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!!!
* * * * * *
Show me your bubble tea on Instagram: #MNRbubbletea