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What are tapioca pearls?

What are tapioca pearls used in boba bubble tea drinks?

Tapioca pearls make the unique ingredient of a bubble tea or boba tea drinks. They are about the size of pearls or small marbles, with the soft and chewy consistency of gummy candies. The pearls settle at the bottom of the bubble tea glass and need to be sucked using an extra-large straw. The sight of the tapioca pearls going up in succession through the clear straw is a show on itself, further making bubble tea drink a unique experience.
Tapioca pearls are round balls made from tapioca starch. They range in size from 1 mm to 8 mm in diameter. The pearls are opaque when raw and turned translucent after cooking. They need to be soaked for a considerable length of time before use in different food preparations.
Tapioca pearls are made from the starch of the tapioca root which goes through a sieve using a lot of pressure. The starch is extracted from the roots of the species Manihot esculenta that has its origin in Brazil but was spread all over South America. The plant is now cultivated worldwide as a good source of starch.

Types of Tapioca Pearls

Tapioca pearls, also known as boba in many countries, come in different forms, as follows:
• White tapioca – They are clear or translucent tapioca pearls produced by forcing wet tapioca starch through a sieve, transforming the wet starch into pellets.
• Black Tapioca – They are white tapioca pearls that turned dark by adding brown sugar in the cooking process.
• Mini tapioca pearls – Regular-sized tapioca pearls require over-sized straws to suck them from the bottom of the cup. Some people, however, prefer very small tapioca pearls which can be sucked from the bottom of the cup using the regular plastic straws for beverages. Mini tapioca pearls are prepared and cooked in the same manner as the regular-sized tapioca pearls.

Preparation of Tapioca Pearls

The preparation of the tapioca pearls is an interesting process. The fine tapioca flour is made into dough by mixing it with water. The dough is slowly cooked while being stirred constantly. Towards the end of the cooking process, the tapioca dough will dry and turn into flakes. The flakes are processed in hammer mills to reduce them into desired size. They are dried with warm air and then cooled to room temperature. The tapioca will be subjected to grinding and screening to come up with uniform granules.

Cooking Tapioca pearls are cooked through the following steps:

• Boil water in a large cooking pot or rice cooker. Tapioca pearls should be boiled using the ratio of 7 to 8 cups of water for every cup of pearls.
• Slowly pour the pearls into the pot of boiling water. Gently stir the tapioca pearls. Put the lid on the cooking pot.
• Cook the boba or tapioca pearls for fifteen to thirty minutes over medium heat. The length of the cooking time will depend on the kind of consistency you want your tapioca pearls or boba to be.
• Turn off the heat but allow the tapioca pearls to remain undisturbed in the cooking pot, with the lid on, for fifteen to thirty minutes. The length of time used for cooking should be the same length of time needed for the pearls to sit undisturbed
• Strain the cooked boba or tapioca pearls and rinse with cold water.
• Refrigerate the cooked tapioca pearls or boba for use the following day. The cooked tapioca pearls may be stored soaked in syrup or water. Drink with a large straw! Also you can try minute tapioca or instant tapioca for a faster cooking time.