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Friday, June 18, 2010

Bubble Tea - 珍珠百香果绿茶

Bubble Tea 2

Bubbles 8

Starch Ball Collage

Bubble Tea Collage 2

Bubble Tea - that one time ubiquitous beverage from Taiwan that got the whole Asian market smitten over its bouncy starch balls. For the lack of a better vocabulary to describe the texture of the bubbles, the Taiwanese have even coined a term of their own, describing the slightly chewy and bouncy bite as 'QQ'. I remember when this became popular about 10 years ago, franchise stalls of Bubble Milk Tea (珍珠奶茶) spawned like shoots after a rainy season. When everyone wanted a piece of the action, fierce competition set in, resulting in price erosion, unsustainable profits and eventually businesses folded like a pack of cards.

I suppose it was a relatively easy drink to make - it doesn't take much to figure out the recipe - Tea, Flavoured Syrup, Milk and of course the Starch balls. The ones that still remain in Taizhong, where this originated from invariably gain their popularity for their milky tea variety. I've heard how people had commented that they prefer the beverage from a particular shop because the milk tea is more fragrant.... well, this doesn't really appeal to me because I am not a milk tea person. I always take my tea and coffee black. Hence when I order a Bubble Tea, it is always a flavoured clear tea - for me, the pleasure in taking this beverage is chewing on the QQ tapioca starch balls (粉圆).

Recently I noticed a little revival of the Bubble Tea in my neighbourhood when a Taiwanese Bubble Tea chain store, KOI Cafe,(check out LadyIronChef's review)  opened its outlet here. I didn't try to go near the shop for a few months because everytime when I passed it, there was a long queue and there were people sitting on benches waiting for their order.... Finally one morning last week, on my way to the National Library, I took advantage of the thin crowd at the early opening hours of the store and ordered my first KOI Bubble Tea. I ordered a Passion Fruit Green Tea Bubble Tea with sugar content reduced by 50%. (Yes, you are allowed to select if you want the sugar to be reduced by 50%, 25% or no sugar addition) As I waited in anticipation with my queue number, I watched  the very young crew work behind the counter. Almost immediately, I began to wonder if this shop is all about gimmicks. I began to suspect that the long queues that I had seen before may not be due to the outstanding drink recipe - but rather the result of a deliberate attempt by the crew to stall time as they move about listlessly, chatting, poking fun at each other, without giving a care about the 10+ odd customers standing around like puppies, holding on to their queue tickets... waiting.  I got really impatient, my brows furrowed, my lips pursed into a tight unfriendly line. When I finally got my order, it didn't blow my mind away, in fact it tasted syrupy and coyingly sweet. If not for the starch balls, I would have thrown the drink away. Well, maybe my judgement wasn't fair - perhaps they are better at the milk tea formulations. If anyone has tried their milk tea, please do share your views.

Anyway, the good thing that came out of this was that I was reminded of a packet of Starch balls which I have in my drawer. I thought I had bought this in Taiwan but the label behind the package had the address of the Singapore distributor and a $2.50 price tag. I strained my mind to recall where and when I had gotten this but my mind is blank. Curious if it is possible to achieve the same QQ texture as the shops with these, I followed the instructions and tried my luck.


And dear readers, if like me, you are going primarily for the starch balls in these drinks, stop spending $3 for the drink - you can get a whole load of starch balls with this little packet. I brewed one of my favourite green tea (Gryphon's Jasmine Pearl Tea Infused with Rose) , blend it with the Lemongrass Passion Fruit Cordial which I had bought early this year from Jones Grocery, loaded it up with the Starch balls and I couldn't be more satisfied!

Bubble Tea
Now, all I need to do is to remember where I got these starch balls from... if anyone has seen it somewhere, do share - otherwise there are 2 actions I can take : call the distributor ; stock up during my next trip to Taiwan!

And oh, a gentle reminder : go easy on these store-bought milk tea - because they are laden with sugar and creamer - a cup a day expands waist line by 4 inches!!!

