What are the Bubbles in Bubble Tea Made From? (How to Make Them at Home)

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Bubble tea is a delicious and refreshing beverage that consists of tea, milk, and tapioca pearls.

But what are the bubbles in bubble tea made from?

Bubbles in bubble tea explained
Bubbles in bubble tea

In this article, we will explore what they are and how you can make them at home.

Tapioca Pearls

Tapioca pearls are made from tapioca starch, which is a product extracted from the cassava root.

Cassava is a starchy, tuberous root that is native to South America and widely cultivated in tropical regions around the world.

Once the starch is extracted from the root, it is formed into small balls and cooked until chewy and translucent.

Delicious Tapioca pearls
Tapioca pearls

On their own, they don’t have much of a taste. However, when they are cooked in syrup or added to sweetened tea, they become a delicious treat.

If not for flavor, why are tapioca pearls added to tea?

It’s about the chewy texture while you’re enjoying a drink.

It adds a whimsical element to the drink, making it much different than your average cup of tea.

How to Use Tapioca Pearls

Tapioca pearls are most commonly used in bubble tea, but they can also be used in other sweet or savory dishes.

Bubble tea is a Taiwanese tea-based drink that typically includes milk, sugar, and fruit syrup or flavors.

Use tapioca pearls
Using tapioca pearls

The tapioca pearls are cooked in sugar water and added to the bottom of the cup before the tea is poured over them.

Bubble tea can be enjoyed with a wide variety of flavors, including matcha, mango, strawberry, and more!

Where to Buy Tapioca Pearls

If you’re wondering where to buy tapioca pearls, they can be found in most Asian markets or online.

When purchasing tapioca pearls, look for those that are uniform in size and shape.

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Avoid any pearls that are misshapen or have an off-color, as these may be indicative of poor quality.

How to Make Tapioca Pearls At Home

While you can certainly purchase tapioca pearls from your local Asian market or online, it’s actually very easy to make them at home.

All you need is tapioca starch, water, and a little bit of patience.

For a better-tasting bubble, this recipe uses brown sugar to give the pearls a rich, sweet flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 100g tapioca starch
  • 50g brown sugar
  • 80ml water

This recipe is made in two different stages:

  • the first is to make the tapioca pearls
  • the second is to cook them

You can make the pearls ahead of time, like on a weekend when you have spare time, and then cook them right before you want the drink.

Tips for making tapioca pearls
Make tapioca pearls

The tapioca pearls should be used within a week of being made, but cooked tapioca pearls are only good for a few hours.

  1. Begin by adding 60ml of water and 30g of brown sugar to a pot and bringing it to a boil.
  1. Once it is bubbling, you remove it from heat and mix in the tapioca starch in increments. You’ll need to do this quickly so a dough forms.
  1. Allow the dough to cool slightly and then roll the dough onto a flour-covered surface until it is about half an inch thick. Then cut the dough into 0.5-inch strips, and finish by cutting those strips into 0.5-inch squares.
  1. Take each piece and roll it in your hand until it becomes a ball and then roll it in some tapioca flour. This will prevent the tapioca pearls from sticking together when they are stored.

Cooking the tapioca pearls:

  1. To cook the tapioca pearls, cook them in a pot of boiling water for 6-8 minutes and then reduce the temperature to low and cook for another 10 minutes. Once the tapioca pearls begin to float, remove them from the pot and add them instantly to an ice bath.
  1. In a separate pot, boil 20 ml of water and 20g of brown sugar until it forms a syrup. Add the cooled tapioca to this pot and allow them to sit in the hot liquid for 10 more minutes. Serve right away for hot drinks, or let sit for 15 minutes before making a cold drink.

Popping Bubbles

If you’re not familiar with popping boba, it’s fruit-flavored balls of jelly that “pop” in your mouth when you eat them.

They’re often used in bubble tea, but they can also be used as a topping for ice cream.

They come in a variety of fruity flavors including mango, strawberry, green apple, and Lychee.

How to Make Popping Boba

Unlike regular tapioca pearls, popping boba is much more difficult to make.

It uses a process called molecular gastronomy, which is the science of cooking.

Bubble Tea Flavors
Different Bubble Tea Flavors

This method uses chemistry to create unique dishes that push the boundaries of what traditional food should look like.

If you’re ready to take on this science experiment, you will need:

  • 150g fruit juice (your choice)
  • 5  sodium alginate
  • 50  water
  • 6  calcium lactate
  • 1L distilled water
  • food coloring (optional)

You will also need a dropper, syringe, or caviar maker to make the shape of the balls, a slotted spoon or strainer, and a heatproof bowl.

  1. Start by dissolving the calcium lactate in distilled water and let it rest overnight. In the morning (or when you remember), strain to remove the water and put the calcium lactate in a bowl.
  1. In a separate bowl combine 50g of water with the 5g of sodium alginate until it is thick and smooth. Then mix in the fruit juice and the food coloring to make your boba taste and look good.
  1. Put the bowl with the juice mixture in the fridge for two hours. With two minutes left of your wait, take out a strainer, your syringe or dropper, and the bowl of calcium lactate.
  1. This will be the fun part. Using the dropper or syringe grab some of the juice mixtures and drop by drop add it to the bowl with calcium lactate. Let these fruit balls sit in the calcium lactate solution for 10 minutes. Add the pearls to the strainer and rinse well.

Final Thoughts

Those squishy, chewy bubbles in bubble tea are made from tapioca starch.

There’s also a new kind of bubble that is taking the world by storm and bubble tea shops across the globe are starting to offer them.

Popping boba is made with sodium alginate and calcium lactate and they burst in your mouth with a fruity explosion.

If you love bubble tea and want to try something new, be sure to ask for popping boba the next time you go out for a drink.

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