The Bubble Tea Breakdown: What To Order A Toppings Explainer And Where To Get Seattles Best Boba
Summertime is here, its hot out, so cool off with the ultimate iced beverage: boba commonly served as a sticky sweet milk tea, with warm, chewy tapioca pearls.
Growing up in the early 2000s, I recall begging my dad to drive my sister and me 20 minutes to the closest spot to grab an ice-cold cup of milk tea. Nowadays, around the Seattle area, you can find dozens of bubble tea shops, each serving up its own unique drinks and topping combinations.
Boba, also known as bubble tea, originated in Taiwan in the 1980s and arrived in the U.S. a decade later. At this point in 2021, its fairly ubiquitous in the Pacific Northwest. This is not going to be a what are those black blobs story, but Ill provide pointers if you still have yet to venture into the great world of boba. Over time, the boba universe has grown to include a variety of toppings and flavors, from pudding to cheese foam. To create this boba guide, we talked to Seattle-area boba shop owners for their tips on what to order and where to get it.
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How To Order Boba
Keep in mind that not every boba shop is the same the number of drink/topping options at each place varies, but most will have options at least similar to these.
- Ice level: If its a hot day, maybe stick with a regular amount of ice, but if its colder out, you can request less or half ice. If you want a particularly strong drink you can ask for no ice, although the best chilled teas are best consumed ice-cold.
- Sweetness: Some of the fruit-flavored teas can get pretty sweet. Would you prefer to cut back on the sugar? Try ordering your drink at 75% or 50% sweetness. Or if you like none at all, you can get 0% sweet, which cuts all the added sugar but maintains the drinks flavor.
- Hot or cold: What temperature do you like your drink? Keep in mind, some toppings like tapioca and pudding may melt in hot drinks.
- Boba/tapioca: The classic topping people think of when they get bubble tea. These chewy, dark pearls are made from sugar and tapioca flour and pair well with any drink.
- Crystal boba: Similar in size and shape to regular boba, but made with agar and comes in a whitish-clear color. Its chewy, but not as sticky and gelatinous as boba. Its neutral, sweet flavor also pairs well with any type of drink.
- Red bean: Commonly found in other Chinese desserts, this is made from dry red beans and sugar. Its sweet and a little earthy, and it keeps its shape even in hot drinks, pairing well with other earthy-flavored drinks like taro and matcha.
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Plus, our Tapioca Pearl Maker is easy to use and clean, so youll be able to enjoy bubble tea anytime, anywhere.
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Where Did Bubble Tea Start
Although its not known if there is a single person who can be given the credit for creating this amazing beverage, we do know that bubble tea first appeared in Taiwan in the 1980s. Asian civilizations have traditionally included lots of tea in their daily lives, and tea stalls have existed there for thousands of years.
Due to fierce competition among tea booths, Taiwanese tea merchants began selling cold tea, tea with milk, flavor-infused tea, and eventually tea with tapioca pearls. This kind of fair but fierce competition is ideal since it encourages rule-breaking and innovation. And gave bubble tea to us.
These days, when searching for where to buy bubble tea, you can find bubble or boba tea shops on six continents , and the craze is just getting bigger by the day.
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What Are Tapioca Pearls
Tapioca pearls are small chewy balls made from tapioca starch. Typically, these spheres are black in colour and are used for bubble tea. Although boba has a gelatinous texture, no gelatin is used in the process of creation. Therefore, this makes these small chewy spheres vegan friendly.Boba are naturally translucent and white in colour. However, black food colouring or brown sugar is often used in the process. This is to achieve the familiar black colour. Black boba pearls were created for an aesthetic purpose to contrast with the colour of milk tea.
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Bubble tea straws are a crucial part of the whole boba tea experience. The satisfaction of piercing the seal in the lid with the angled tip, sliding the straw into the frothy liquid, and sipping the bubble tea and its tapioca pearls through it contribute to the adventure. Boba tea took off after one of its creators added the iconic tapioca pearls into the recipe back in the late 1980s, yet its popularity in the world today is primarily due to the specially designed bubble tea straws that enhance the overall experience. These boba straws have angled tips cut specifically to plunge through the seal, are the most important “ingredient” for the famous bubble tea drinks.
