It started out in the city of Taichung in central Taiwan, but this has turned out to be so popular that every place seems to sell it and everyone seems to love it.
And little wonder, because it simply is sweetened tea made chewy with big balls of black tapioca, which are called boba.
Hot or cold, it’s easy and delicious. The only thing you need in addition to the special tapioca is some fat straws so you can suck up the boba. Some call it “pearl tea” in Chinese (zhēnzhū nǎichá 珍珠奶茶).
Once you get the hang of this drink, you can make endless variations using fruit juice, milk, coffee, or even milkshakes instead of the sweetened tea.
This is another one of those this-is-a-template-rather-than-a-recipe deals, and so you should play around with it until you find the perfect mix. This one just happens to be my favorite and also my own invention, as far as I know...
Makes 4 cups
½ cup uncooked boba (big black pearl tapioca)
Water as needed
The juice from a (16- to 20-ounce) can of lychees, or ¼ cup agave syrup
Tea and the rest:
6 cups boiling water
5 tablespoons lychee black tea (or any other fragrant black tea)
½ cup (or more) finely chopped canned lychees, optional
Condensed milk to taste
1. Cook the boba according to package directions. (Many different varieties are now available; some are quick-cooking, others take a bit of time. The label should tell you what to do.) Add the lychee juice or agave syrup to the hot tapioca and its liquid, stir, and let the boba soak up the flavor for a couple of hours at room temperature. (Boba become hard if they are refrigerated, so don't chill them unless it's absolutely necessary. Then, heat the boba up again in their liquid until they're soft again before using.)
2. Place the tea leaves in a strainer and rinse them with some boiling water. Put the leaves in a large, heatproof bowl and pour 6 cups boiling water over them. Steep the tea for about 10 minutes, and then strain off the tea into a pitcher. Chill the tea for a couple of hours.
3. To serve, mix together the tea, boba, and the syrup. Add the chopped lychees and condensed milk to taste. Put a few ice cubes in each glass and then distribute the tea, boba, and lychees evenly among them. Stick a fat straw and a long spoon in each one and serve.