Bubble Tea Bubble tea, pearl milk tea: Bubble tea consists of a mixture of sweetened iced tea and milk and possibly other flavorings. Black gummy balls made of tapioca, called "pearls" or "bubbles", sit at the bottom of the cup. The pearls are much larger than those found in tapioca pudding, with a diameter of at least 7 millimeters (smaller balls are occasionally used). They are sucked through a wide straw along with the drink, providing something to chew on between sips.
When ordering, customers are often asked whether they want "boba" or "pearls" in their beverages. Both terms refer to the tapioca balls.
The recipes for bubble tea vary, but usually flavoring is added to hot black or green tea which is then shaken in a cocktail shaker or blender with ice until chilled. The mixture is then usually combined with milk and softened tapioca pearls. Most cafes that serve bubble tea also add a plastic seal by a machine to the top of the cup to be pierced by a straw by the drinker.
The flavorings added to bubble tea are usually fruity, and can be either powders, fruit juice/pulp, or syrups. Drinks made with fruit pulp and juice only with boba added are sometimes refered to as bubble tea, and are therefore distinguished by the seller as seperate from green, black, or brown (milk) tea.
Tapioca pearls are primarily made from tapioca starch from the cassava plant. The pearls are then heated with caramel into a thick paste. The paste is then passed through a wet sieve to create different pearl sizes.
Another alternative to traditional bubble tea is to substitute tapioca pearls with coconut jelly, a lighter option. Coconut jelly is served in small Lego-like pieces and has a sweet, crunchy consistency. They add a new dimension to bubble tea and are often ordered "half and half," meaning half pearls and half coconut jelly.