Pearl Milk Tea ( also known as Tapioca Tea or Bubble Tea) is the most enjoyable beverage for the Taiwanese general population. Everyone likes it, drinks it daily, both adults and kids. The government even advertised for purchasing military equipment by saying " It only takes everyone to drink one less pearl tea per day" , but the population replied " We rather drink the Pearl Milk Tea!".
However, pearl milk tea shouldn't be consumed regularly. Pearl itself is the big brown sugar tapioca ball, and it has often been found to contain preservatives when tested. This is actually not unusual. Tapioca balls are one kind of dry product, but they get moldy easily. Many stores purchase a large amount and don't refrigerate them. I doubt the pearl really doesn't contain preservatives.
There are also many artificial ingredients in the milk tea. Milk tea should ordinary only have tea, milk and sugar. However, the commercial products normally add artificial flavor and ingredients that increase the consistency. Ok, even if they claim that there are no artificial ingredients, a lot of non-diary creamer is added. Non-diary creamer is rich in trans-fat. Many people may find their home-made milk tea using regular milk is not as aromatic and tasty. These people are actually spoiled by the artificial flavor and non-diary creamer.
This is somewhat bad, and it became terrible recently. My kid was treated a cup of Pearl Milk Tea by his teacher and loved the drink! It forced me to start making it by myself ( The other reason is that I also love to play with it!)
It is actually not as difficult as I thought, (of course, it is easier to just go out and buy one) but it is about as easy as cooking from dry tapioca. Dry tapioca is not easy to cook, sometimes even the tea-shop selling it cannot cook it right (such as stiff center or over cooked). Home-made tapioca is easy to cook. Parents who are concerned about the artificial ingredients or people living in a foreign country not accesible to pearl tea can definitely try it!
Home-made tapioca tastes better than the ones in the market, but the only problem is that I don't have machine to make it round, and making them one by one is too time consuming- I came out with square tapioca in the milk tea, people may confuse it with the "black brick milk tea" ( made with coffee jello).
Square tapioca also can be consumed via a big straw. It is as easy to drink as the rounded tapioca. Pearl milk tea seems to feel better when sucking with big straw. Drinking pearl milk tea with a spoon doesn't feel so good.
Square Pearl Tapioca( serves 6)
Brown Sugar 60g
Cool water 180g
Potato starch or Tapioca starch 240g
Boiling water 120g
Potato starch ( to prevent sticking)
1.Mixing brown sugar with cool water, set aside until the sugar is dissolved, mix in potato starch or tapioca starch.
2.Pour the boiling water in, mix well.
3.Put the mixture into a flat tray, the mixture should be about 0.8 cm in thickness (It's not easy to cook if it is too thick).
4.Steam for 5 mins and it will become a cake-like big square.
5.Wait for it to cool down slightly, flip the cake out onto a flat board, cut into 0.8 cm small squares. Sprinkle some potato starch while cutting, sprinkle more potato starch after cutting, and separate the ones that are sticking to each other.
6.Using a mesh strainer to drain excess potato starch. These are square tapioca balls. You can cook them right away, refrigerate for up to 1 week, or store in the freezer for couple of months ( secure pack in ziploc bag tightly to prevent dry cracks)
At step #2, wait the steamer to start boil before stir and pour the mixture into the flat container. If pouring the mixture too early before the steamer starts to boil, the starch may deposit in the bottom and the cake won't be even.
How to cook square tapioca balls:
1. Bring half pot of water to boil, pour in above tapioca squares (6 servings, about 500g), stir to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pot.
2. After the water boils again, lower the simmer to low, cook for 5 minutes, and drain the water.
3. add 100g brown sugar, stir to dissolve. This is for the pearl to soak in the brown sugar syrup. It will make the pearl more flavorful, and also prevents sticking.
The tapioca is very yummy for several hours after cooking, flavorable, sweet and chewy, and it doesn't feel raw in the center. It can be served as a dessert by itself, or added into red bean soup, taro balls, warm grass jelly, milk tea, or shaved ice.
To enjoy the yummy tapioca balls, it is important not to let them sit for too long. After 7-8 hours, the pearls will start to become stiff. If served with ice, or iced milk tea, it will start to become stiff after an hour. ( If you plan to eat with ice, make it with more water in the beginning, or cook for longer; it won't become stiff so fast)