The Mystery Behind Tasty Tapioca Pearls
They’re arguably one of the best and most unique characteristics of bubble tea, but what exactly are tapioca pearls, and what makes them so delicious?
While tapioca pearls, also known as boba pearls, are now a globally popular key ingredient in many Asian bubble tea variations, they can also be found in smaller sizes in foods and drink, such as tapioca pudding, as well.
That said, while we’re all delighted to sit and enjoy these flavourful, fun, chewy pearls, not many people actually know what boba pearls are, what they’re made of or where they come from originally.
But don’t worry! Today, we’re here to outline the magic behind the mystery as to what tapioca pearls are, their unique story and why they’re such a crucial ingredient in our Baroness bubble tea and our story!
Sip, sip, hooray!
What Are Tapioca Pearls?
To understand the story behind tapioca pearls, we’ll need to go back to its roots – literally.
Firstly, we’ll start off by clarifying that these pearls go by multiple names, including boba pearls and tapioca balls.
Tapioca pearls are made using cassava root, which is also referred to as yuca in some parts of the world. Cassava is a nutty-flavoured, starchy root vegetable that is used in many different foods and dishes globally.
It is grown, cultivated and consumed primarily in tropical regions. This process began in Latin America in the late 18th century and eventually made its way from the South American continent to other parts of the world, including Africa and Asia.
Nowadays, cassava has been established in China, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and India as a significant crop that covers a large area and generates income for small and large farmers, manufacturers, and traders.
In fact, in Asia, cassava is cultivated by more than 8 million farmers, leading it to be a driving force behind many rural communities’ economies.
Cassava is celebrated across these regions as a resilient vegetable that can grow in soil with minimal nutrients and be harvested quickly. Another reason cassava is so popular is its versatility. Cassava can be used as an ingredient in many dishes, including soups, cakes, fries and, our favourite – bubble tea pearls.
Essentially, tapioca starch is extracted from cassava root. This tapioca starch is used in many dishes to thicken them up. It can also be used to make tapioca flour.
Our favourite way to use tapioca is to create our delicious, house-made tapioca pearls for our different bubble tea varieties. As you likely already know, tapioca pearls or boba pearls get spooned into the bottom of your favourite bubble teas to add a fun, chewy element to your drinking experience.
Originally, boba pearls and tapioca pearls were used in shaved ice desserts and paired with beans, syrups and yummy rice balls. Milk tea was also popularly consumed, and, one day in the early 1980s, someone in Taiwan had the brilliant idea to combine the two, birthing the drink we all know and love today!
How to Make Tapioca Pearls
There are various forms of tapioca pearls, including flavoured popping boba pearls, clear, and the tried and true original black tapioca pearls. By adding different ingredients to the recipe, such as water, seasoning, and sugar, these pearls can be customized to fit all tastes!
Tapioca pearls are created using only a handful of simple ingredients: tapioca starch (tapioca flour) from the cassava root, brown sugar and hot water.
Typically dark brown sugar, which gives tapioca pearls their signature colouring, is used. More specifically, traditionally, Taiwanese brown sugar (also known as black sugar) is used.
There is beauty in simplicity!
Before they have their gooey, chewy consistency, however, it may surprise some people to learn that tapioca pearls start as initially dry dough! Once this dough is prepared, it can be used to create various types of tapioca pearls and delicious forms of bubble tea!
Here is a sneak peek behind the scenes if you want to learn how to make and how to cook the recipe for original black tapioca pearls.
How to Make Homemade Boba Pearls
- Combine the water and brown sugar before heating it in a medium-sized pot on medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Then, turn off the heat.
- Add a teaspoon of the tapioca flour and stir until well combined. Make sure there are no lumps. Then turn the heat back on and stir until the mixture starts to thicken.
- Once it is thicker, remove from the heat and add the rest of the tapioca flour and mix well until it reaches a sticky, dough-like consistency.
- On a lightly floured (with tapioca flour), smooth surface, knead the dough until it becomes soft and smooth. The dough can be quite sticky, so you may need to add some extra flour!
- Roll the dough into thin, long, rod-like pieces. These rolls need to be quite thin because the tapioca pearls will expand when cooked.
- Cut the dough rolls into small pieces.
- Roll each piece into a tiny ball in the palm of your hand. Repeat this process until you run out of dough. Congratulations, you’ve formed the pearls!
How to Cook Bubble Tea Pearls
- In a large saucepan, boil enough water so that the boba is fully-submerged. Then, add the pearls to the boiling water. Be sure to stir well and regularly so that the tapioca pearls are separated to prevent them from sticking together and to the bottom of the pan.
- Cover the pot/saucepan and let this boil for 20 minutes to cook the tapioca pearls. Once this time is up, let the boba rest for an additional 20 minutes.
- Finally, drain the tapioca pearls using a strainer and rinse them with cold water.
- The boba can then be served as is in your favourite tea or milk tea. You can also add sugar syrup or brown sugar syrup for an extra sweet treat!
If you don’t want to go through this entire learning process to make the dough and cook tapioca pearls at home, don’t worry. We’ve got just the thing for you!
Our DIY Bubble Tea kit comes complete with everything you need to make a delicious cup of brown sugar milk tea to satisfy your cravings. The Baroness Bubble Tea Kit comes complete with our custom tapioca pearls, premium black tea, and custom brown sugar syrup.
All you need is to cook the pearls, and away you go on a delectable at-home bubble tea journey!
Bubble tea Pearls - Tiny Pearls that Make a Huge Difference!
Ultimately, bubble tea would be nothing without its signature bubbles! Tapioca pearls are arguably the most defining factor of traditional bubble tea and a beloved ingredient in the traditional Tawainese drink.
They’re ooey, gooey, chewy bundles of fun that enrich the experience while providing a fun texture to delight and ignite your senses!
We at Baroness Bubble Tea are committed to keeping up this tradition alive and honouring the rich story and loving process that goes into making tapioca balls by making them fresh in-house every day to ensure that our customers receive nothing but the best.
If you’re looking to skip the process of making your own, and don’t necessarily have the time to assemble and prepare our Baroness DIY bubble tea kit, let us do it for you!
Our delicious bubble tea combined with our suite of fresh oat milk and house-made toppings will transport your taste buds to a land of pure delight, complete with our signature tapioca pearl recipe!
If you haven’t had the chance to taste our bubble tea out for yourself, we encourage you to come visit Baroness Bubble Tea at 2790 W Broadway, Vancouver and try some out for yourself! Whether your preference is brown sugar boba or something black tea bubble tea, we’ve got something for you!
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