I get some pretty interesting recipe requests from you, my readers, and although I receive far more than I could ever fulfill, I do like to rise to the occasion. I am especially inclined to answer the call if more than one person asks for the same thing: gluten-free vegan lasagna, healthy cookies, and easy breakfasts are just a few of the cravings I’ve tried to satisfy.
Bubble tea is one of the requests that I’ve received from many of you as of late! Bubble tea (aka Boba tea) has been on the rise in North America since the 80s with another resurgence in the 2000s and is still popular today. Traced to Taiwan, where a strong tea culture and specifically milk tea is consumed, this popular drink has come to be synonymous with many colours, flavours, and ingredients that stray far from the fun, celebratory, treat-like beverage it once was. How can we take what is widely known as a pretty sugar-laden, artificially-coloured-and-flavoured beverage and turn it into something beneficial, light, and refreshing? Closer to the roots of the fun and exciting beverage it once was?
Because I only have access to the aforementioned sugary drink, I have personally passed up sipping on this beverage. Most of the time I do lots of research, sampling my way through the variety of preparations when I go to make my own version of something but this time I couldn’t find any versions suitable to my food preferences. I actually did go to a teashop though, with my best intentions to sample a bevy of bubbles but unfortunately when I walked in and saw all the crazy colours, dubious “juices” and syrups I once again decided to pass. This inspired me even more to make a bubbly beverage complete with the satisfying big straw, one that both celebrates the original but respects my food preferences as well and hopefully is able to quench the thirst of the other people looking to keep their bodies relatively refined-sugar free!
So, all that to say, if I get this totally wrong, I do apologize and I recognize that this is in fact my personal version, inspired by the bubble tea craze I quite like it. After all, isn’t that what we all want in our food and beverages? Something fun, healthy, and delicious to our unique tastes? Sarah B’s bubble tea is not pretending to be anything other than what it is – a bubble tea all its own.
Tapioca Pearls of Wisdom
What makes those starchy, squishy bubbles anyway? It’s tapioca, in fact. Tapioca is the dried starch from the root of the cassava plant, a tuber native to South America. It has a naturally sweet taste, which is why it is so often used in candies and desserts, most familiar of them being tapioca pudding. Tapioca also the amazing ability to absorb and thicken liquid. Being naturally gluten-free, it is has become a popular gelling agent to use in foods, as opposed to fillers containing wheat. You can use tapioca flour / starch / powder in place of arrowroot or cornstarch in most recipes.
Tapioca is a staple food in many countries throughout the world due to its high concentration of carbohydrates, low levels of fat and dietary cholesterol, and its vitamin and mineral balance. Key nutrients in tapioca include calcium to support bone health, magnesium to help control inflammation, phosphorus for protein synthesis, and vitamin A for glowing skin.
You can find tapioca at most health food stores where it is often sold in powder, flaked, or pearled form. For bubble tea, look for large pearls instead of the small ones that are typically used to make tapioca pudding. Make sure that the only ingredient in the pearls is tapioca starch, and organic if possible. Many “novelty” pearls contain food colouring and flavouring agents, and it’s best to avoid those for obvious reasons. Natural pearls are pure white and are almost completely flavourless, except for a hint of sweetness. Being a natural, from the Earth ingredient, tapioca gets a thumbs up from me as something that can absolutely be health-supportive!
To add some pizzazz to this pretty beverage, peaches and plums have just come into season, so I’ve decided to use those as the fruit base for my teas. You can use whatever is available where you are of course, and match the brewed tea flavours accordingly. I chose chamomile to pair up with the peach and green tea to go with the plum. These were really delicious combinations, but are by no means the only options. Rooibos would be tasty with peaches too, and maybe jasmine with plums? I’m just guessing here – get creative! This is where the kitchen creativity takes over and you’re able to leave the fake foods, dyes, and sweeteners behind for something so much more nutritious that your taste buds and body will thank you for!
Peaches and plums have just come into season, so I’ve decided to use those as the fruit base for my teas. You can use whatever is available where you are of course, and match the brewed tea flavours accordingly. I chose chamomile to pair up with the peach and green tea to go with the plum. These were really delicious combinations, but are by no means the only options. Rooibos would be tasty with peaches too, and maybe jasmine with plums? I’m just guessing here – get creative!
Sarah B’s Peach and Plum Bubble Tea
½ cup large pearl tapioca
6 cups water, divided
2 – 3 Tbsp. maple syrup or raw honey (to your taste)
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. dried chamomile flowers (or 2 chamomile tea bags)
1 Tbsp. loose leaf green tea (or 2 green tea bags)
milk of your choice for serving (optional)
1. Bring 3 cups / 750ml water to a roiling boil, add the tapioca pearls and stir. Reduce the heat to simmer and let cook for 25-30 minutes, then turn off the heat and let sit covered, for another 30 minutes until the pearls are translucent (if a few of them have slightly white centers, this is okay, but test one to make sure that it isn’t powdery in the middle).
