This recipe has been in the works for several weeks. Several sticky, tapioca flour everywhere, filled weeks. After a few mishaps, messes and tapioca all over our kitchens, all over us and all over the dogs (yes that happened!), it is here to share with the world. Maybe not the whole world because not that many people read our posts, but they should, obviously. Tell your friends! Share the good times that happen here and over at A Nourished Appetite. If anything the whole world can laugh with us….or at us. I feel like you all may be laughing at us, but we can take it. We are both brilliant in the kitchen and both have an amazing sense of humor so, you’re welcome.
The inspiration for this recipe came from the amazing boba filled weekend we had in Portland a few months back. You can read and enjoy our eating and drinking tales here and here. We spent a fair share of our time in Portland sipping on Boba tea, or bubble tea as most of the people we mingled with insisted we call it. We tried it hot and cold on a daily basis just to make sure we really loved it as much as we thought. Through our thorough investigation we were able to determine that both of us did indeed LOVE boba, or whatever you call it! Boba, bubble tea, tapioca pearls, call it what you will, but we call it delicious! We knew we had to come home and make our own version that wasn’t loaded with sugars, dyes and weird additives that no one can pronounce.
The “traditional” Thai tea that can be ordered at your favorite Thai restaurant is bright and vibrant, full of black, soft, chewy balls of boba and oh so very sweet. In case you were wondering that bright, vibrant orange color comes from a lovely little chemical concoction known as FD & C Yellow # 6, a petroleum based orange dye. While it does make the beverage appealing to the eyes, it does nothing for the flavor which basically renders it useless in our book! The oh so very sweet flavor comes from granulated sugar or condensed milk, or both! Most of the time the sweetness is just too much for our taste. While Thai tea is considered a dessert drink, we think avoiding potential cavities is always your best option.
The black, soft chewy balls of boba or tapioca pearls are created using tapioca flour and water. You may be thinking, “why are they black? Tapioca flour is white and water is, well clear.” We asked the exact same thing! Our recipe followed the traditional water and tapioca flour approach, our pearls came out clear when boiled, but still soft and chewy. After a bit of research we learned that some people boil their pearls in water and brown sugar to obtain a darker color. We tried this, using less sugar than was recommended and can tell you that it does not result in black boba, but more of a slightly less clear version.
Through our continued research we learned that most boba sold has a “caramel coloring” added. Caramel coloring is created by heating a carbohydrate, typically a combination of glucose and fructose, in the presence of an acid. This coloring is then added to sodas, sauces, chips, frozen meats, your boba and a plethora of other processed foods…..GROSS!
For visual purposes we opted to boil our boba with our discarded tea bags to get a darker color while again avoiding any additional sugars, questionable chemicals or crafty chemical reactions. This is an optional approach. It is not necessary nor does it have much of an impact on flavor or texture. The boba may taste a bit more like tea, but you are drinking it with tea so the added flavor is essentially unnoticeable.
The most fun part about this recipe is making your boba balls. And by fun we mean tedious. And by tedious we mean totally worth it because this drink is knock-your-socks-off amazing, if we do say so ourselves! Another good thing about this recipe, the dough feels like play-dough, so feel free to get your kids involved in the process. Or your inner child, get them involved too. It the dough is too sticky, add a little more tapioca flour. If it will not come together, add a little more water. Easy peasy right? Sprinkle some tapioca flour on your surface to prevent sticking. Take your ball of dough and using your hands, roll it into a thin log. Pinch off a piece, roll it in your palm, forming a small ball shape and repeat. If you have super fun glass boba straws like these (insert amazon links), make sure your boba balls are small enough to fit inside your straw because they will grow in size as they cook.
This recipe was created to share with your favorite BFF, best food friend. But you can double, triple, quadruple the recipe and share with as many foodie friends and family as your little heart desires!
- For the tea:
- 2 cups filtered water
- 3-4 organic black tea bags
- 2 Tbs maple syrup
- Pinch of anise seeds
- 1 cardamom pod, crushed
- ¼ vanilla bean, split open
- For the boba (makes about ½ cup total):
- 5 ¼ cups water, ¼ cup used for boba dough
- ½ cup tapioca flour
- To make the Thai Tea:
- 2 fancy hurricane glasses
- 2 glass boba straws
- ¼ cup boba per glass
- Chilled tea (about 1 cup per glass)
- 2-4 tbs coconut milk or organic half and half
- For the tea: Boil water and add tea bags, sugar and spices. Stir to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and set aside to cool while it steeps. Allow to steep for at least 30 minutes but up to 2 hours. Once steeped, remove the tea bags and strain out spices. Chill tea.
- For the boba: Bring 5¼ cups water to a boil. In a mixing bowl, add ¼ cup boiling water to tapioca flour and mix until it comes together into a play dough-like dough. Dust surface with tapioca flour to prevent sticking. Roll dough into a thing log. Pinch off a piece, about a ¼ inch, and roll into ball shape. Set aside until all dough is rolled into small pea sized balls. Using slotted spoon, place all boba balls in boiling water. Boil for 15 minutes with discarded tea bags (optional), watching water level, adding more if necessary.
- Put it all together: Fill two glasses with boba (about ¼ cup each) and add ice. Top with chilled tea (about 1 cup each). Add 1-2 Tbsp coconut milk or half and half to each glass depending on flavor preferences. Drink with fancy glass boba straw.
- NOTE: including steep time, the total time for this recipe could be up to 2 hours. The longer the tea and spices steep, the stronger the flavor.
Are you a boba/bubble tea/whatever the heck you want to call it fan?
In vibrant health,