For a long time, naked, bland, mushy-on-the-outside-but-hard-on-the-inside boba was the only way we knew.
As the drink of the same name became more widespread in the U.S. and styles evolved, we were introduced to something called honey boba, and our world was forever changed. Honey boba is chewy, sweet, and sometimes served warm. After having honey boba for the first time, I asked Buddha why standard boba is even legal.
It becomes more baffling when you finally figure out just how easy it is to make amazing boba, and yet you would be hard pressed to find a shop that can do it right.
Before I go into detail about the cooking process, allow me to first clarify some terminology. In the U.S., there’s a vicious debate about what to call the drink: in Seattle it’s milk tea, in most of California it’s boba, and in New York it’s bubble tea. Who knows what all the other states in between call it. To add to more confusion, are the tapioca pearls that made the drink famous also called boba and bubbles?
From what I gather, the drink, which was invented in Taiwan, was originally called bubble tea. What was characteristic of the drink were the bubbles that formed on top after shaking the ingredients vigorously. Later in the timeline, another craftsman iterated on the drink and added big chewy tapioca pearls, gifting simultaneously the drink and the pearls the name of “boba” which, erm, in direct translation means large boobs. And the term gathered momentum in none other than, you guessed it, Amurica.
Today, “boba” is used to refer to any drinks that are served in bubble tea shops, whether they contain tapioca pearls or not. So I use it all interchangeably. In this article, “honey boba” refers to sweetened tapioca pearls.
Now, back to the cooking process! The two simple tricks to honey boba are to cook the boba with the sweetener and keep it warm until serving. Instead of honey, I actually like to use brown sugar for the smokey taste. Oooh oooh so fraudulent whatever. I like to leave it cooking for at least 40 minutes while I do other chores or shower at the end of the day. If you can find the patience to make this, you would have a very versatile and delicious choice of topping for almost any drink. So find the patience, people!!!
A brand of boba that I highly recommend is Bolle. The pearls are smaller in comparison to ones typically served in boba shops, but the ingredients list is as simple as it comes (“Tapioca Starch, Water, Caramel Maple Syrup Flavor”), and that’s incredibly preferable for any food you’ll ever put into your body. To sip boba, we obviously need big straws. If you’re boujie and you know it buy these pretty fancy black straws dark as your soul. The rest of you can buy these less pretty ones.
It’s time to boba.
- Bolle tapioca pearls ½ cup
- (preferably Dark) Brown sugar ¼ cup
- In a small saucepan, add the tapioca pearls.
- Add 5 times the volume of water.
- Add brown sugar.
- On the stove top, bring the pot to a rolling boil for 10-15 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low-medium for about another 30 minutes. Add more water if it’s running out.
- If the mixture is starchy, use a fine mesh to filter the boba with warm water. Heat up some water and brown sugar on the stove top again. Add the boba to keep warm on low heat until serving.
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