Most Boba tea enthusiasts agree that the bubble tea experience would not be the same without that wide straw to enjoy it with. A “fatter” bubble tea straw, as it’s sometimes called, adds to the fun by fishing out a chewy bonus when sipping the drink. One sip, using a bubble tea straw, and your taste buds will come to life. Any other drinking utensil could not provide the same satisfying sensation of stirring the contents and sipping the pearl balls or bubble tea jellies out of the cup with the tasty drink.
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When Was Bubble Tea Created
Invented in the tea houses of Taiwan in the 80s, bubble tea has had a comparatively short history when you consider the centuries of tea drinking in Asia. Youll find it under a few names: bubble tea, boba, boba naicha, and milk tea.
Since then, bubble tea has come a long way in terms of variety, creativity, and availability. As more and more bubble tea shops pop up, were seeing innovative flavor combinations, tasty toppings, and vegan-friendly and organic options. Even if you cant travel all the way to Taipei to go on a bubble tea crawl , you can get fresh bubble tea delivered right to your doorstep in many major cities. You can even buy DIY bubble tea kits, the perfect gift for tea lovers and boba fanatics.
What Stores Sell Boba Pearls
Where to buy tapioca pearls. Many of your large chain grocery stores carry the tapioca pearls. You can find them in Walmart, Target, and are also able to order them from Amazon. If you shop at a local grocery store, check the baking aisle and if you do not see them, ask a store representative if they stock them.
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What Aisle Are Tapioca Pearls In The Grocery Store
The tapioca pearls are found in the baking aisle of the grocery store. You should find them next to cake mixes and puddings. Gelatins are also sold in this area, and you may notice the tapioca pearls and gelatins will share a shelf.
Locate the baking aisle, find the cake mix section, and when you see the gelatin and puddings section you should find it.
Other Ways To Enjoy Boba
Bubble tea isnt the only way to enjoy boba! These chewy tapioca pearls are also delicious in other beverages, like smoothies and slushie drinks. Try a scoop of boba pearls in your iced coffee for an interesting spin on your favorite energizing beverage. They can also be paired with Asian desserts such as baobing or grass jelly. Boba pearls make a fun topping for frozen yogurt and ice cream, as well!
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Dont Overcook Your Tapioca
Zhu prepares tapioca pearls by boiling them for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until they start to become semi-transparent. She then takes the pot off the heat and allows the pearls to steam, covered, for another 20 minutes. When raw, the pearls have a firm texture and a coating of tapioca starch, but fully cooked pearls should be soft, chewy, and translucent. The key is to not overcook it, she advises. Let the residual heat slowly steam them.
What’s All The Fuss About Bubble Tea Explained
This buzzed about beverage stands out from others on the market thanks to the boba, or bubbles, in the bottom of your cup. OK, you say, but who created bubble tea? What steps are involved in making it? Why are we so fascinated by it? What does it taste like?
If youve never tried bubble tea, you might indeed be wondering why theres such a big deal being made about it, but when you give it a try, youll know why. As they say, when you know, you know. Here is everything you need to know in the meanwhile about this wonderful beverage!
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What’s The Difference Between Tapioca And Boba
Basically, tapioca turns into boba balls. Tapioca balls, or pearls, come sealed dry in a packet. They must be boiled and then cooled for 30 minutes. From that, you get your classic boba ball and its texture. You have to get the consistency just right, not too chewy, not too squish a Chinese expression calls this perfect texture “QQ”. However, most bubble tea kits come with their tapioca already pre-cooked, so don’t worry about it too much.
What Is Bubble Tea And Why Is It So Popular
Boba begins with a tea baseblack, green, matcha, or some other pickthats then combined with milk and sweetener. Ingredients differ from one restaurant to the next, but many offer bubble tea made with plant-based milks like almond and coconut.
