Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pearl Milk Tea

Pearl Milk Tea (traditional Chinese: 珍珠奶茶; Hanyu Pinyin: zhēnzhū nǎichá; Tongyong Pinyin: jhenjhu nǎichá) also known as Boba milk tea and bubble tea (a name often mistakenly applied; bubble refers to the process by which certain types of pearl milk tea are made, and not the actual tapioca balls) , is a tea beverage that originated in Taiwan in the 1980s. The Chinese name literally translates to pearl milk tea (珍珠 = Pearl; 奶茶 = Milk Tea). The balls are often called "pearls." Drinks with large pearls consumed along with the beverage through wide straws; while drinks with small pearls are consumed through normal straws. Pearl milk tea is especially popular in many East Asian and Southeast Asian regions such as China (including Hong Kong and Macau), Brunei, Malaysia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and more recently popularized in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Pearl milk tea is a mixture of iced or hot sweetened tea, milk, and often other flavorings. The distinctive characteristics of pearl milk tea are the black gummy balls made of tapioca (or, more commonly in East Asia, yam starch[citation needed]), called "pearls" or "boba" or balls that sit at the bottom of the cup. The pearls are larger than those found in tapioca pudding, with a diameter of at least 6 millimeters, but smaller ones are occasionally used. They are generally translucent brown with a darker brown center, although pearls of other colors or 'jelly cubes' have also recently become available.

The original pearl milk tea consisted of a hot Taiwanese black tea, tapioca pearls, condensed milk, and honey. As this drink became more popular, variations were created. Initially iced versions with a hint of peach or plum flavoring began to appear, then more fruit flavors were added until, in some variations, the tea was removed entirely in favor of real fruits. Today you can find shops entirely devoted to pearl milk tea, similar to juice bars of the early 1990s. They usually contain colored pearls that are chosen to match whatever fruit juice is used, in addition to brightly colored oversize straws for sucking up the pearls.

Pearl milk tea is generally split into two types: fruit-flavored teas, and milk teas. Milk teas may use dairy or non-dairy creamers.

The mixtures that make up Pearl milk tea vary. Several examples of flavors are strawberry, passion fruit, mango, chocolate, and coconut, and may be added in the form of powder, fruit juice, pulp, or syrup to hot black or green tea, which is shaken in a cocktail shaker or mixed in a blender with ice until chilled. The mixture is usually combined with milk and cooked tapioca pearls.

Pearl milk tea bars often serve pearl milk tea using a machine to seal the top of the cup with plastic cellophane. This allows the tea to be shaken in the serving cup. The cellophane is then pierced with a straw. Other cafés use plastic dome-shaped lids. Even fruit slushes and smoothies can have boba added to the drinks.

The "pearls" are made mostly of tapioca starch, which comes from the tapioca, or bitter-cassava plant. In other parts of the world, the bitter-cassava plant may be called manioca or yuca. Cassava is native to South America, and was introduced to Asia in the 1800s. The balls are prepared by boiling for 25 minutes, until they are cooked thoroughly but have not lost pliancy, then cooled for 25 minutes. After cooking they last about 7 hours. The pearls have little taste, and are usually soaked in sugar or honey solutions