This month we’re celebrating all thing oolong with our tea of the month – tung ting oolong. This little Taiwanese treat represents one of the pillars of tea productions, as oolong is the sliding scale that separates green teas & black teas thanks to its partial oxidisation period. You can find out more about the differences in tea types & production just here

But in all our internal discussions about this gem of a tea (it’s Louise our tea taster’s favourite, after all!), another Taiwanese treasure kept cropping up.

So today we’re taking a closer look at one of the more unusual tea brewing methods – boba, also known as bubble tea

what is it boba?

Essentially, boba makes use of a tea concentrate traditionally brewed into a sweet milky brew, and finished off with little tapioca pearls (or bubbles!) for a sweet, chewy treat. It’s a far cry from a classic English cuppa, but since its inception in Taiwan in the 1980s it’s quickly become a firm favourite across the Western world with variations of all types of tea, with all sorts of mix-ins from fruit syrups to juices to jellies and even more mad twists like popping candies!

For now, we’re going to focus on the classic milk tea boba – including how to make the tapioca pearls from scratch. After that, whip up whatever crazy combinations you feel like, and don’t forget to share them with us @teapigs!

what you’ll need

  • 170ml water - 70ml for your boba, 100ml for your tea concentrate
  • 1 tung ting oolong temple
  • 30g dark brown sugar (muscavado works well)
  • 100g tapioca flour, sometimes called tapioca starch (+ extra for dusting)
  • 200ml milk (dairy, oat, whatever kind you like!)
  • Ice
  • A tall glass
  • A reusable thick boba straw (or a spoon, if you’d rather scoop the pearls out!)

how to make tapioca pearls

Now, this is the bit for those who really enjoy a bit of science and mixing up madness in their kitchen. There are LOADS of different premade pearl options available at your local Asian supermarket, or online, should you wish to skip this step. We won’t judge!

It’s easiest to batch make your boba, so the recipe below makes enough for 4 servings – but don’t worry, you can freeze them for up to 3 months.

making the pearls

  • Combine the water and sugar in a small pot and slowly dissolve over low heat. Once combined, bring up the heat to boil it rapidly – this sudden change helps to stop too much water evaporating.
  • Once boiling bubbles appear, lower the temperature again to a low heat and add 2 tbsp of the tapioca flour and stir vigorously until the flour absorbs
  • Turn off the heat and stir in the remaining flour until it starts to form a dough.
  • Scrape out the dough and knead it while it’s still hot – the colder it gets the harder it is to handle! If it’s too dry and crumbling, introduce a few drops of hot water at a time. If it’s too wet, add a light sprinkle of tapioca flour.
  • Once the dough is smooth, cut your dough in half and roll out each section into a log. Cut into small pieces and roll into little balls – these should be about 1cm each. Remember – the pearls will swell as they cook so it’s better to be too small than too big!
  • Coat your pearls in the extra tapioca flour so they don’t stick together. Pop them in a sieve and dust off any excess. At this point your pearls can be cooked for immediate use or frozen for 3 months in an airtight container.
  • To cook, bring a pot of water to boil and then add in your pearls, stirring to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot or to each other – as they cook, they’ll start to float. Simmer for 15 mins, stirring occasionally.
  • Turn off the heat and allow to continue cooking in the residual heat for another 15 mins
  • Drain the pearls through a sieve and give a rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.
  • The pearls will stiffen as they cool, so only cook them up when you’re ready to assemble your drink!

assembling your bubble tea

  • First, you’ll need your tea concentrate. We recommend 1 tea temple of tung ting oolong brewed in 100ml of 80 degree water for 5-10 minutes. Pop in the fridge to cool until you’re ready, or shake over ice. 
  • Pop your fresh tapioca pearls in the bottom of your glass with a few ice cubes.
  • Pour in your tea concentrate, and top with the cold milk of your choice
  • Enjoy!

Bubble tea can take all sorts for forms – why not try out some different blends?! Want a darker flavour? Try adding english breakfast. Want something a bit more summery? Super fruit works surprisingly well! We’d love to see what combinations you come up with – don’t forget to tag us @teapigsus on social!

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