One night in particular I had a craving for bubble tea (pearl milk tea, boba tea, taro, tapioca tea, the list is almost endless!) and I couldn't find the right instructable. Sure, there were plenty on milk tea and how to cook the pearls but none told me how to create this fabulous drink from scratch.
I searched the internet for ages trying to find a recipe to match those chewy, black pearls of happiness but nothing I found gave me what I was looking for. Finally I have compiled numerous recipes, suggestions and do's & dont's to come up with an almost foolproof method of making tapioca pearls.
I found this process to be fairly adaptable and forgiving, I will outline some changes and additions for you at the end of this instructable.
This is my first instructable, I hope I have made the steps clear and concise for you and I would love for you all to share any questions, suggestions and experiences in the comments :)
Step 1: Tapioca Pearls, Boba, Taro, Sago. You Name It, Now You Can Make It
The amount of water you cook the pearls in doesn't really matter, you just don't want it to dry up while cooking the balls. The sugar isn't crucial either, this is one of the easily adaptable factors that I will talk more about at the end.
For this instructable I used-
9 tsp tapioca flour
3 tsp BOILING water
3 cups water in a saucepan w/
1 cup brown sugar
Step 2: Making the Pearls
1- Add your water to a saucepan and bring to the boil.
2- Place your tapioca flour in a bowl, I find stainless steel or glass easiest to work with.
3- This is the most important part. Have your measuring implement ready to go. Fill it with the water on the boil and immediately add it to the flour.
4- Quickly mix it together with a spoon until it starts to form a ball. At this stage continue mixing and kneading with your hands until it reaches a play-doh like consistency.
5- Add the brown sugar to the boiling water, stirring until it is dissolved. Set about a quarter of this aside in a separate bowl and allow to cool in the fridge. This will be used for our pearls once cooked.
The reason the water needs to be boiling is because it will not form the right consistency with just hot or cold water. Instead it will turn into a sloppy mess that won't hold it's shape.
Another important thing to remember is that tapioca flour is gluten free, so there is no way you will over work the dough - it is actually quite fun to play with and completely non toxic, so once it is cool feel free to get the kids involved.
Step 3: Roll Roll Roll Your Balls
1- Form your dough into sausages about 5mm thick and cut into batons roughly 8mm long.
2- Roll the batons until they form a pea sized ball.
3- Keep going until you use up all of your mix.
4- Add the balls to the boiling water and sugar. They will sink at first then rise and puff up.
Alternatively you can roll your dough flat and cut it into cubes for a different mouth feel - similar to the jellies you can buy at bubble tea stores.
If your dough starts to feel dry or "crusty" on the outside simply knead it until it feels smooth and slightly sticky to the touch. If the dough feels too sticky to work with sprinkle a little tapioca flour onto your work bench.
Step 4: And Now We Wait
1- Check the pearls at regular intervals, every 5 minutes is good.
2- Continually stir the pearls, especially when cooking in sugar as it will thicken and you will lose water content.
3- Once they are cooked to your preference spoon them into your reserved sugar syrup, place them in the fridge and allow to cool.
My pearls were ready after 15 minutes, they had no resistance when I bit into it and felt sticky and slimy. It is important that they feel slightly over cooked to how you would like them. This is because the pearls will firm up the cooler they get. Generally your pearls will be done when you see air bubbles throughout the whole ball.
The reason we reserved some of the sugar syrup at the start is because the tapioca will make the mixture we cooked in go slimy and it just doesn't work as well. The reserved mixture can also be used to sweeten your tea.
Step 5: Brew Your Tea
Make absolutely any tea you like to whatever specifications you desire, just don't add any milk or creamer.
Step 6: This Is Where the Magic Happens!
1- Pour your cold tea into a large glass.
2- Add desired amount of ice.
3- Spoon in those pearls and as much sugar syrup as you would like. This is also a good time to add in any flavorings - fruit nectars, cordials, syrups etc.
4- Shake your milk or creamer to create a little froth and pour it over your tea.
5- Stick in your oversized straw, stir and marvel at how easy it is to create your own bubble tea for a ridiculous fraction of the price!
Step 7: Tea Is What You Make It
Add in some food colouring to make your bubbles more fun, or perhaps some flavour extracts.
Cook the pearls in coloured or flavoured water.
Let the pearls sit in coloured or flavoured water! It's so simple but can make a world of difference to your end result.
You can make any tea you like, or just eat the pearls on their own!
Add in any additive. Syrups, cordials, extracts, nectars, purees, powders, anything or nothing it's up to you.
Make as little or as many as you want, as long as that ratio is 3:1 and you have boiling water it is almost impossible to go wrong! Make them any shape you want too, just have a straw big or small enough to slurp them up.
I would also like to add that my container of tapioca flour is called "Arrowroot". These are actually two different things, just make sure to check the ingredients - you want to see the words tapioca or cassava root, anything else and you have the wrong ingredient.
I also learnt on my endeavor through the internets that the black pearls they serve you at stores are a gimmick. I could not find anything that distinguished between the pearls I have just taught you to make and the ones used at bubble tea chains. Sources said they are black because they are cooked in brown sugar, but that only turns them slightly brown. I truly believe it is just food colouring that turns them black and I am sure they only do this for the contrast against the white milk in the tea. Try the recipe and see for yourself that they taste the same!