how to make bubble tea

How To Make Bubble Tea at Home

Kung Fu Tea. Vivi Bubble Tea. Boba Guys. These are small bubble tea chains in NYC that have stolen both my heart and my wallet.

For someone that harbored – and still harbors, to a point – issues with food textures, bubble tea has been something that’s grown on me over the past eleven-ish years. I still recall my first time having it: two of my high-school-era friends, Emilie and Colleen, were taking a quick Boston / Maine road trip after I graduated undergrad in the summer of 2006. Meeting up with another high school friend, Claire, we were taken to Boston’s Chinatown. I had never heard of bubble tea until that quick introduction inside of a multi-vendor warehouse. I don’t remember what kind I drank. I just remember my friends drinking it down, impressed by it, while I snacked on sheets of seaweed, which I wasn’t a huge fan of either. The next day, as Emilie, Colleen, and I made it to Portland, Maine, we came across another spot with bubble tea and Mahjong boards. I got another one, intrigued by how cool the concept of bubble tea was, but not really into those chewy tapioca bubbles dancing on the back of my tongue.

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Colleen and Emilie at a bubble tea shop in Portland, Maine – August 2006; 2006 doesn’t seem like that long ago, but that’s another story, I suppose… *sigh*

Once I moved to NYC in 2009, it became relatively more common for me to drink bubble tea – like, two or three times a year – but over the past two years, I’ve become a fiend for it. My Upper East Side office is near a Kung Fu Tea location – my co-worker Felesea is an instantly recognizable face there – and there is a Boba Guys location near my therapist’s office; I oft choose to self-medicate with freshly-made matcha, creamy milk and tapioca pearls before spilling my guts for 45 minutes. (Ha!)

As with so many foods I come across, I think, “How can I make this?” Luckily, it’s pretty easy to get most any food product in this grand metropolitan area of ours. A quick search on Google led me to M2M, a well-known Asian convenience store. Their location near Columbia University yielded a big ol’ (read: 9 ounce) bag of dried boba, the outside of the packing excitedly claiming they’d be ready for consumption in just five minutes!

how to make bubble tea

I followed the directions on the bag to a T, and, well, I was pretty damn happy with myself. Yes, I am absolutely tooting my own horn!

how to make bubble tea

I did have to play around with ratios a bit, as I was developing a recipe for one. What I created worked well for me, though I encourage you to experiment if you want more boba in your tea, a stronger tea, a milkier tea, et al.

how to make bubble tea

Needless to say, a $4 9 ounce bag of dried boba will save you a lot of money in the long run, assuming you want to make this regularly. While I don’t see myself making this regularly, the closest good bubble tea spot to where I live in Shiny Tea on 100th and Broadway, so a cool 100-ish blocks south of my apartment. On days I don’t feel like leaving my cozy nook in Inwood but that craving hits, I know I can take matters into my own hands.

how to make bubble tea

Bubble Tea
(Serves 1; makes a roughly 16 ounce [2 cup] serving of bubble tea)

Ingredients:

– 2 & 1/4 cups water (for boiling boba)
– 1/2 cup sugar, preferably Sugar In The Raw
– 1/4 cup black boba tapioca pearls
– 1 & 3/4 cup water (for steeping tea)
– 1-2 tea bags of choice (I used Harney & Sons SoHo Blend for these photos)
– 1 tablespoon dairy or non-dairy milk (optional; I used Malk Organics unsweetened cashew malk)
– Sweetener (optional; see note in Before We Get Started…)

Before We Get Started…

– If we can go back to our 4th grade science class and recall Archimedes’ principle, the addition of the boba will displace some of the water once added to the cup. If putting 2 cups of tea into a 2 cup glass, you bet it’ll spill over! Hence, I steeped the tea in 1 & 3/4 cups of water to allow space for the water to displace due to the addition of boba. (Too scientific? Ha!)

– This will be mentioned in the directions, but the simple syrup that will develop while boiling the boba makes for a great sweetener for the bubble tea!

– Half the fun of drinking bubble tea is having the proper wide straw! Either get one from your favorite bubble tea spot, or look for them, en masse, on Amazon. (<— Not an affiliate link, just a helpful link. Ha!)

Directions:

1.) Add 2 & 1/4 cups water and sugar to small saucepan and bring to a slow boil, making sure sugar is dissolved. Add black boba tapioca pearls to water and reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 3 minutes. Remove top; don’t be alarmed if the boba looks huge! Remove from heat and allow boba to sit in water for an additional 5 minutes. The water should be reduced by about 1/2 cup and will be a simple syrup.

2.) While boba is cooking, bring 1 & 3/4 cup water to a boil in vessel of choice; add tea bag(s) and steep according to tea’s directions. Discard tea bags when finished steeping.

3.) Add boba to a large glass, at least 2 cups. Slowly add steeped tea. Add milk of choice and sweetener and stir to combine, if desired.

