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The First Time: Making bubble tea

My favourite drink is bubble tea, so I decided to tackle the challenge at home.

I am not an expert on all the different variations of bubble tea, but bubble tea is one of my favourite drinks. I am often a regular at places like Teapsy Lab and Dream Tea House. Because I love bubble tea so much, I decided to try making bubble tea on my own for the first time.

I wanted to make two of my favourite bubble tea toppings — jelly and pudding. To make them I mixed some hot water with strawberry jello mix and egg yolk pudding mix and then put both in the fridge so that they could set.

I also boiled some black tea and then placed it in the fridge with ice to cool it down so that I could make the classic milk tea later on.

With the jello, pudding, and tea cooling in the fridge I got down to making the “bubbles” of bubble tea. It’s possible to make boba from scratch, but to save time I decided to simply buy dried tapioca pearls from H-Mart and boil them in hot water as per the instructions.

However, while boiling them my tapioca pearls started to dissolve and the whole pot became a steaming slurry of melted and sludgy tapioca pearls. The mistake I made was adding the tapioca pearls to cold water, rather than adding them to water that was already boiling. I should have followed the instructions on the tapioca pearl package more thoroughly. 

With the boba out of the equation I would just have to settle for the pudding and jelly toppings. But I was devastated, wondering if bubble tea could even be bubble tea sans the bubbles.

A couple hours passed and the jello and pudding were finally set so I took them out of the fridge. I added chunks of each to the bottom of some glasses. The black tea had cooled too so I took it out as well.

First, I poured some black tea into a glass with some pudding at the bottom. Then I added some lemon juice, sugar and a lemon slice to make a sort of iced tea.

I added condensed milk to the remaining black tea and stirred it before pouring it into glasses. One glass had pudding at the bottom and the other glass had some of the tapioca pearl soup at the bottom. I garnished both with whipped cream. They both looked quite pretty, but I couldn’t deny the disappointment in my heart at the lack of boba.

I also wanted some fruit-flavoured boba tea. To make it I blended sugar, strawberry syrup, fruit punch, and frozen berries. Next, I poured the blended mixture into a glass with strawberry jelly at the bottom adding some whipped cream and strawberry syrup for garnish. It was a little too slushy looking for my liking, but overall I was not displeased.

The drinks were not quite bubble tea, because there were no bubbles. But, I concluded that they weren’t that bad for a beginner’s attempt.

I sipped my first drink, with the milk tea and the soupy tapioca goo. The black tea sweetened with the condensed milk didn’t quite taste like the milk tea boba I could buy at some of my favourite bubble tea places, but I didn’t think it was terrible. However slurping up the tapioca sludge was a poor man’s imitation of slurping up boba pearls. 

The milk tea with pudding tasted a lot better and I could pretend the pudding at the bottom was tapioca pearls. Next time instead of using condensed milk, I could try using regular milk and sugar instead.

Next was the iced black tea drink with pudding. It tasted pretty good, and the pudding at the bottom made me feel like I was drinking authentic boba with pudding. The lemon juice gave the whole drink a refreshing vibe.

The fruit boba drink was also really delicious and the strawberry jelly at the bottom of the glass gave it a nice texture when some of it was slurped up the straw. However, I like my bubble teas not so slushy so I think next time I will add more liquid and less frozen fruit.

Admittedly, I don’t think my first time making bubble tea went perfectly. I failed miserably on making the pearls and I couldn’t quite master the taste of the milk tea. But it was still fun to try it out and trying to make bubble tea on my own gives me an even deeper appreciation for it.

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