I’m sure I’m not the only person who likes bubble tea, (A.K.A pearl tea or boba tea) but doesn’t like paying three to four bucks for a drink. If you don’t know what bubble tea is, it’s a drink – tea, coffee, fruit smoothie, etc. –  but with large tapioca pearls (bubbles) in the bottom.

The black things at the bottom of the cup.

The drink part is easy, you can use anything, but the bubbles aren’t the sort of thing you normally find laying around the house. But if I can make them, anyone can – I’m surprised I don’t set coffee on fire.

First, you need large tapioca pearls.

These were a birthday gift from GhostSister.

You can find them in white, black, or multicolored, in Asian markets and most large supermarkets in either the Asian foods section or where the pudding and custard mixes are, make sure it’s not the instant or minute tapioca. It will end badly. (You will probably have to go to the Asian market to get the special giant straws required to drink them, or you can just fish them out of the glass with a spoon.)

You also need a large pot of water, at least seven cups to each cup of pearls. It sounds like a lot but they need lots of room to move to keep from sticking together. Bring the water to a rolling boil and pour the pearls in.

They will float almost instantly.

Let boil for fifteen minutes with the lid on, stirring to prevent them from sticking to each other or the pot. (It happens.) They will look different after fifteen minutes.

They will look like frog spawn.

Put the lid on the pot, remove from heat, and let them sit for about twenty minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. The pearls will eventually sink.

After twenty minutes drain the pearls, rinsing well in cold water. You can put you hand in and swirl them around, but be warned – it will feel like a bowl full of tiny eyeballs. Warm eyeballs.

Now they look like pastel frog spawn.

To keep the pearls from clumping up, put them in a syrup solution. You can use any syrup from a simple sugar syrup (boil together one part water and one part sugar) or honey or a mixture of anything. For this batch I used one cup of water with one-third cup sugar and one-third cup honey.

Their appearance is a bit … odd. Honestly, if I hadn’t tried them and thought they were delicious, I’d take one look at this bowl of gummy testicles and laugh.

Doesn't that look yummy?

Truthfully they have very little taste on their own, but once you put them in syrup they will absorb the flavor of what they are sitting in.

You can keep them in the syrup for a couple of days in the fridge but they are really best when used fresh, within a day or so. The texture is soft and squishy like thick jam, once they’ve sat in the syrup solution they get a bit harder and closer in texture to a gummy bear. They will absorb the syrup, making them less like flavorless starch balls and more like tasty bits of awesome, but they do get much harder and more opaque.

You can remedy this by scooping out a portion (about one third to one half of a cup) syrup and all and microwaving it for about a minute or so. You’ll know they are done when they take on that frog-spawn look again. They will be softer than a straight-from-the-fridge pearl, but not as soft as a fresh batch. Since it is a bit of a hassle to make a batch up every time you want some, I usually freeze half the batch in a plastic bag. To use you just microwave a portion in the syrup.

The sugar syrup keeps them from freezing solid.

Recently thawed pearls, looking like frog spawn again. I didn't add enough syrup so they were harder than they should have been.

For size comparisons, here’s a couple of raw pearls and a couple of freshly boiled ones. They go from about the size of a pea to the size of a garbanzo bean, and will get slightly bigger after absorbing some of the syrup.

Ye gods, are my hands really that pink?

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