Turmeric Tea

My discovery of turmeric came about in a very odd way. When I lived in my former apartment in Washington Heights, about two years ago, I was cooking chicken for dinner one night. I was looking through our seemingly endless array of spices from roommates then-current and past. I came across the turmeric and gave it a sniff. Aromatic, indeed! I shook some on top of my chicken. “OOOH. Yellow chicken! Hey, and it tastes good, too!”, I exclaimed upon my first bite!

turmeric

I wish I could say that I did research on the medicinal and traditional uses of turmeric prior to my initial use of it, leading me to use it for its supposed anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral activities.

No, I just popped it on some chicken.

But DAMN can you make some tasty tea with it!

turmeric tea

In all seriousness, I enjoy the taste of turmeric (thought it admittedly took me a few tries to truly acquire it), and I have recently taken the time to further research its aforementioned medicinal properties. It may not be a cure all, but I see no harm in getting a potential health boost by adding to my chicken, vegetables, grains, or even a cup of hot water. On a strictly anecdotal basis, I can say that this tea does make my stomach feel better if it’s a little upset or if I’ve overindulged.

This is a wonderful alternative to a cup of coffee or a spot of traditional tea.

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Turmeric Tea
(Adapted from the 101 Cookbooks recipe for Turmeric Tea)
(Serves 1)

Ingredients

– 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
– 1/2 to 1 tablespoon honey (depending on preference for sweetness; use raw honey, if possible)
– 1 crack of black pepper (optional)
– 8 ounces hot water

Before We Get Started…

-Turmeric stains. Simply put. Be prepared to have yellow fingernails for a couple of days. Do not wear this while wearing light colors, unless you want some seemingly inexplicable yellow stains on your favorite clothes.

Directions:

1.) In a small bowl, whisk together turmeric and honey until the turmeric is fully incorporated into the honey.

2.) Heat eight ounces of water until water starts to bubble, but is not fully boiling.

3.) In a large mug (enough to hold eight ounces), spoon turmeric honey paste into the bottom. Add hot water and stir until combined. Add optional black pepper at this point and stir into tea.

Note: This mixture will tend to settle as the drink sits, to be sure to continue to stir it occasionally while drinking.

Iced Lemon Green Tea

As the summer approaches and the temps get warmer, I’m consuming iced tea en masse. I try to go the homemade route as often as possible, because I prefer my teas to be unsweetened. I do find I have my favorite bottled kinds that have little to no sugar added (such as Harney & Sons Iced Tea, SOUND Sparkling Tea, and Teas’ Tea), but the majority of typical bottled iced teas are loaded with sugar. Even my favorite well-known organic iced tea brand recently changed their peach white iced tea formula, increasing its sugar by 6 grams per serving; I just feel physically awful after drinking something with even 25 grams of sugar in it.

There is something satisfying about making homemade drinks such as iced tea. I feel better drinking something in which have complete control of the ingredient input. Plus, it’s fun! It takes roughly 15 minutes to put a good iced tea together. Instead of spending $2 dollars or more for a bottle at the store, or spending $3 dollars or more for whatever Starbucks considers “iced tea”, brewing your own from tea bags saves you money in the long run! I prefer to make my green iced tea from Harney’s Organic Green Tea with Citrus & Gingko. A tin may cost $8 dollars for six packets of tea, but one bag yields 8 cups. One tin yields 48 cups. Therefore, you’re paying about 17 cents per cup. And just imagine how much cheaper it’d be if you used less expensive tea… 😉

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Iced Lemon Green Tea
(Makes 8 8oz. servings)

Ingredients:
-1 Packet green iced tea or 3 – 6 bags green tea
-2 cups boiling water
-6 cups cold water
-1/2 lemon, sliced

Before We Get Started…

-As mentioned in the introduction and ingredients, I usually use the specific iced tea packet. This equates to about 3 – 6 bags worth of your regular-sized tea bag. Three tea bags creates a strong yet palatable green tea flavor. I personally find four bags is a good number to brew, otherwise the batch may become a little bitter. If brewing regular teabags, be sure to remove any tags before adding to water to steep.

-While I use lemon, other great (and welcomed) additions to this recipe would be about 1/2 cup mint leaves, roughly chopped, or about 3 tablespoons worth fresh sliced ginger. These can be added separately or in conjunction with the lemon. Experiment!

-Feel free to sweeten as needed, but I find the lemon flavor to be so strong, no sweeteners are necessary.

-Make sure you have a pitcher able to hold at least 8 cups of liquid ready to go. This recipe makes 8 cups on the nose, so you may have to dump a little out if it doesn’t all fit in the pitcher.

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Directions:

1.) Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add teabag(s) to water and turn off heat, allowing tea to steep for 15 minutes.

2.) Remove teabag(s) from water; if cool enough to the touch, squeeze out any remaining liquid from the bags into the water.

3.) Add tea to pitcher. Add cold water to pitcher. Add sliced lemons. Refrigerate.

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