the bubble tea debacle

thirsty thursday
notes from maggie's farm

It popped right into my head. 

Bubble tea! 
Perfect drink for a Thirsty Thursday during the Lunar New Year celebrations.

Or so I thought.

I'd enjoyed bubble tea in shops around town, specializing in the drink which originated in Taiwan, in the 80's.  (Which doesn't surprise me--see how 80's it looks?)

And this is how so many things start around here.  A perfectly good and simple idea pops into my head, usually as I'm nodding off to sleep, and the next day, I go about simply building a blog post, outfit, interior design project, art piece, article, novel, whatever, from that simple idea.

But, then.  I run into a hitch.  I find that is. not. simple.

So, much that way was the whole bubble tea debacle.

First, I head to the Asian grocery store.  Now, you know, I've been there lots of times.  I usually know what I'm looking for and am able to, after perusing every aisle, which I really want to do rather than need to do, find what I need.

This time, nope.  I thought it would be with teas.  Or beverages.  It wasn't.  So I asked the kindly-appearing little elderly lady at the counter.  Who spoke absolutely zero English, it seemed.  However, she was able, after much high-pitched gesticulating (I kind of thought I was in trouble.  It sounded like I was trouble), to summon a helpful woman who did.  Bingo.

After a little discussion about traditional methods, versus the more popular, and better method, in her opinion, I was sent away, with the goods.

But, oh!  I wanted something fun to nibble with it.  So, I head back to the fun stuff aisle, to find some little treasures.  As I was making a decision (Seriously. There is not much in the way of English on these packages.  I had to decide by picture. There were a lot of pictures.)  The kindly-appearing little elderly lady at the counter who, it seemed, spoke zero English, barked, in perfect English, "We closing.  You have to go!"  (See?  I was in trouble!)  So I grabbed a package and headed out the door as quickly as I could.  I left apologizing, and found myself scratching my head in amusement on the sidewalk, wondering why I felt as if I'd been scolded by my grandmother.

This is what I got out with:

Tapioca, or 'boba', hence one of the names of this beverage--boba tea.

Instant Milk Tea Powder--which my salesperson said was what this beverage is made with in the shops,

And 'Passion Juice', a passionfruit syrup, cause it just sounded so good.

Also, with instructions:

to prepare tapioca pearls, 1, (hence another of the names for this-pearl tea) as directed on package.

Boil water and add milk tea powder, 2, until it's sweet enough to your (I used about 3 tablespoons per cup) taste.

Add that to the pearls.  Stir in some of that passionfruit syrup, 3.  (This was my choice--passionfruit.  There were many cloyingly-sweet syrups from which to choose.)

Shake it up until it begins to get frothy, or bubbly (hence that last name, bubble tea.)

Now, let me say that what I thought I'd get, before consulting with my salesperson, would be tea (you know, tea, like in boba tea, pearl tea, and bubble tea?), milk, and tapioca.  I thought I'd add a few spices and a little honey.  But that was too simple, according to her.  And she really seemed to know her stuff.  So I succumbed.

I made my tea exactly to her specs--and it was really good.  I loved it!  It was passionfruity-milky-bubbly-pearly great fun.

It was then that I began to research other methods for making this tea.  And found advice somewhat different from my bubble tea consultant's.  In fact, most of them were made with...tea.  Tea, and milk and tapioca.  Some with spices and honey.  Who'd have thought it?

So who are you going to believe?  Well, maybe all of them.  Because I then made each of those recipes, and they all came out quite lovely, too.  Even the 'diet' version.  I'm including all the links, so you can choose which you'll adopt:

From Health Magazine: Bubble Milk Tea
What's Cooking America: What is Bubble Tea?
Diet Bites: Bubble Tea Recipes
Food Network: Guy Fieri's Pearl Tea
and from the neatest little blog, A Beautiful Mess: How to Make Boba at Home. I'm going back to that one just because it's so darned cute.

While you're at the Asian market nabbing those tapioca pearls, and maybe instant milk tea powder, or jasmine tea, or black tea, or chai tea, or syrups, or canned fruits, or whatever you choose, be sure to pick up a few of those big fat straws.  These are for the 'pearls'. Traditionally, the tapioca pearls are drawn through the straw while drinking the tea. They go through easily. Really, they do.

So, maybe it would be best not to draw on the straw with the suction of a strength as to pull a pearl into your mouth with such force, as to be a projectile, hurling itself through your mouth to the back of your throat, which believes it to be no object that belongs there, causing you to choke, cough, gag, and expel said pearl the opposite direction of how it just came in, flying across the table, pelting the resting cat below, who is startled, tries to get up quickly, paws scratching smooth wood floors in vain (wonders why they had to put in those smooth wood floors), lights out and streaks across the room, finally, overshoots, hits the door, wakes the dog......well, you see, I do these things for you so you don't have to.

Now, look at those cute little confectioneries, above.  Those are mochi, the packaged version with which I escaped, in the knick of time (see above), the Asian market.  The are Japanese in origin, made from sweet rice, pounded into submission.  They come in all shapes, varieties and sizes.  For more about mochi, visit What Are Mochi?, make your own(!) with Globetrotter Diaries (another fabulous blog worth a visit), and learn how it's done in a two-room bakery in Hawaii, from Mochi: The Hilo Way.

Hope you don't mind, but I think I'll leave the mochi-making to the pros.  For now.


  1. 2 of johnee's favorites. We love spending a day (that's right a day) up north in china town. The store is just fascinating. Thanks for the links. Beautiful photos as always.

  2. I'd love to meet up with you guys at Chinatown. I could absolutely spend a day there!

  3. I've always wanted to try to make bubble tea. I just love look of it. The mochi are lovely. They look scrumptious:)

  4. I'm making a batch of jasmine, as we speak. They get a little addictive. Ask Johnee. lol (see Kristina's post, above.)

  5. Pick a date and lets meet up. I can imagine the look on there face when I come in with another non asian speaking woman. I'm sure they laugh when they see me coming in. "Hide it's the crazy red haired lady that asks too many questions" I admit it but to be truthful I would have to bring a translator of many different languages to pull off a tour in that store. Good thing for us like you said above they have very nice pictures on the packaging.

  6. You're ON! As soon as I get a little extra's a date. Can't WAIT!!

  7. I don't know how I ended up on this post, but I've been bouncing around your blog and ran across this one...I love teas of all kinds, and these sound great...but what I really loved was the descriptions and that even though I don't cook much, I can appreciate all your tribulations, because I've been there in one form or another when I try something new. I've never tried boba tea, but would be willing to after reading this...

    1. I can imagine that it's even crazier for people who don't cook as much. I know blogs often cook with some crazy-exotic items, and I can relate to the comical chase for those kinds of goodies, even if I'm guilty of it sometimes, too!

      Sure appreciate your visit today! Thank you.

  8. Anonymous21 July, 2012

    Wow! I'm so excited to have found your blog! I've already spent about an hour here and I can't wait to come back & visit.

    1. I'm so happy you dropped by! Thank you so much, and have a great weekend!


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