from starch extracted from the cassava root, which is native to South America. The chewy texture is rich in carbohydrates which can offer a good source of energy.  We particularly enjoy the texture of the pearls and could easily drink a glass everyday, though reserve it for special occasions due to its high carbohydrate nature.  

Some bubble tea stores offer a wide range of alternative toppings including jellies or custard to add even more texture, or take their pearls to the next level by using popping boba – spheres that have fruit juice or syrup in them. 

The Elements of Your Brew - Our Hints & Tips

To help you enjoy our bubble tea recipe, we've put together a collection of our hints and tips on how best to prepare it:

Tea Leaf – Prepare your pot of tea.  As soon as it is brewed, pour the liquor off the leaf and set aside to cool.  We enjoy using a scented black tea – our all time favourite is the traditional black tea rose, with earl grey supreme and soursop other great options.

Tapioca Pearls – Cook these within a few hours of needing them.  In our experience it always seems to take significantly longer to cook than the instructions suggest, so allow yourself plenty of time for these to cook and cool. 

Milk – We use a full fat dairy milk, but plant based milks can be substituted. 

Non-milk option - You can prepare this drink simply using brewed tea as the only liquid.  When we do this we brew our tea a little lighter than normal (a smaller measure of tea).  Black or green teas are both great options. 

Sweetener – a simple syrup is a nice option.  It can be added at the time of mixing and then more can be added to each glass to suit personal taste if required.  Alternative sweeteners to use include fruit jams with strawberry working well for this. 

Ice – we recommend full cubes rather than crushed ice which can melt quickly and water down your efforts

Fancy a little more - once you have mastered the basics, which is an impressive drink on its own, then you may wish to dress your drink with some other elements – chia seeds, flavoured jellies, pulped fruit – all things that will easily pass through the large straws

If you would like to read more on bubble tea, we recommend the book Boba by Stacey Kwong and Beyah Del Mundo. As well as being a great read, it also contains some fabulous recipes too.  

Posted: Thursday 30 June 2022