By Rick Garner
Finally, there’s a drink that’s fun to…eat? Move over trendy coffee drinks, there’s a new drink craze in town!
“Bubble tea,” which has its roots in Asia, has become the newest hot weather go-to beverage for young adults in cities all over the West Coast and Midwest, and is now coming to the East Coast just in time for summer.
Bubble Tea is the umbrella term for a whole slew of interesting variations on the name: tapioca pearl drink tea, tapioca ball tea, pearl tea, black pearl tea, big pearl, boba tea, boba ice tea, boba nai cha, milk tea, bubble drink, zhen zhu nai cha, momi milk tea, QQ, BBT, PT, and more.
The non-alcoholic, non-carbonated drink, “not your grandmother’s tea” for sure, is hard to explain to the uninitiated. It’s sweet, but not as sweet as soda. It comes in a huge variety of flavors depending on where you are and can be pink, green, or yellow. The drink is usually a mix of tea, milk, sugar, and giant black tapioca balls or “pearls.” The “bubble” in its name refers to the foam that’s created by shaking (yes, Bond would approve, the drink must always be shaken and not stirred) freshly brewed tea with ice.
So what are those magic balls, exactly? About the size of pearls or small marbles, tapioca balls have a consistency that’s soft and chewy like gummy candy. Since they’re heavier than the liquid ingredients, they stay at the bottom of the glass ~ and require that the drink be served with an extra-wide straw for sucking them up. Bubble tea is great for those of us who like to play with our food, since you can suck the pearls up one by one, make little pearl tornadoes in your glass, or store ~ squirrel style, and only in terribly forgiving company ~ lots of the pearls in your cheeks while sipping on the liquid.
Classic Bubble Tea Recipe
1/2 cup chilled, cooked large Chinese tapioca pearls from your local Asian market (if substituting regular small tapioca, use 1/3 cup)
1 cup crushed ice
1 cup very strong chilled black tea (or orange pekoe tea or Lichee tea)
1 cup milk, or to taste
Honey or sugar to taste
Place the pearls in a large parfait glass. Combine all remaining ingredients in a cocktail shaker, and shake vigorously until the mixture is frothy. Pour into the glass, and serve with extra-thick straws. The recipe yields one 16-ounce drink. YUM!