The Perfect Tapioca Pearls

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Making tapioca pearls has been a very challenging process for some individuals starting out, and for others that have been making them for awhile. Newcomers into the bubble tea experience often struggle with cooking them. 

I have even heard one of them say, “What is the point of boba pearls in my drink? They don’t have any taste.” They are right; there is no purpose to having boba in your drink, unless, as another answered their question, “The pearls aren’t supposed to make the drink; it is just an addition. I like them because it gives me something to chew on while I’m drinking my drink.”

Boba does make the drink; or else why is it called “Boba Tea?” The expectation of the name is that the main additive to the tea stand out to give the drink its name. Otherwise it is just there for no reason, and the drink some how mysteriously adopted a vain name with no real purpose.

Unless you have some kind of habit, or just like the chewy texture of chewy boba, there is no point in having them in your drink. In another article I discussed the 30+ different types of boba to have other than making tapioca pearls. They are instant additions that taste good, and don’t require cooking. Adding a whole new topping instead of the pearls might be a better option.

Are the cooked bobas in a bubble tea supposed to be tasteless? Yes, but most importantly, no. The perfect pearls in the boba drinks that you get at great boba shops aren’t tasteless; even though the pearls themselves naturally are. This is where the problem itself lies: You aren’t making them correctly.

Many people making homemade boba tea after tasting the beverage at a boba cafe, can’t figure out why their pearls don’t taste like theirs.

They go through the entire step-by-step process of: 

  • Putting enough cold water into the pot so that the boba doesn’t maintain its hard texture before it was cooked; and waiting for the water to get to a rolling boil before placing the pearls in.
  • Cooking the boba pearls for the whole 30 minutes, while gently, periodically stirring so they won’t stick together (for the original pearls); and 5 minutes for the instant tapioca.
  • Immediately turning off the heat, removing it from the heated surface, and letting it sit for 30 minutes with the lid on (for the original pearls); and 5 minutes for the instant tapioca.
  • Taking the pearls out of the pot, placing them in a strainer, and thoroughly rinsing them with cold water until they are a little less than lukewarm.
  • Putting them in a bowl and mixing them with a fourth or more of brown sugar or syrup, and letting them sit for 25 minutes in the sugar.

This is why your tapioca pearls are hard, not cooking, still white, melting, or taste bad:

Buy the correct Tapioca Pearls made for Bubble Tea, and make sure they are good quality. Bad quality pearls or the incorrect ones that are made for something else, will lead to bad experiences in texture and taste no matter what you do.

They have the extra chewy listed here, instant, crystal boba, tiny, and regular. These are made for boba tea.

Note: You can try Amazon’s instant pearls, but the ones that take longer to cook will result in better quality, taste, and resonate better with sugars and syrups.

There is also a difference in texture before they are cooked. The instant will usually be hard or squishy when pressed, while the longer to cook will become crumbs and break when pressed. This is how you know you have the good ones that take longer to cook before cooking them.

These are more reasons why your pearls are coming out bad..

If you put tapioca pearls into the water before it is boiling, then it might turn into a blob in the end from sitting in the water unnecessarily waiting for it to heat up.

If they are hard after cooking, then you need more water before you begin. They have to be cooked at the correct times. The original takes 30 minutes to cook in a rolling boil, and 30 minutes to simmer when taken off the heat. Your boba pearls should be able to float in the water that they are placed in. Atleast 75% of the pot should be water compared to the amount of pearls; the more the better. 

Tapioca pearls (crystal boba as well) are bland if they do not have enough sugar. Don’t be afraid to use it in your boba if you want more taste. 

Brown sugar can be stirred into the pot after it is taken off the heat while it is simmering. A fourth of the ratio of water should be brown sugar when adding it (yes, you need a lot of brown sugar if you want it like the boba shops).

Either add the sugar/syrup during the simmering, or after they are rinsed, but not both.

There is no reason why your boba should be bland or tasteless in your boba drink, unless it is for dietary purposes. We don’t cook chicken without seasonings; the same goes for your chewy boba. Your drink shouldn’t have to be overly sweetened to make up for tasteless pearls. Your boba should make your beverage, not your drink to compensate for bad boba. Make them like the boba shops.

There is no fun in having a boba drink consumed and left with tasteless pearls sitting at the bottom.

When everything is done, boba can sit in the sugar mixture in a container, such as a cooker, with the heat off for up to 4 hours. If they start to get too cold, they can be warmed up for 10 minutes, but do not cook them again, and don’t stick them in the refrigerator to try to save them for later. 

Treat them as a delicacy and throw them away after the 4 hours are up. They can turn pretty bad after this time, so just start over and make more. Don’t use the same sugar mixture, use a new one.

This is cooking after all; so treat it as such to make the perfect boba. Cook it at the right times, with enough water, and make sure to put it in sugar or syrup.

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