Making boba with Isa

Isadora Li, staff writer

Bubble tea, or boba, is a Taiwanese beverage that contains pearls at the bottom. These pearls can either be made of tapioca or gelatin and juice. Depending on your mood, the drink with the boba pearls can be milk tea, slushy, or coffee, but it is typically served cold. 

For as long as I can remember, boba tea has been my absolute favorite drink. I used to go to this Chinese dim sum place that had the best boba. It was served with a strawberry slushy, and I drank that stuff all the time. My love for boba strengthened over time and now my favorite boba restaurant is Jinx on France Avenue. With COVID-19 forcing me inside and without my license, I decided that on April 30th (National Boba Day), I needed to attempt to make my own boba. 

Under the judgemental gaze of my family (this was 10:00 at night) I gathered my ingredients and searched for a recipe to use. For my initial batch, I used the first recipe I found. That was a bad idea. I used two tablespoons of tapioca starch and one tablespoon of water mixed together. After seeing how chalky the consistency was, I decided to add more water. Another bad idea. The mixture basically melted all over the counter. Batch one was a complete failure, but I can’t say I’m surprised given how little research I did. 

For my next attempt, I looked harder. I finally settled on a video tutorial and got to work. This seemed promising as the recipe required a few more steps and more preparation. The recipe called for boiling ⅓ cup of water with ¼ cup brown sugar, then slowly adding 1 cup of tapioca starch and black food dye if desired. 

Isadora Li

Boiling the water and sugar was easy enough. I didn’t add the black food coloring since I didn’t have any, so this boba was not going to look how it was supposed to. When it came time to add the tapioca starch, the mixture was very difficult to combine. Eventually I molded it into a dough, but there was still starch to be added, and I didn’t think it would be easy to mix it. At this point my hands were tired from kneading the dough, so I put it in the microwave in hopes of making it easier to knead. It helped a little, but it was still crumbly.

The next step involved rolling the dough into thick ropes and then cutting the ropes into small pieces that would eventually be rolled into ball form. I formed and cut up the ropes. Because the dough was so crumbly, I couldn’t roll the dough into balls, so I had boba cubes rather than pearls. The recipe was unclear about what to do if you encountered this problem, so I tried to make do with what I had. I put all the cubes in water and boiled them. 

Tasting the finished product was quite the experience. At this point it was 11:30 at night and I wanted to go to bed, so I used a blueberry tea I brewed in two seconds. The boba itself was good. I liked the chewy texture, although it was firmer than a lot of boba. The boba developed a thick film around it after boiling and also the boba cubes were too big to go through any straw. 

Overall, I’d give the final product a 6/10. I wouldn’t repeat this process because I felt that the recipe was too difficult for what I got out of it. It felt like a good idea while I was at Jerry’s looking at their array of tapioca starches, but in retrospect, I should’ve done this when I had more time (and patience) to knead the dough. The initial recipe had poor directions and it seemed suspicious for only needing such small amounts of only two ingredients. The second time around with the new recipe yielded much better results. The only problem being, the failure to roll the cubes into balls and how to compensate for crumbly dough.

Although I failed to bring justice to my favorite drink, it was a good learning experience. I think for now I will stick with Door-Dashing Jinx or Sencha, but now that I have a little boba making experience under my belt, I’ll be better prepared for when I try (and will probably fail) again to make boba.