First Times: Homemade Bubble Tea for the Lazy Soul

This article was written by a bubble tea lover in Singapore, who is admittedly only willing to spend the bare minimum – in terms of cost and effort – to satisfy her cravings.

After the implementation of tighter measures midway through the circuit breaker, stand alone bubble tea outlets had to close as they were no longer classified as essential businesses. A good part of Singapore took a collective sigh before proceeding to get their hands on one final drink (or two).

A few days later, avid bubble tea fans were happy to discover that it is still possible to buy their favorite beverage from larger brands. However, there are certain conditions that you have to meet, such as having to order from select restaurants. Due to high demand and lower supply, you may face disappointment when stores are too busy to take your order or run out of stock. With service and small order charges, delivery fees are also likely to be exorbitant.

I contemplated ordering “I Love Taimei” to get my fix, since it’s available when you purchase their mains or sides. Truth be told, I was toying with that decision for a few days. But I didn’t really want to pay for delivery as I know that there are recipes floating around on the internet. I even watched a video of Mongabong, an influencer, making her own pearls. While the recipe wasn’t too complicated, I still decided against it since I was lazy. 

However, as I was scrolling through Instagram stories, I came across a friend’s homemade pearls. I asked her about the difficulty and she told me that it was surprisingly easy. She sent me the recipe and it really didn’t look too bad since there were only two steps before dumping the pearls into boiling water. So today, I purchased some tapioca flour/starch and tried it out along with my sister! Here’s how it went.

The recipe we idiot-proofed:

Boiling away!
  1. Add 2 tablespoons of hot water to 6 tablespoons of tapioca flour/starch.
  2. After adding a bit more water to your mixture, throw the pearls into boiling water for about 11 minutes. Remember to stir at the beginning so the pearls don’t stick to the bottom!
  3. Put the pearls in concentrated sugar syrup for 10 minutes so that your pearls will be sweet.
  4. Bring it to a boil for 10-20 minutes, depending on the consistency you are looking for.
  5. Leave the pearls to rest for a while after turning off the fire.
  6. Add your pearls to your beverage of choice. We added ours to two portions of dong ding oolong tea with honey. 

The thing(s) we messed up: As our recipe did not include boiling pearls in sugar syrup, we decided to add honey with 2 tablespoons of water… Huge mistake. The consistency of our tapioca starch with water and honey was sand-like. We had to restart since there was no way we could have rolled the disintegrating starch into pearls.

For our second (and successful) batch, our mixture was clumpy and flaky. It kept falling apart (maybe our water was not warm enough) so we decided to add more water. That actually worked rather well for us but I think for it to have worked better, you have to mix quickly!

But overall: I would say, the recipe was super easy. Please try to follow it and avoid adding honey to the initial mixture like we did. You can soak your pearls in 2 tablespoons of honey for a few minutes while you are leaving them to rest (after step 5) but I think it’s more efficient to put the pearls in concentrated sugar syrup.

I would give the pearls a 7.5/10. The consistency was amazing but there was room for improvement in terms of its flavour. If this is too easy for you, feel free to ‘level up’ and make brown sugar pearls!

Soaking the pearls in honey

So there you have it, the simplest recipe for the lazy bubble tea drinker. With weeks of circuit breaker stretching ahead of us, there’s truly no better time to throw such a fun activity with your fellow quarantine mate(s) into the mix.

This comes as no surprise but it is really difficult to recreate the drinks that we usually purchase. I’ve been trying to make honey green tea but homemade ones just aren’t as good. I had the idea of even purchasing teh c from Ya Kun and adding pearls just to get good milk tea with pearls. So, if anyone can make milk tea or honey green tea exactly like the ones you purchase from bubble tea stores, please help your girl out and share your recipe!

Feature image by Stella Heng; all gifs by contributor

a contributor

One of many contributors sharing their stories under the cloak of anonymity.

Leave a Reply