Largely due to my penchant for the drive-through coffee shacks prevalent in the Northwest, my hooligans have developed their own favorites. In cold weather, it’s steamed milk with peppermint syrup (tastes like a candy cane) or peppermint hot chocolate. When summer rolls around, they love Italian cream sodas and bubble tea. We’ve been unable to find either here, although we haven’t looked very strenuously.
What is bubble tea? It’s a super sweet, milky, fruity cold tea with large tapioca pearls in it. They’re soaked in syrup and are almost like gummy candies. You drink through huge straws so the “bubbles” fit through them. I know, it sounds odd if you’ve never had it, but it’s really quite enjoyable!
Italian sodas are super easy to make at home. A little flavored syrup (like blackberry or lemon), top it with seltzer, and add a splash of cream, all over ice. Bubble tea is a bit trickier, but we’ve found a version that will definitely suffice over the long, hot summer.
We don’t make traditional bubble tea at our house. The hooligans do not need caffeine, as you’ve probably gathered from my posts. Our version is more like a fruit smoothie, with bubbles. You can find many good bubble tea recipes online, though, once you have your tapioca and syrup ready, if you want to make it with tea.
Most importantly, you need tapioca pearls. They’re about the size of green peas, if you can’t tell. You can easily order these online, but I found mine at the local grocery store, in the Asian food section. They were $1.05 for 14 oz. That made enough for about 15 bubble teas.
Cooking the tapioca is the trickiest part of this, and it’s really not that complicated. It just takes a little time. I cook one cup of tapioca at a time, which is enough for 5 or 6 bubble teas. It keeps for a couple of days in the frig, but dries out quickly, even in the syrup.
To cook the tapioca:
1. Bring 8 cups water to a rapid boil in a large saucepan or stockpot. When boiling vigorously, stir in 1 cup tapioca. Lower the heat to medium. You want to maintain a boil. The tapioca will begin to float in a few minutes (not all of them, but some). Put a lid on it and let it boil for about 30 minutes, until about half of the pearls are clear. You’ll see what I mean when you do it. Turn off the heat, leave the lid on, and let them continue to steam for another 30 minutes.
2. Drain into a metal strainer and rinse with cool water until the stickiness is gone. Pour into a lidded container (like a Rubbermaid) and pour bubble syrup over it. I just keep them soaking in there, chilled, until I’m ready to use them.
To make the bubble syrup (while the tapioca is cooking):
1. In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups water, 1 cup granulated sugar, and 1 cup brown sugar, Bring to a boil, cook 1 minute, then let cool to room temperature before pouring over cooked pearls.
Basic Bubble Smoothie
1 cup fresh fruit
1 cup ice or frozen fruit
2 Tbsp sweetened condensed milk
2 Tbsp bubble syrup
1/2 to 1 cup water, depending on how juicy the fruit is
3 or 4 Tbsp cooked pearls
1. In blender, combine fruit, ice or frozen fruit, sweetened condensed milk, syrup, and water and blend until smooth.
2. Place cooked pearls in your glass and pour the smoothie over it. Serve it with a super fat straw! (I found these at Bed, Bath, and Beyond)
For the one in the photo, I used fresh strawberries and blackberries with frozen peaches. The hooligans thought it was their favorite. I’m just sayin’.
I’m sure I’ll be sorry I figured this out, since I’ll feel super guilty paying four bucks each when I could make them for way, way, way less. But isn’t that the way with any drink from a coffee shack? Sometimes you just need the convenience and the fun of driving through somewhere and spioling yourself and your kiddos…and there’s nothing wrong with that!