Now, those who read this blog know about my love for bubble tea. Whether it be in a smoothie or iced tea, the taste of tea intermittent by the sudden gulp of tapioca balls is a nice surprise in a drink.
So, imagine my surprise when I saw news articles on how the bubbles in bubble tea are carcinogens! Apparently, a German-certified government lab tested some tapioca balls coming out of an unnamed German bubble tea factory and found that the tea contains PCBs, a material that was once used in coolant fluids but, due to toxicity, was banned from the US in 1979 and by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2001. On top of that, this organization argues, the balls pose a choking hazard.
Now, bubble tea’s history is no clearer than that of regular tea. The exact origins are unclear but it is believes that bubble tea was started in the 1980s, possibly by a Taiwanese tea shop owner Liu Han Chieh who wanted to start a new creation. Eventually, a Japanese TV show happened upon the intriguing drink and showcased it, releasing the beverage to the world. Since its inception, there have not been any reported accidents of bubble-tea related accidents. If there have not been any accidents in 30 years, I would argue that bubble tea’s drink-ability is fine.
Obviously, not being a scientist, I cannot argue with the PCBs. However, as a tea fanatic, I have searched around and found a quick recipe online for making your own tapioca pearls. The process is not difficult at all, is very forgiving and can prove to be a fun activity to do with the kids:
For this activity, you will need:
– Food coloring (if you want to have a bit of fun with it.)
– Put your tapioca starch in a bowl (no measurement, as that will vary depending on how many balls you want to make) and slowly add boiling water. Make sure your water is boiling, or this will not work.
– For a bit of fun, add in your food coloring.
– This is the part that you can have fun with. Knead the starch until it has the same consistency of play-doh.
– Roll your play-doh dough into bite-size pearls on a wet towel. Make sure they’re not too big! If your dough starts drying, then just add a little bit of water. If it gets gooey, throw in some more starch.
– Let the tapioca balls dry. This will vary depending upon preference, but overnight should be perfect.
– In order to make the drink, throw your pearls into some boiling water and wait for them to rise.
– Depending on preference, you can leave them in for a few more minutes (since once they rise, they are only half-way cooked) or you can let them soak for longer. Personally, I like mine a little chewy, so the shorter amount of time, the better. Otherwise, they turn gooey and make me feel like I am drinking fish eyes.
– Drain your pearls and quickly put them on ice.
– Throw in your tea and enjoy!
While I must say, I do not think that this tea is a carcinogen nor do I think it poses a choking hazard, having a recipe on hand is fun and handy, allowing there to be no question what you are putting into your body. Since you can roll the pearls to whatever size you would like, you can also avoid a choking hazard. Have fun, make a night of making delicious tapioca balls and then spend the next day reaping the rewards by sipping on a nice, cool cup of bubble tea.