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Cookbook: Authentic Taiwanese Milk Bubble Tea

Cookbook: Authentic Taiwanese Milk Bubble Tea

Starting college and finding myself near a Bento Café, I discovered bubble tea, also known as boba milk tea. I was instantly drawn to the big black orbs swirling around inside the tea and I knew then that I had to try it. I’m so glad I did!

The chewiness of the tapioca pearls and the sweet, cool airiness of the milk tea is a refreshing treat and good during any time of the year. With so many flavors and textures to choose, from milk to fruit teas and pearls to jellies, there’s a bubble tea out there for everyone.

This tea originated in Taichung, Taiwan in the 1980s. The wildly popular drink soon spread through Southeast Asia and later to different parts of the globe.

If you’re wondering where the term “boba” came from, it’s actually Chinese for bōbà (波霸), which means “large.” It is a slang term often used for the tapioca pearls that are conventionally added to the drink.

My newfound love of Boba tea coupled with the unfortunate restrictions of my “college kid” budget led me on a search to find a cheaper DIY alternative that didn’t skimp on flavor. What I stumbled upon was an authentic Taiwanese milk bubble tea that you can make at home!

Surprisingly, despite its name, there is no milk in this tea. Instead, non-dairy creamer is used, which gives it more of a light, yet creamy taste. My recipe comes from a bubble tea shop owner in Taichung, Taiwan, so you’re definitely getting an authentic recipe.

Taiwanese Milk Bubble Tea:

Ingredients:

  • 2 Teabags of Red Rose Original Blend (Orange Pekoe and Black Tea Blend)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Non-Dairy Creamer
  • 1 Cup Tapioca Pearls (uncooked)
  • 1/4 Cup of Organic Cane Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Boiling Water

Preparation:

The Tea Concentrate

  1.      Bring water to a boil.
  2.      Pour over the tea and steep for five minutes.
  3.      Remove the tea leaves and let the concentrate cool.

Tapioca pearls in a simple syrup

There are two varieties of tapioca pearls you can buy. One is instant boba which can be made in five minutes. The other takes 35 minutes.

I used the instant boba, but you can cook whichever you prefer and prepare it according to package directions. While your boba is cooking, prepare your simple syrup.

  1.  In a bowl, add in the organic cane sugar and boiling water and stir until it evenly dissolves. The cane sugar gives the tea the right amount of sweetness and a richer, more complex taste than your conventional refined white table sugar.
  2.  Drain the pearls and rinse with cold water. Add the pearls to your simple syrup.
  3.  Mix and allow them to soak for a few minutes. This does two things. First, it preserves the pearls and keeps them chewy even if you don’t use them all right away. You can put the leftover pearls in an airtight container in the refrigerator and it’ll keep for about five days. Second, it marries the texture and the sweetness that we look for in good milk tea.

Milk tea whip

If you have a martini shaker, take that out. I don’t have one, so I used my blender instead, but you can also use a food processor. This step is optional, but it gives the tea that beautiful airy consistency that I like.

  1.      Add in one part ice, two parts tea concentrate and the creamer.
  2.      Shake or blend for about 10 seconds until the mixture is even and ice -cold.
  3.      Pour it over ice and enjoy!

Add in your preferred amount of tapioca pearls and ice to your glass and pour the tea over it. Enjoy your very own homemade Taiwanese milk tea!

There are endless ways to make bubble tea. With milk tea, I’ve seen sweetened condensed milk and cow’s milk, half & half or creamer used in place of the non-dairy creamer.

Maybe if I’m having a bad day or just really want to give myself a sweet treat, I’ll go with this option! Of course, you can also try your hand at blending teas to find a taste that’s uniquely your own.

I think I’ll try jasmine and black teas with different accent flavors. For inspiration, just visit your nearest bubble tea shop or specialty tea store!

For a healthier option, you can try using milk substitutes such as almond, soy or rice milk in place of whole milk/creamer. Instead of cane sugar, try experimenting with coconut sugar, stevia, honey, agave syrup or other alternative sweeteners.

Granted, these variations all lend themselves to a myriad of complex tastes, but isn’t that the beauty of making your own food? You never know what you’ll end up with and you can really make it your own!

I’ll continue playing around in the kitchen to see how I can make this tea “skinnier,” but this Taiwanese milk tea really hits the spot. Go ahead and indulge a little!