Updated: May 9
How many times do you drink bubble tea in a month? According to GrabFood, Southeast Asians drink 4 cups of bubble tea per person per month. In the United States, it varies, however, it's mostly popular with university students who on average drink 3 cups a month. WOW!
In my case once or twice a month would be more accurate. The last time I got one, I paid $7. Yes, more expensive than my cup of coffee but it’s so good, I can't resist.
This brings me to the question, if it can be expensive, then have you ever thought of making them from scratch? Tell me what is on your mind, is it...
A) “Oooooh! I'd love to!”
B) “Eh! That’s too much work!”
Well if you answer “B”, you are probably right! but from my experience, it is so easy to make and a lot more delicious too! Anything homemade is yummy. I’d say cleaning is more of a challenge than the actual recipe, which is true when you are cooking at home in any type of recipe.
But if you are up for the challenge and answered “A”, lucky you, we are sharing our homemade tapioca pearls recipe!
But first, what are tapioca pearls?
Did you recognize this root vegetable? It’s called CASSAVA! Also known as Yuca in South America. This is what your pearls are made out of. They turn this into a starch known as Tapioca Starch which can be used in a lot of desserts like my favorite, cassava cake from the Philippines.
But for some reason, in other parts of Asia, it’s more commonly used in making tapioca pearls. Learn more about the History of Bubble Tea here.
Fresh tapioca pearls are made out of simple ingredients, tapioca starch, brown sugar, and water. They were made fresh for the most part in the past but because of high demand, they started making them pre-made using machines and turned it into the perfect tapioca balls. These are mostly used for bubble tea although for some desserts like pudding, add these pearls too!
Now, we know that the bubble tea craze is real but would you believe it if I tell you that the market size of bubble tea was valued at $2.4 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $4.3 billion by the end of 2027? WOW! Well, at least from my observation in downtown, New York City, I can say there is literally a boba shop every 2 blocks. What's crazy about it is there is a bubble tea flavor in every season so it's in demand all year.
Here is a quick recipe that we’d like to share from our in-person bubble tea-making class event where we made homemade tapioca pearls! Simple ingredients and patience can turn into something really good.
First, let’s start making brown sugar syrup. You can use this recipe to make thick brown sugar.
What you need:
1 cup of warm water
2 cups of brown sugar
1 tsp of molasses, optional
In medium heat, simmer for 20 minutes until it thickens.
Stir occasionally to avoid sticking to the pan
It’s best to use a non-stick pan
You are probably wondering why to add molasses. For me, it gives that burnt taste which is a good balance when you are drinking something sweet. But if you don’t have it, you can also skip it.
Tapioca pearls are typically black, but that is because they use food coloring. You can use this recipe and add any food coloring like this one in orange. I’ve seen people make tapioca pearls in different shapes, some are even rainbow colors.
Homemade Tapioca Pearls
What you need:
⅓ cup water
¼ cup dark brown sugar
1 cup of tapioca starch
In a pot, medium heat, add water and sugar until it boils
Add ½ cup of tapioca starch
Mix until sticky and dough looking
Remove from heat
Add another quarter of a cup and mix
Sprinkle about an ⅛ of a cup and mix well
Remove tapioca dough from the pan and knead (might be a bit hot!)
Make a log and roll into small pieces tossing it to the remaining starch if it’s sticking to your hand
This recipe can make 300 pearls (insert patience when rolling it!)
TIPS FROM THE EXPERT
Before cooking the pearls, let them rest in the fridge for 10 minutes. Make sure you wrap the dough with plastic wrap as it gets dry quickly!
You can also freeze the dough if you like to roll it next time. Remember, store it air-tight to avoid drying.
It doesn’t have to be the perfect ball! You can make it even into different shapes, perhaps a heart or square?
Here is a quick comparison of premade and fresh tapioca pearls, see the difference. The lighter tapioca balls are freshly made!
It’s no secret that premade pearls are made out of a lot of preservatives, ESPECIALLY the ones that are quick cook, 5-minute tapioca pearls. I recommend avoiding this but instead opt-in for something that requires longer cooking time. This translates to fewer preservatives, or just make fresh homemade tapioca pearls with this recipe that we just shared above.
If you really feel making it homemade is not for you, and the process is time-consuming, get your pre-made tapioca pearls here.
Now it’s time to make the tapioca pearls that you worked hard to make! Remember, you do not have to make all of them. You can keep the rest in the freezer, make sure it’s airtight. This recipe can be good for 3-4 milk tea servings.
