One of the most frequent questions we get (verbatim) is “can you make bubble AKA Boba tea with Chanui - New Zealand’s favourite tea?”.
And the answer is yes. Of course you can. In fact you can make boba out of pretty much any tea or indeed without tea. Plenty of viral TikTok boba drinks don’t have any tea in them. Just some banana flavoured syrup or similar. Can you tell how we feel about that?
In this blog, we’ll guide you through this oddly incredibly popular drink the best we can.
Bubble tea primarily consists of a tea base – usually black, green, or oolong – mixed with fruit or milk, and sweetened with syrup or honey. The pièce de résistance, however, are the chewy, marble-sized balls of tapioca that sit at the bottom of the cup. These "bubbles," or "boba," as they're known in Taiwan, lend the beverage its distinct texture and charm.
It's a tapioca world
The boba pearls are made from tapioca starch, extracted from the root of the cassava plant which was introduced during - you guessed it - colonial rule! The Japanese took the plant from South America at the turn of the 20th century.
Tapioca pearls are dense, chewy, and often sweetened with brown sugar and is what makes it ‘bubble tea’ as opposed to ‘extremely sweet, slightly caffeinated dessert tea’. Coming soon! They kind of dance at the bottom of the pot and act as an added bonus when you get to the bottom.
It’s fair to say boba tea exists ‘for the gram’ as much as anything else. It’s essentially a joyful cartoon in a cup and a big part of its popularity is how ‘instagrammable’ it is.
As such, there are millions of flavour combinations out there. Some of our favourites include black sugar, sweet potato noodles and cheese.
There is an infinite number of variations waiting to be shared.
Is bubble tea healthy?
No, not really. While we will be the first to shout about the potential health benefits of the tea that is often used in boba tea, we don’t feel the same way about excessive amounts of sugar.
It would be similar to claiming to drink red wine for the reported health benefits but drink a box of it a night. With added condensed milk and sugar.
It’s a treat! Probably best not to replace your cup of earl grey in the mornings with a 500 calorie drink.
Just remember the haiku from Taiwanese physician Dr. Wu Lien-teh,
How do you make boba tea?
We’re pretty early into our boba odyssey so we’ll keep it simple. The following is what we found to be tasty with our range of black tea. We did look into making our own tapioca pearls but it felt a bit much for a first attempt.
- 50 grams dried tapioca pearls. You can find these at most Korean or Chinese supermarkets or online. But go to your local supermarket.
- 1-2 tea chanui teabags or 1-2 teaspoons of black leaf tea.
- 250 ml water for the tea
- 200 grams of sugar. Or substitute with honey, agave syrup or maple syrup.
- 120 ml full-fat milk or a non-dairy substitute
- Prepare the boba pearls: Boil the pearls in water until they float to the top, then let them cook for about 5-10 minutes until they're chewy but not too soft. Just keep sneaking a taste as they go through. When you like the texture, drain them and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
- Make a syrup: While the boba pearls are cooking, you can make a simple syrup to sweeten your tea. Combine 200 grams of sugar with 200 ml of water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer until the sugar is fully dissolved. You can then remove it from the heat and let it cool. For extra points, make it double strength then cool it down with 100 g of ice to speed up cooling. Or skip this entirely and use honey instead.
- Brew the tea: Steep your tea in 250 ml of boiling, filtered water for a good five mins. You'll want the tea to be stronger than usual since you'll be adding milk and ice. We found extra strong and Irish breakfast to be the best options.
- Strain the tea and let it come to room temp. Again, try the ice tip if you’re impatient like us.
- Mix the boba pearls with some simple syrup: Once the boba pearls are cooked and drained, mix them with a few tablespoons of your simple syrup. This will give them some sweet flavour.
- Assemble your boba tea: To put everything together, start by adding your sweetened boba pearls to the bottom of a glass. Then, pour in your brewed tea, and add the milk. Stir everything together, sweetening to taste with your simple syrup.
- Serve: Add ice to the glass and serve your boba tea with a wide straw (so you can suck up the boba pearls as you drink).
Notes: Get experimental with your teas and flavourings. One of the best opportunities to add ingredients is to the syrup. Sugar and fat help carry lots of other flavours and if it turns out to be gross, you just need to make more syrup rather than dashing everything away.
We hope you enjoyed reading this half as much as we did writing and researching it.