How to Make Taro Milk Tea

Taro Milk Tea with Black Tapioca Pearls (Bubbles) Kung Fu Tea Style

My girlfriend and I are huge fans of Kung Fu Tea — and their Taro Milk Tea in particular. Depending on the location, two drinks could cost anywhere from nine to fourteen dollars, which always left us craving more. Such an addiction is not sustainable.

Discovery through Trial and Error

It took about six attempts and consulting a couple of friends who have worked at various boba tea establishments to hack the perfect recipe. The recipes I found on the first page of Google were all different — water or heavy cream or sweetened condensed milk, boiled taro root or taro powder, sugar or simple syrup or black/green tea. It was information overload. I tried this recipe and this recipe and this recipe. I even tried a recipe from Snapchat. No combination tasted right.

My first attempt included fresh taro root. I had to call Whole Foods several times for the produce manager to inform me taro was in stock. Supposedly the larger the root is, the more starch it has, giving the drink a more round flavor. So I purchased a couple large ones, peeled and boiled them until they could be pierced with a fork. I added them into the drink using a blender but no matter how long I pureed, the texture was not right. The resulting drink was gritty. The flavor was faint. The drink was also clearly lacking its distinctive purple color — not Snapchat-worthy. My taro was surprisingly white on the inside!

After a few more trips to Kung Fu Tea the recipe began to unfold. I uncovered the tea to use from casually discussing with the barista my tiredness and desire for a drink with a lot of caffeine. I asked if Taro Milk Tea would do the trick, and she informed me its black tea base would perk me right up — that was news to me! I ordered and received the drink yet again. This time I examined the drink closely. The liquid seemed more viscous than plain water. A friend that used to work at Kung Fu Tea informed me that although the drink’s base is black tea steeped in water, non-dairy powder is then added to give the drink its milky consistency. I’m happy to drink dairy/milk, so instead of trying to get the proportions of water and non-dairy powder just right, I settled on 2% milk as my base.

But we can’t forget about the bubbles! The bubbles’ soft and chewy texture balanced to the right level of sweetness is not easy to replicate. Different brands have different cooking instructions. The brand I selected has a suggested method, but leaves perfecting the technique up to you, saying to “adjust time to soften tapioca to personal tastes.” What does that mean? Should I add more time or take away time to get a softer pearl?

We tried both — more time, less time, even permutations of time with keeping the lid on, off, or a combination of the two. The technique that yields the best taste clearly was the most complex. A roaring boil for a couple of minutes with the lid on followed by a slow simmer with the heat off for three minutes produces a pillowy texture. To prevent them from overcooking, however, the bubbles must be soaked in cold water.

Hacking the Recipe

Buying in bulk makes it significantly cheaper to produce this delicious drink yourself. If you are confident in your love of the Kung Fu Tea’s Taro Milk Tea, since I’ve already cracked the recipe for you, feel free to buy in bulk.

I hate the feeling of metal on my teeth, nor do I want to continually produce waste by purchasing disposable plastic straws. Staying budget friendly, I bought these angled silicon reusable bubble tea straws.

Links to the relevant brands I used are below in the ingredients section. A couple things to note:

  • There’s no need to worry about the color of the bubbles in the Amazon picture. Even though they look brown, I can assure you they are black when cooked.
  • The instructions for cooking the bubbles are specifically for this brand. Of the bad reviews I’ve seen left on Amazon, most are because of user error. In my first few attempts, I empathized with the unhappy patrons. The bubbles are soft, chewy, and sweet (if you cook them right).

Ingredients (serves two):

Instructions:

  1. Make at least 1 cup of simple syrup (boil a 1-to-1 ratio of water and sugar until the sugar is dissolved completely). If you are like me and drink bubble tea (or any sweetened alcoholic drinks) frequently, you will want to make a large batch and leave some in the refrigerator for next time. Set aside in a container to cool.
  2. Boil a small pot of water. Add 1/3 cup of bubbles. Set timer for two minutes and boil with the lid on (this is crucial). After two minutes, turn off the burner. Keeping the lid on, move the pot to an unused burner and let steam for 3 additional minutes with the heat off.
  3. Immediately pour bubbles into a strainer and rinse with cold water until the bubbles are cold to the touch (20-30 seconds). If you do not do this, the bubbles will continue to cook while resting and become hard. Soak the bubbles in simple syrup for up to 30 minutes, tasting the bubbles yourself every 5–10 minutes and remove once you like the sweetness. After about an hour, the bubbles become hard and chewy, so watch the clock!
  4. Steep two black tea bags in warm milk (microwave the milk for two to three minutes). I like to do this in a large blender bottle. You will use the bottle in the next step to mix in the taro powder so the drink does not clump nor tastes powdery.
  5. After steeping for three to five minutes, remove the tea bags and add 2 tablespoons of sugar.
  6. Add 3.5–4 tablespoons of taro powder. Shake the warm mixture for a couple minutes, or until fully combined.
  7. Time to get out some glasses! Fish out equal portions of bubbles from the simple syrup with a spoon. Fill the cups with ice. Pour the warm mixture into the glasses and select your favorite color boba straw. Relish the moment!

Price per Serving:

  • Taro: 1.75 tablespoons @ $0.83
  • Sugar: 1 tablespoon @ $0.01
  • Bubbles: 1/6 cup @ $0.37
  • Tea: 1 bag @ $0.02
  • Milk: 1 cup @ $0.16

Total: $1.39

Disclaimers

I thought I would save money by making this at home. Now that I know how to make it, I drink it three to four times more frequently, so I’m probably breaking even!

Feel free to make double the recipe for the taro milk tea in advance and store it in the refrigerator, so you will only need to make the bubbles fresh next time you’re craving some of this delicious drink.

These particular bubbles do not last more than an hour, so do not try to make them in advance or store them. You will just be wasting time and money.

It’s possible homemade or slow-made bubbles would be prepared differently. Should you try it, let me know how it goes!

Please comment with variations of the recipe or suggestions to make it even better! Really, I need to know.

Software Development Engineer II | Bandwidth Metering | Amazon AWS — passionate about utilizing the best software practices to increase efficiency.

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