The drink is crafted by ladling tapioca balls into a cup and pouring the sweet, milky tea over the top. Some shops use a machine to seal the cup with heated cellophane so that its easy to tote around without spillage. When youre ready to sip, simply stick the oversized straw through the cellophane lid.
Drinking bubble tea is an experience. As the tea flavors dance along your tongue, you can chew the sweet tapioca pearls. When you do, youll instantly understand why so many people love the drink: Its a super-fun and addictive combination, with the bouncy, springy texture reminiscent of mochi or candied jellies.
Most bubble tea shops allow you to customize ice levels and sugar levels. If you want more bang for your buck, you can request less ice, but it may not be as refreshing. And while boba is typically served as a cold beverage, you can also choose to order it piping hot to warm your bones on cold days.
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Where To Buy Tapioca Pearls
Many of your large chain grocery stores carry the tapioca pearls. You can find them in Walmart, Target, and are also able to order them from Amazon.
If you shop at a local grocery store, check the baking aisle and if you do not see them, ask a store representative if they stock them.
Walmart carries several varieties such as black, green and the wide straw bubble tea ingredients. You can buy this product as a single pack, in a pack of three, or in the 3-pack variety package.
If you check a local Asian grocery store, you may find this product in the dry goods section where they sell spices, starches, and flour products.
It is much easier to find in other grocery stores, so if you go to the Asian market looking, you may want to check at the counter where they keep their tapioca pearls.
Now you know where to find the tapioca pearls at your local grocery store, will they be added to your next grocery list?
How To Tell If Your Tapioca Pearls Have Spoiled
Discard any Tapioca Pearls that have changed color or show signs of mold. The Pearls should be firm and chewy and not soft and mushy. Any changes in texture and the pearls should be thrown out.
Also, any change in smell and taste such as sourness are also signs that the pearls are not good to consume anymore.
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What Exactly Is Bubble Tea And What Are The Ingredients
Bubble tea or boba is essentially a tea-based drink that includes 4 different ingredients.
- Freshly brewed tea
- Sweetener or syrup
Bubble tea shops generally use loose leaf Assam black tea, oolong tea, green tea or jasmine tea for tea bases. Some bubble tea flavors call for a darker tea base which equate to a deeper flavor profile.
Whereas other bubble tea flavors call for a lighter tea base for a subtle taste. Like oolong milkk tea. Both flavor profiles are just as great, it depends on how you are feeling at the moment.
For milk or creamers, youll find a lot of bubble tea shops using sweetened condensed milk. But, the use of other types of milk or dairy are popular too.
Some popular milk or dairy products in bubble tea drinks are traditional cows milk, oat milk, soy milk, almond milk, skim milk and/or coconut milk. Read all the alternatives to dairy here.
If the bubble tea store doesnt use sweetened condensed milk, then most likely a syrup of some sort is used. If sweetened condensed milk is used then, of course, no added sweetener is needed.
Keeping Boba Soft And Chewy
Boba are at their chewiest best if used within a few hours of cooking. However, the longer cooking method I outline below helps the boba stay soft and moist for several days if kept refrigerated in simple syrup. They will gradually start to harden and become crunchy in the middle. For a quick-fix bubble tea when you know youll eat them right away, just boil the boba until they are soft, 5 to 10 minutes.
September 21, 2017yoseb vardeh
Bubble tea has evolved into many different variations from its humble beginnings in Taiwan. Some shops will specialize in just a specific base, but most will encompass many types of bubble tea. The process of a bubble tea order will go Base -> Flavour -> Sweetness -> Toppings. Lets dive into the bases to give you a better understanding of the differences.
First we have the classic Tea base. Most shops have specialty teas you can choose from such as fruit teas, tea blends, spiced teas, etc. You can order these hot or iced . It is an incredibly refreshing alternative to pop or juices, with a great variety of flavours. Most shops will include a list of flavours you can combine your brewed teas with
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