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A Flavorful Taiwanese Beverage with Tapioca Pearls


Pearl Milk Tea, invented in Taiwan in the 1980's, is a sweetly flavored tea beverage. There are many recipes for Pearl Milk Tea, but most contain a tea base mixed with fruit (or fruit syrup) and/or milk. Another great take on the drink is the blended-ice version of the drink, which generally is made in fruit flavors. Pearl Milk Teas are shaken to mix the ingredients, which creates a foam on the top of the drink - hence the name! Pearl Milk Teas may also contain small tapioca balls or pearls called 'boba'. After it's origination in Taiwan, Pearl Milk Tea spread over Asia around 1990s.

Pearl Milk Tea is a mixture of iced or hot sweetened tea, milk, and usually other flavorings. One of the very distinctive characteristics of Pearl Milk Tea is the black gummy balls made of tapioca or yam starch, called 'pearls' or 'boba'. These pearls, larger than those found in tapioca pudding, sit at the bottom of the cup.

Originally, Pearl Milk Tea consisted of a hot Chinese black tea, tapioca pearls, creamer, and honey. As this drink grew in popularity around the world more variations were created. First, iced versions with a hint of peach or plum flavoring appeared, then more and more fruit flavors were added until in some cases the tea was removed entirely in favor of real fruits. Today you can find shops entirely devoted to Pearl Milk Tea, like juice bars of the early 1990's. They usually contain beautifully colored pearls that accent whatever tea or fruit juice is used, in addition to brightly colored oversize straws that enable the drinker to suck up the pearls.

Examples of the many flavors of Pearl Milk Tea available are strawberry, yam, passion fruit, chocolate, and coconut. Flavors may be added in the form of powder, fruit juice, pulp, or syrup to hot black or green tea.

The tapioca pearls used in Pearl Milk Tea are generally made from the cassava root. The boba (pearls) are made by boiling for 25 minutes until cooked thoroughly, but still pliant. They are then cooled for about a half-hour and remain usable for the next 7 - 8 hours. The pearls themselves have little natural taste, their flavors are created when they are soaked in sugar, syrup or honey solutions.

These days Pearl Milk Tea is available at a variety of small cafes and some restaurants. Most Pearl Milk Tea shops serve a large variety of drinks, including coffee, juices, fruit smoothies, and fruit freezes.

Hot Pearl Milk Tea with pearls is also common. In addition to tapioca (pearls), jellies such as coconut jelly, apple, etc, and puddings can be added to each drink.