Bubble Tea, or Tapioca Pearl Milk Tea is a Taiwanese drink made with tea + milk + tapioca pearls, or bubbles. Tapioca pearls are chewy balls made of tapioca starch, that are naturally gluten free. Most traditionally, they’re black in colour, but there are also white coloured pearls too. Bubble Tea is usually made with milk powder, or standard dairy milk and sweetened with refined sugars (a lot of it too!). So while it CAN potentially be healthy depending where you order it, and what you add on to your order, making it at home will almost always give you a healthier result. Also, you can make it 100% vegan as well (although, I have to say that more and more bubble tea shops are now offering vegan milk alternatives).
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In addition to being able to control the ingredients, level of sweetness and type of milk used, making it at home is also super cost effective and creates less waste. On average, buying bubble tea can be anywhere from $5-8 in NYC, but you can easily find the ingredients to make multiple servings for the same price. You also cut down significantly on waste as most bubble tea is served in a single use plastic cup, with a plastic seal that you break through with a plastic straw. Making it at home means no single use plastic needed, especially if you invest in a reusable bubble tea straw! Think metal straws, but big enough for bubbles.
P.S. If you want to give zero-waste bubble tea a shot in stores, I always bring a mason jar, and my reusable bubble tea straw with me. Most shops are really accommodating and will fill your own cup up for you. If you’re unsure or nervous about asking, you can always call ahead to ask if they’re willing to fill your cup for you too. They also sell eco friendly cup + straw sets made just for bubble tea!
For the photos, I just used regular reusable drinking straws but you definitely need to get a wider one that bubbles can pass through! I have a silver one myself 🙂
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Making bubble tea at home can sound really intimidating at first, but I promise after you make it the first time, you’ll realize just how easy it is. I recommend browsing Asian specialty grocery stores if you want to find the dry tapioca pearls in stores, or you can browse amazon as well.
By the way, before we get into the recipe, I want to know-do you call it bubble tea or boba? I personally always say bubble tea because growing up in Taiwan, I had only ever heard “bubble tea” or “pearl milk tea/珍珠奶茶(zhēnzhū nǎichá)”. It really wasn’t until friends from the west coast started calling it “boba” that I had ever heard the word used at all. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to call it boba myself, but that’s just me hehe ¯_(ツ)_/¯
Love & bubbles,
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