2. While the pearls are cooking, add 3 cups / 750 ml of cold water to a large glass jar or container. Stir in the liquid sweetener of your choice to dissolve. Once the pearls have cooked, drain them from the cooking liquid, rinse them well, and add them to the jar of cold sweetened water. Let sit in the fridge until ready to use. If the water does not entirely cover the pearls, add just enough water to do so.
3. Brew the tea. Bring enough water for 4 cups of tea to the boil. Let cool slightly and pour over tea bags (I used two different tea pots for the two different flavours). Let steep for at least 10 minutes. Remove tea bags and discard.
4. Peel the peaches and plums. Add peaches and 1 teaspoon lemon juice to a blender and blend on high until totally creamy and smooth. Repeat with plums and remaining lemon juice. Set aside.
5. To serve the tea, place desired amount of tapioca pearls in each glass, fill 3 glasses about half full with chamomile and the others with green tea. Spoon peach purée into the chamomile glasses and plum purée into the green tea glasses. Add a squirt of milk if desired. Stir with a large straw, sweeten to taste and enjoy.
*Note: unused pearls will keep in the fridge in their water bath for a couple of days*
So what else do you want to know about? What other kooky experiments will you have me diving into? Bring ’em on! If you are so inclined to send me an email, type “recipe request” as the subject line and I’ll squirrel it away for a time when I’m a bit stumped for what to make next. And you never know, I may just answer your call.
Hope you are all having a gorgeous summer! Sorry for the radio silence on my end – I’ve been giving the cookbook so much attention, it’s hard to keep the blog up to speed. I promise it will be worth the wait though. Good golly am I excited!!!
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Show me your bubble tea on Instagram: #MNRbubbletea
55 thoughts on “Sarah B’s Bubble Tea”
Thank you for sharing the recipe! I like making bubble tea at home because it’s not too hard to make pearl and the tea. I have never tried this peach and plum flavor so I’ll definitely make it next time ^^
We understand why you walked away once you saw the artificial syrup, juices, etc. That’s why we at Tea and Milk make things differently! Homemade simple syrup, fresh brewed tea and only natural ingredients along with boba and other toppings such as chia seeds (a great replacement if not a tapioca fan)! We want everyone to understand that the commercialized way of bubble tea is not what real bubble tea is about! We are Tea and Milk!
Amazing recipe! Could you share where you found your tapioca pearls? Or what brand they are?
I just made my own tapioca pearls for this…and it was super fun and easy! I looked up a recipe online and it is literally 2 ingredients. I had bought some Bob’s Red Mill tapioca flour and needed to use it up so I decided to give it a whirl. SOO pleased with the homemade, super-soft result. Mix the tapioca flour with water and knead it until you get the consistency of smooth, non-sticky dough. I just kept adding more flour as I kneaded. I rolled out long “snakes” by hand and was having a ball feeling five again with my play dough. I used a knife to cut it into pieces, then rolled these til smooth balls. Drop them into boiling water and cook for about 10 min, turning the heat down when they float. It was a very rewarding experiment!!! I adore everything about your recipes, Sarah – you are a true creative genius! Every season is an inspiration and a gift.
Omg Jess! Can you please tell us how you stored the left over pearls and how they tasted after storing?!?!
I have been unable to find large pearls without junk in them?
Hi, That was a great read about bubble tea. In my experience, as long as you know how to properly make tapioca pearls you shouldn’t have any problems making bubble tea.
Good luck with your further adventures.
I’ve always wanted to try this homemade! Can’t wait to make it myself.
I love bubble tea! I used to have it all the time at Uni as the shop was right by where I lived! They did really lovely combinations and the peach with passion fruit bubbles was my favourite. Brilliant for a summers day (and so soothing with loads of ice after a night partying!)
In Indonesia they make a drink called Tjendol, this has something similar to the tapioca pearls in it (for a recipe example: http://jackiem.com.au/2014/03/18/how-to-make-cendol/ our recipe is different to this one though) when I first drank it (many years ago) I found it the strangest thing I had ever eaten (I ordered it because of the strange colours and look hahaha) now I love it. So I “get” the tapioca pearls. This tea sounds delicious, even without the pearls.
hi sarah, i am just writing to let you know that ella of deliciously ella is pretty much copying some recipes and your whole blog/video style. it’s such a shame that she’s monetising on your hard work. please investigate
I am a big fan of your work, thank you for the time you put in every post.
However I do have a question, trying to make some of the recipes I have used a converter for the measurement. But then I notice that CUP, TBSP and so on is used both in US, UK and Canada. And they are not the same converted to dl, ml and so on. Witch one do you use? I tried to find it in the “about” but could not find it anywhere.
All the best,
I just made this. (Mango coconut flavour!!) I picked up some tapioca pearls at an Asain food store. They are black and contain xanthan gum, guar gum and caramel. I’m going to look for some better quality pearls and try again.
Taiwan, birthplace of the original bubble tea, has already health-ified this drink with many options such as basil seed, chia, bitter melon, etc. May be worth a research visit for those interested!
Fully raw bubble tea = blueberries in (orange juice)! Inspired by fullyrawkristina.
Fully raw bubble tea = blueberries in (orange) juice! Inspired by fullyrawkristina.
