Originally invented in the 1980s, the Taiwanese drink bubble tea, also known as boba, has become increasingly popular throughout the UK – and Manchester is no exception.
The drink, named after the frothy bubbles formed on the surface of the drink after shaking it, traditionally consists of black or green tea, sometimes with milk, plus ice, and chewy tapioca pearls, shaken together like a cocktail and served with a fat straw to let the bouncy tapioca pearls (or ‘boba’) through.
Sweet, cool and refreshing, it now comes in as many flavours as there are teas and fruits, with different pearls and fruit jellies making for unique flavours and textures – and part of the joy is choosing your own combination from the countless mix-and-match options.
The drink has long been a staple in Manchester’s Chinatown, but there have also been bubble tea emporiums springing up right across the city in recent months. You’ll often see people clutching a signature see-through cup full of the colourful sweet treat instead of a takeaway coffee these days.
But have you ever thought about creating your own bubble tea, with all your favourite ingredients?
The Bubble Panda, a Manchester based business, has recently launched a delivery service for people to enjoy the perfect bubble tea in the comfort of their own home.
Each box contains the base tea, a selection of fruity syrups, jellies, boba, and a step-by-step guide for preparation. With new flavours being added to the range on a regular basis, such as a new limited edition tropical box, drinkers can experiment with a huge variety of tastes.
Whether you’re missing your favourite flavoured bubble tea fix in the city, or just fancy getting creative, it means you can now make and enjoy your own recipes at home.
The Bubble Panda founder Scott Harasyn said he has always been passionate about bubble tea, but wanted to add a British twist, let people experiment with their own flavour combinations – and most importantly, have fun making it.
We got stuck in to try it out – and it really is such an enjoyable experience.
Each Bubble Panda box contains all of the delicious ingredients to make the perfect bubble tea, including the wide, recyclable straws. All you need is plenty of ice (a good two handfuls per drink), boiling water, a mixing bowl or shaker and a glass.
If your box contains tapioca pearls, it’s worth noting that these require simple cooking, which takes around 20 minutes.
The process is simple – you just add 250ml of freshly boiled water to your tea bag and let it brew for a couple of minutes. Then remove the bag and add your fruit syrup or milk powder – and sugar if you like – and mix.
Then you add a couple of handfuls of ice to your shaker or bowl, and shake it like you would a cocktail until it’s cool.
You pour the lot into a clear glass (or two if you’re sharing), including the ice – then the really fun bit, you add the bubbles, jelly or tapioca pearls.
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The Bubble Panda uses premium ingredients from Taiwan, the home of bubble tea. And it’s fun to create your own mix-and-match flavours, too.
We enjoyed playing around with different combinations: Assam black tea with mango syrup, passion fruit bubbles and pineapple jelly for a fun and fruity version, or jasmine green tea with lychee syrup, lychee bubbles and coconut jelly for a fragrant drink.
And it was interesting to compare a green tea base with matcha milk tea powder and black tapioca pearls, to try the distinctively chewy texture of the cooked tapioca, a starch extracted from the root of the cassava plant.
When cooked the pearls become dark, chewy and slightly caramelised, giving the authentic bubble tea experience.
The Bubble Panda offers subscription boxes and a build your own box option so that you can choose your own flavours, which costs from £17.99 with free delivery and makes eight small or four large drinks.
The limited edition tropical box (£20), meanwhile, contains some brand new flavours perfect for summer: Welcome to the Jungle (with green tea, new kiwi syrup and new banana bubbles); Hawaiian Sun (green tea, new pineapple syrup and coconut jelly); Under the Palm Tree (Assam black tea, melon syrup, mango bubbles); or White Sands (jasmine green tea, lychee syrup, passion fruit bubbles).
Whether you choose to go classic or get creative, bubble tea is as much fun to make as it is to drink. And now you can give it a go in your own kitchen.