I had my first bubble tea experience during my freshmen year in high school. An upper classman (and yes, it was a boy...so a VERY big deal) took me to THE hip and happening place called Star Snow Ice located on Bellaire, a street in the heart of Chinatown in Houston. And to tell you the truth, I was so preoccupied that I couldn't really enjoy the cold milky liquid and the chewy orbs that were being suctioned into my mouth through the extra large straw. Sure, the boy was pretty darn cute, but he wasn't the only distraction. Just being in a place where baggy pants (Jncos - you were coveted, but I don't miss having to staple you to the right length) and dyed hair were the norm made me feel, well...pretty cool. Oh how I'm glad those silly, insecure days are a distant memory..
From that point on, I became a loyal customer of Star Snow Ice. I don't even want to think about how much $$$ I "invested" in that place. I deserve a plaque! I tried a variety of flavors, but my go-to drink was the humblest of them all - milk tea.
Why the trip down memory lane? Because today is all about tea! This month, the Recipe Reduxers were challenged to share a tea-inspired recipe in honor of the World Tea Expo that's happening at the end of this month. I mostly drink green tea, but I also have a soft spot for chai (my usual at Starbucks: Chai tea latte with soy milk).
So I've decided to share with you this simple and fun recipe for chai coconut bubble tea. First thing's first - Before you do anything else, let's brew a strong cup of tea. At first, I steeped 2 tea bags in 1 cup of boiling water, but that wasn't strong enough. So the next time I tried 4, and it was perfect-0! Feel free to adjust to your liking. You want to cover the cup or pot to allow for the tea to brew to its fullest potential. After about 8-10 minutes, remove the tea bags and allow for the tea to chill for several hours. A very crucial step.
As for the boba (tapioca pearls), I've tried many different methods, but this one seems to work the best for me. The challenge in preparing the pearls is ending up with a soft, chewy texture. You don't want to undercook nor overcook them because dry/hard or mushy pearls will just ruin the experience entirely. I followed this wonderful guide by The Kitchn with some slight modifications. I found that I had to boil and let the pearls sit with the lid on for a longer period of time than suggested.
The pearls are not sweet so it's important to add some kind of sweetener. Instead of making a simple syrup, I chose the more convenient route - sweetened vanilla coconut milk. So there you have it! Not difficult at all, right? I like making bubble teas at home because not only are there so many flavor combinations you can play with, but you can control the amount of sugar that goes into them. FYI - this chai coconut bubble tea is not very sweet, but I think you'll appreciate the rich, warm, and comforting flavor of the chai tea that shines through. Served on ice, it's a light, refreshing beverage for the hot summer days to come!