Bubbles 5(100)
Starch Balls           100g
Water                    600g

Tea Bag                 1
Water                     500g (adjust strength according to personal preference)
Sugar                      1-2tsp (adjust sweetness to taste)

Lemongrass Passion Fruit Cordial (from Jones)  1/2 tbsp (adjust according personal preference, other cordials can be used)


1. Boil 600g water in a pot. Add Starch balls in to boiling water. Stir and wait for water to come to boil again. Remove from heat once boiling begins again and transfer content into an electric rice cooker. Cook in the rice cooker for about 1 hour until balls are cooked through. (Overcooking will result in soft mushy starch balls. Undercooking will render the center of the ball uncooked)

2. Drain and pour starch balls into ice cold water to prevent starch balls from sticking together.
3. In a separate pot, boil 500g water and add tea bag. Boil tea bag for 1 min, add sugar and turn off heat and let tea bag steep until desired strength is achieved. Cool down tea.
4. Add tea, ice cubes and cordial into a cocktail shaker. Shake well to blend and pour into a glass with starch balls. Enjoy drink.


tracieMoo said...

I love chewing on these pearls. I would always go for milk tea :) The original. I've never seen it sold anywhere here though. Maybe I didn't notice.. Anyhow, it's great that you reminded me another good drink for a hot weather like now!

pigpigscorner said...

I love these pearls, makes a drink so much more interesting =P I like mine with passion fruit flavoured tea.

WendyinKK said...

Long time didn't drink this.

If I didn't forget it was almost 15years since the craze started.

1 hour to cook these... Gosh.

Shihui said...

haha. i think i know where you live! hello, neighbour! *waves*

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

:)... I wonder what gave it away.. wave, wave..

Zurin said...

interesting..I seem to recall that ive seen these somewhere...but they are soooo cute.! I LOVE ur third pic with all those bubbles spilling on the table :))

黄婉娜 said...


the milk version do taste better. I was seriously addicted to their caramel milk tea, with 50% sugar. Try it, it's fragrant and nice. But like you, I am more bubble than tea, that's why I have stop going to Koi. Bad for the waistline and the pocket! :)

Unknown said...

Bubble Tea has always been my favorite party and hangout drink. Its just something different and has no side effects. Less calories, reasonable amount of energy perfect thing for health conscious people.

Kitchen Corner said...

This is nice drink! I guess it's very refreshing one!

Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

those pearls are great! My friend gave me some for a gift and Mr NQN loved it when I made the tea. And you're right, the premade teas aren't very good for you at all! Best make your own like you did! :T

pierre said...

wonderful !! Pierre

Edith said...

I am like you. Not fan of milk tea but i love those chewy balls. Didn't know it is that easy to make.

Can email me the distributor's contact?

Or next time when you brew some, call me over. hahahhaa... (thick skin)

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Hi Eidith, hahaha... sure,I will drop you an email when I plan to make this again.
The distributor is
Axcellent Power Systems Pte Ltd
Blk. 2020, Bukit Batok St 23, #04-248.
Only fax no.: 68963587

Maybe the phone directory would have their phone no.

Sonia ~ Nasi Lemak Lover said...

this is a perfect drink especially in our hot weather here..

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photography! Love bubble tea drinks.

Unknown said...

I love bubbles, thought I've never seen passion fruit flavored.
Following your blog now! :)

Anonymous said...

I always drink their coffee based products and I must say, it tasted quite good. Maybe it was because you went to a branch that isn't very up to standard? The branch I go to serves very good drinks and the workers move fairly fast.

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Hi Anonymous, thanks for sharing. I will try to get their coffee based drinks the next time.

Carolyn Jung said...

Home-made bubble tea may take more work than just popping into an Asian cafe. But you are so right that the latter gets expensive and caloric. I like home-made because you can control the sugar -- a much better alternative.

Tym said...

Hey, where can I purchase the tea from Gryphon? Thanks.

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Hi Tym, are you based in Singapore? If you are, you can get these at Isetan Orchard Supermarket or Shermay's Cooking School at Jalan Merah Saga at Holland Road.

Cyndy said...

Your post is simply beautiful. I've seen the drinks before but never thought to make it on my own. I as well do not like milk in my tea. I love your photo's.

Anh said...

This is such an informative post. Thank you!

MsMoon said...

Hee... actually, my fave bubble tea is from KOI. I usually take the basic milk tea with 50% sugar. Tried the same milk tea from KOI in Taiwan too, but I still prefer the one in SG, it tastes a bit thicker. Only KOI has the taste comparable to 快乐杯 (remember abt 10 years ago when there was a bubbletea craze?). Once I had to wait very long because a lady in front of me tabao-ed 8 large cups. The outlet that I go to is in MP and has been operating for many years.

The Cooking Photographer said...

I want this tea! We can't get it in town. I need to make it now. Thanks so much!


ComidaDeMama said...

I love bubble tea! I can't find pearl stard here in Italy, I should get them on line.


Weight loss diet plan said...

Missing my mom, she had a good hand to make this.


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