A trip to Chinatown is not complete without enjoying a flavorful, fruity bubble tea. Also known as ‘pearl milk tea’, bubble tea is a Taiwanese sweet drink made with green or black tea, fruit, milk and sometimes ice. The treasure at the bottom of the glass is the ‘boba’, or pearl tapioca, which is made from a starch extracted
from the cassava root. You can buy white (raw), multi-colored or black pearl tapioca. The black is the most dramatic color, and stands out beautifully with light-colored bubble teas. But I like the
multi-colored pearls, which come in pretty pastels. Whatever type you choose, make sure you buy some extra-wide bubble tea straws, which allow you to slurp up the pearls from the bottom of the
drink. I made a mango flavored bubble tea, but you can substitute papaya or any melon (watermelon, cantaloupe or honeydew, for example) for the mango. Whichever fruit you choose, it’s bound to be bubbleicous.
Mango Bubble Tea Floats
Makes 3-4 servings
3/4 cup brewed black tea, hot
6 tablespoons light brown sugar
4 cups water
1/2 cup pearl tapioca (pastel-colored, black or raw)*
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 cups mango chunks
1 1/2 cups crushed ice
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
¼ cup coconut milk, milk or cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 scoops vanilla or coconut ice cream
1. Combine hot tea with sugar in a mug and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Place the mug in the refrigerator to cool until ready to use.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring water to boil over high heat; add tapioca pearls. Stir and let the pearls float to top. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, 25 minutes. Remove from heat and let pearls sit in water 25 minutes until chewy and translucent. Drain pearls and rinse under cold water. Combine in bowl with the honey, lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the chilled sweetened tea. Refrigerate for 1 hour, to let the pearls absorb some of the flavor.
3. When the tapioca pearls are ready, combine the mango chunks, ice cubes, orange juice, coconut milk, vanilla and tea in blender or food processor and process until smooth.
4. Divide tapioca mixture among large glasses. Fill with mango mixture and top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Serve with extra-wide straws and long spoons.
*Note: If you live near a Chinatown, you can probably find a shop that carries the pearl tapioca and extra-wide straws. I got mine from Tokyo Mart at 91 Mulberry St. in New York. Otherwise, you can order them online from www.importfood.com.