Cooking Homemade Tapioca Pearls
Boil 8-10 cups of water in a deep pot
Once it’s boiling add pearls and stir for 15 seconds
Turn the heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes, uncovered
Try the pearls after 20 minutes and check if you like the texture
If you like it softer, turn off the heat and let it steep for another 5 minutes or until you reach desired texture.
Strain the water and let it run in cold water for 2 minutes
Transfer to the bowl and add brown sugar syrup
TIPS FROM THE EXPERTS:
If it turns out to be sticky, run it more with cold water. This is normal as it is made out of starch. Add more brown sugar if desired.
STORAGE: Do not store cooked tapioca pearls in the fridge. Imagine gummy worms stored in the fridge, it will be really hard. But instead, store in the freezer in an airtight container, and for next use, boil for 2 minutes.
It’s that easy! It’s completely normal for it to be clear and lighter in color if you don’t use any food coloring. It will also not look like the perfect round shape, it’s homemade and not made in a factory. It will be hard to compete with machines making thousands of pearls per minute (wink*)
Going back to bubble tea, while there are a lot of recipes online, we recommend checking our DIY bubble tea kit from Food Craft. It’s easy to make with step-by-step instructions. The biggest plus is that you get to have variety. We all know that shopping online means you have to get all types of ingredients in bulk, yes big bags and not sure about you but I personally don’t have a lot of storage space. Also, I like how I can try the taste and product first before going all in. That happened to me when I tried this blueberry coffee which for some reason, I did not like and ended up wasting it, YIKES! Well, I gave it to someone else’.
Here’s a review from one of our avid fans!
“I used to drive an hour and a half to get bubble tea.....not anymore! I’m so glad I found this kit. Shipping was fast, the packaging was great, directions were very clear, and more importantly, the tea was amazing! It tasted exactly like I was expecting and hoping for. The brown sugar syrup is so yummy and goes perfectly with the earl grey tea flavor. I would definitely recommend any bubble tea lover try this out! I’ll be trying out some of the other kits very soon.”
You can also just get your high-quality syrups and bubble tea powders on our website if you would like to be selective on what to get. My favorite is the passion fruit syrup which I use for fruit teas and passion fruit-inspired cocktails on the weekend!
The matcha powder is really good too. I like to make my matcha latte with tapioca pearls and yes, brown sugar. Without a doubt, this is the perfect gift for kids, family, and friends. They either love boba or they never had it so they will find this activity interesting enough. I find that people think it’s hard to make milk tea although the key is really just about having the right ingredients and the rest is shaking and mixing.
July 25th is PARENT'S DAY!
By the way, did you know that on July 25th, we are celebrating PARENTS' DAY? No kidding, see here. It’s my first time hearing it too. Perhaps this could be a good opportunity to share an activity with your mom, dad, or parent figure!
Keep in mind that Food Craft ships free across the United States and you are welcome to add your request for a handwritten note that your mom, dad, or any parent figure would appreciate surely! Who doesn’t love to receive surprises and packages?
We made this potted milk tea in our Bubble Tea Class which is a popular event for a birthday, team, and community building. It was a hit and definitely eye-catching. The toppings we used were Oreo crumbs and tapioca pearls. If you are wondering if you should mix the herbs with the boba, the answer is NO. It’s just for a presentation!
If you want classic bubble tea, like the Taro, a crowd favorite, we also have that. If you are wondering what Taro is, it’s a root vegetable as well. Yes, we eat vegetables when we drink boba! It has a vanilla taste with a nutty flavor for some. Purple and sweet, definitely not ube which a lot of people get confused with. Please do not tell this to your child or else they will find every reason to drink boba daily and while part of what we do is to educate people about bubble tea, we don’t recommend drinking it daily!
Now, if you want to take your love for bubble tea to the next level, gather some friends, family, and colleagues and organize a bubble tea party, virtually with kits delivered. This is such a great virtual activity because you can bring everyone together considering that work from home is big or everyone is far from each other. I remember hosting this for a birthday party where some are in New York City, Los Angeles, and Miami. I thought it was so cool how you can bring people together in such a unique way. Perhaps, even if you live within the same city, you are still practicing socially distanced events. Since the pandemic, we have hosted over 200 boba parties and I am confident that this will bring your group joy that you never thought you needed.
Questions about the recipe? Comment down below.
Happy Boba Making and don’t forget to tag us with your creation on our Instagram!
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