I must ask… It is the second time I notice your beautiful ring… By any chance, could you share where you found it ?
Thanks a lot, and above all, thanks for this oh so inspiring blog !
Hi will ur pantry essentials,basics be in the cook book?
Hi will your pantry basics be in the cook book?
Whatsup with the photos?
how AWESOME-tapioca for bubbles, you rock our food-gourmet-world; sending u hot love+hugs from Greece&Sofia….cant wait for your book, tons of good vibes+bon courage and again MERCi b for all these gorgeous recipes!
Confession: I’ve never had bubble tea because all those colors seriously freak me out (I laughed as I read your description of visiting a teashop). BUT I’m absolutely in love with your take on this drink! It looks refreshing and tasty. Now the only challenge will be to find large pearl tapioca here in Finland…
Have a lovely weekend,
I am now officially drooling.
I LOVE bubble tea, but it makes me sad that most bubble tea shops use lots of sugary syrups with so many artificial additives. Thanks so much for the recipe to make at home! Also, I adore your pinky ring in the first image (so cute!) Where is it from?
What a lovely and easy recipe. I will give it a go.Thanks Sarah. Can’t wait to have your book.Keep enjoying your summer.
Love tapioca pearls but have not thought to make bubble tea at home. I could actually get behind this recipe though. And oh boy, I am so excited for your cookbook to come out!
I tried the coloured, sugary bubble tea from the tea shops once and I didn’t like it at all. My body just rejected all the artical flavours and I kept thinking this would be so much better if it were made from fresh, natural ingredients, but I never tried it myself. Thank you so much for the recipe Sarah, I’m going to try bubble tea again and I am sure I will enjoy it much more this time!
As for a recipe request, I would love to see a healthier croissant, but maybe that is just not possible 😉
Hi Sarah! So excited for the cookbook!! When will it be released? Will it have all new recipes or will it have a couple of your most popular recipes on the blog as well? Cant wait!! 🙂
This looks fantastic!
I was wondering, do you discard the water that the tapioca pearls are cooked in before adding them to the sweetened fresh water, or do you just add them with the cooking water?
Hi! Yes, drain the pearls from the cooking water and add them to the fresh sweetened water. I’ll add that to the directions. Thanks!
I don’t actually like Bubble Tea at all, but your version is just so cute I might even give it a go.
Love this recipe as its’ not overly sweet! I love the colour too!
I’ve never tried bubble tea so yours will be my first introduction 🙂
Yes, when is your cookbook coming out? Can’t wait!
Yay!! This year I’ve been craving all things..uh, gooey/slimy. Which includes bubble tea. But always drinking bubble tea from the chinese tea shops here in Montreal makes me worried about where their boba comes from.
I’m having difficulties finding a brand of large white tapioca pearls, all I can find are the small ones. Mind telling me what brand you bought? I’m trying to figure out a way to buy from Frontiercoop as they have organic medium tapioca pearls, but they’re all sold out on their site! 🙁
Thanks for the recipe!
Do you know how long do the pearls last for in the fridge? This looks delicious! Bubble tea is my daughters favourite treat, so I’ll definitely be trying this out at home!
A couple days…longer if they are sweetened more, in fact.
That looks so good! Thanks for sharing Sarah x
This looks absolutely amazing Sarah! Living in Toronto, Bubble Tea was everywhere and it was amazing – finally a healthy recipe I can make myself here back in the UK!
This sounds so wonderful! I absolutely love chamomile and can’t wait to try it like this.
Sarah, you’ve done it again! Stunning, lady. All the best with your cookbook!! Super exciting xx
This looks very refreshing! I love bubble tea but it usually too rich and sweet for me. I really like the teapot you have in your photos, where is it from?
Tea teapot is an antique jug, and the pattern is an old English one called Blue Willow. You can find it at most antique shops and all over online 🙂
When will your cookbook be coming out? I can’t wait to get one!
In Vancouver, we have bubble tea shop in every corner though I never tried one. They look little intimidating to me with their funky colors! Thanks for your easy and healthy recipe – can’t wait to try!
When I visited my friends in Chicago, they took me to an authentic Asian noodle house. When we walked in, it was shoulder to shoulder at the tables! You could barely walk between the rows. The entire back wall was shelving filled with fresh fruits!!! It was more amazing than the best produce section!!! When we sat down, my friends gave me this huge menu filled with hundereds (literally) of different “bubble teas”. I had never heard of this, so they explained. The bubble tea there was like a fruit smoothie with tapioca pearls in it!!! You could choose your fruits, juices, & types of pearls. I had watermelon with the plain white pearls. When it came, it was pureed frozen watermelon with the pearls. It was the most divine thing I’ve tasted!!!
What a great idea! I’m hosting a garden party this weekend, and think I may just add this to the menu. Thanks, Sarah!
This looks so yummy! I use to love bubble tea and would buy it all the time when I use to eat dairy and haven’t enjoyed it in years because of no longer eating that. I never thought to make it myself. I’m so excited to get to enjoy this again. Thank you Sarah!