How to Make Bubble Tea

This essay, by Hanyi Zhou, 14, of Hong Kong, is one of the Top 11 winners of The Learning Network’s new “How To” Informational Writing Contest for Teenagers.

How to Make Bubble Tea

“The delicate aroma of tea, the irresistibly smooth and bouncy bobas, the afternoon sun, and a book in hand — that’s happiness,” says Xiaoying Wu, a seasoned bubble tea shop owner from Nanjing, China, musing on the global craze for this Taiwan-originated beverage. “Trying making bubble tea at home is fun, therapeutic, and simpler than you might think,” Wu suggests, encouraging everyone to discover the joy of creating this beloved drink in the comfort of their own kitchen.

At the heart of every bubble tea is the tea base itself. “Choosing the right tea — black, green or oolong — sets the stage for your bubble tea,” Wu says as she shares her decade-long expertise. She prefers Ceylon black tea as it boasts a rich aroma with a subtle hint of citrus. Regardless of the tea variety, it is essential to brew your tea stronger than usual; this ensures its robust flavor remains intact even when ice and milk are added. Another secret for enhancing the tea base is to roast the tea leaves in a frying pan over medium heat to bring out the full aroma.

“The soul of bubble tea lies in its bobas,” Wu says, emphasizing the importance of perfecting the tapioca pearls that fans find irresistible. For those keen on authenticity, you can make pearls from scratch using a mix of brown sugar and tapioca flour. However, Wu recommends store-bought pearls for their balance of convenience and quality. Whether homemade or store-purchased, achieving the quintessential texture — tender on the exterior and delightfully chewy inside — is pivotal. The trick to mastering this texture is to immerse the pearls in icy water immediately after boiling.

Once your tea is brewed and pearls are bouncy and translucent, it’s time to assemble your drink. Sweetness is subjective in bubble tea; begin with a modest amount of sugar or honey and tweak it to your liking. Opting for full-fat milk lends a luxuriously creamy texture. For nondairy options, use soy milk to preserve the tea’s authentic fragrance.

The secret to enjoying bubble tea lies as much in the method of drinking as in its preparation. Wu offers a crucial tip: “Tilt the straw towards the cup’s edge, not the center, to ensure a perfect mix of tea and pearls in every sip.” This simple maneuver sidesteps the all-too-familiar tragedy of a pearl surplus after the tea has vanished. After all, bubble tea is about bliss in every sip, not a quest for sunken pearls.