Chinese Bubble tea is one of those things that was a distinct part of my childhood. I remember the very first time I had a strawberry smoothie with chewy “bubbles,” or tapioca pearls and that awesome fat straw (my tiny little kid brain could barely handle the awesomeness of having a straw triple the size of what I got on my Capri Sun pouch. I would actually steal extra ones and horde them in our kitchen…Don’t judge me.).
Eventually it got to a point where I was constantly on the prowl for bubble tea.
Going to have lunch with the grandparents in Flushing? I was scanning for bubble tea.
Having lunch in Chinatown with cousins? Who wants bubble tea?!!
Spending an afternoon in the city with my mom? How far is Chinatown anyways? Because…you know…we could grab some bubble tea.
Of course, bubble tea has had a bit of an explosion in popularity, so it’s not as hard to find as it was when I was 10 years old, but it is harder to find the high quality stuff that’s not entirely made of some mystery powder sluice juice and cloyingly sweetened with artificial sugars. Plus, my discovery a few years back that you could actually BUY the black tapioca pearls at Asian grocery store makes this recipe a must for any ardent bubble tea lover.
Over the years I’ve cycled through preferences for different flavors-strawberry smoothies, taro, and citrusy green tea, and while I do enjoy those, nothing quite compares with the original black milk tea-strong black tea and a hit of creamy milk, slightly sweetened to perfection.
Bubble Tea: Recipe Instructions
First, boil your water. After it reaches a rolling boil, turn off the heat and let sit for 10 minutes or so. Apparently, Chinese tea gurus say that intensely hot boiled water zaps all the nutrients out of the tea leaves, ergo the short cooling process prior to brewing the tea. (As with most things related to Chinese cooking that my mother says that other people say, I can’t really confirm whether or not this is actually true, but better safe than sorry…)
Put the tea in your favorite kettle (or a large mixing bowl), making sure that it’s either in a tea bag (you can actually buy these disposable tea filter bags and fill them with your own selection of teas!) or a few metal tea infusers. (If you haven’t got any of this equipment, you can also just strain the tea prior to adding the half and half.) Add the hot water and let steep for 15 minutes.
Now you’re ready to add the sugar. Mix the tea and sugar thoroughly until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Then add the half and half. For anyone who’s squeamish about higher fat dairy, it’s really not a lot per serving, as this serves four. If you want to sub in regular milk, go right ahead, but the flavor of the finished product is truly authentic with the half and half!
Put the tea in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour. This is preferred over adding ice, so that the tea doesn’t get diluted. Also, more authentic! When your tea is close to the optimal temperature, break out your black tapioca pearls aka Bubbles aka “Boba”s.
Preparing the bubbles entails boiling them in water; you can follow the package instructions, or you can check out our post on how to cook tapioca pearls. Spoon out 1/4 cup of bubbles per glass and pour the finished tea for a delightfully sweet and refreshing drink!