Bubble Tea Bowl : Made in Taiwan
I’m making a Bubble Tea Bowl.
It’s my version of the classic bubble milk tea from Taiwan. Have you ever had a bubble milk tea? I had never tasted one before I went to Taiwan even though you can get one easily in Sydney or many other cities around the world. Bubble tea is a refreshing icy drink made with a base of tea, a bit of sugar and bubble like tapioca pearls floating in the bottom. There are as many variations for Bubble Tea as there are countries. Some are made with fruit syrups or purees and differing degrees of sweetness, but all have those bubble like Tapioca pearls on the bottom. They pop up through your straw and you chew away while drinking your tea. Bubble Tea was actually invented in Taiwan in the 80’s. In Australia we don’t have much of a chilled tea culture, but in incredibly hot countries like Taiwan, there is a staggering array of drinks and lots of them made with tea.
tea. is. huge. Actually I had no idea how much tea is grown in Taiwan.
There’s a really quirky way to learn about tea at Shyang Yeu Organic Tea Plantation in Yilan County ( pronounced eelan) on the North Eastern Coast of Taiwan. You can learn how to pick tea and then make your own Green Tea and later enjoy a tea tasting, while eating tea sweets and crunching on tea leaf biscuits. I actually picked the leaves for the tea I made this dessert with.
Taiwan has the perfect conditions for growing tea because tea generally likes to grow at altitude. Believe it or not this country has over 100 mountain peaks above 3000 metres, that is a record for any country, let alone one that I didn’t even know had mountains before I went! Some of those mountain peaks are dormant volcanoes ensuring that rich volcanic soil is in abundance. Hot and cold mountain springs attract tourists locally and internationally and this area has both coast and mountain resorts.
The journey from Taipei takes a little over an hour with a series of tunnels under the mountains culminating in one of the longest in the world at 20 long minutes, driving, driving, driving so long you forget you are still in a tunnel. The scenery grows greener and the mountain peaks more abundant after each tunnel.
So, do you want to see how Green Tea is made?
When I was told I would be making Green Tea I had no idea how that was going to work. Apparently, Green Tea is one of the easier teas to make as it isn’t fermented and can be completed and drunk as soon as it is dry. Of course this is a bit of a miniature version of how it is made but I think you may be just as surprised as I was. Another surprise is that Taiwan exports most of it’s Green Tea to Japan!
The lessons begin with a group of us changing into long sleeves and a large wide brimmed hat. A container is tied around our waist and we head out into the fields on a 42 C day. In this labour intensive method you are paid by the weight of leaves you pick a day. OMG heaven help us all I would be poor if I was a ta leaf picker. You pick by plucking, one leaf, some stem and a tip from the very top of the tea plant, continuing to fill your basket as you move along the rows of tea plants. The sun pelts down on you and the bugs bite ( this is ORGANIC tea farming after all) and you sweat and sweat while you pick. Thankfully we are given a 15 minute time limit cause frankly I don’t think I could last too much longer, pathetic as I am.
Next, all the leaves are collected and put onto a tray to be sorted. That means if you have picked too many big leaves with no buds, you are not going to have much tea! The tea is then tossed in a hot metal pot over a burner to dehydrate the leaves and break them down.
Once the tea has been scorched we squeeze and roll it to remove more moisture and to break it down ready for roasting. After all that hot work, I am happy to see the leaves spread onto a metal tray ready to be put into the dryer. Someone please just give me a cup of tea!And that is the genius of it. Once it comes out of the oven all dried and in nice rolled strands you understand how it works. We let it cool down and then we help pack it into bags to take home. That is the tea I made my Bubble Tea bowl with. I was so excited to use it all the way back home in my kitchen in Sydney
This is an entirely organic tea business, and it’s not at all unusual in Taiwan. The certification and government controls are very strict around organics. Many producers prefer to farm organically as they find a larger world wide market and Taiwanese are very concerned about health, the environment and clean food. Since tea is grown high in the mountains organic farms are encouraged to lessen the possibility of chemical runoff by ditching chemicals altogether. Tea tourism is in fact a national pastime, attracting visitors from all over Asia to hike the hills tasting, testing and buying. It’s a a little bit like we do in wine regions. Tea shops abound along with food to eat with it. The further out into the countryside, the more organic, seasonal and local the food will be.
We taste Green Tea against Oolong and Black, noting the differences and enjoying the air-conditioned tasting room. Unlike the more straightforward production of Green Tea, Oolong and Black teas, are both fermented and oxidised before drying. High mountain Oolong tea, one of Taiwan’s treasures, is labour intensive to make requiring bruising, rolling, drying, roasting and sitting for just the right amount of time. Oolong tea grown at altitude has more body, sweetness, fragrance and a slightly milky aftertaste in comparison to lower-altitude grown Oolong. Black teas are a fraction less intensive to make than Oolong but also heavily oxidised and roasted to produce fragrant highly regarded teas.
After picking and tasting you will even walk away with a cute little gift. This is a small tea bowl, beautifully wrapped in it’s own little bag.
Now how about a very delicious Bubble Tea Bowl?
I love that I brought the tea all the way home from Taiwan to turn it into this clean healthy dessert!
- 1/2 cup tapioca pearls giant ones
- 500 ml water warm
- 30 ml honey for keeping tapioca soft
- 6 tablespoons Green or Oolong Tea leaves or about 8 teabags but loose is best
- 750 ml boiling water or 3 cups to make the tea
- 4 tablespoons honey to sweeten the tea
- 400 ml of pure juice no sugar- ( I used a bought green pure fruit juice with kale spinach and fruit)
- 250 gm cold water to soak the gelatin
- 8 leaves of McKenzies gelatin(Available at supermarkets 12 set 1 litre)
- 4 cups of mixed fresh fruit like kiwi melon, blueberries, strawberries, pineapple etc.
- 4 tablespoons coconut cream one spoon for each bowl (chilled till firm)
- 50 gm peanuts chopped roasted unsalted
- Just a note on cooking tapioca pearls. They take a long time to cook. They need to boil for nearly an hour and need to look almost completely clear when done. They should be used straight away or within 6 hours. Do not refrigerate when cooked or they will go hard. Scoop them out of the pot and put them into the 500 ml (2 cups) of warm water mixed with a tablespoon of honey. as in the ingredients above.
- Make the jelly first and give it time to set. Start by pouring the juice into a bowl. Mix the 8 sheets of gelatin with the one cup of (250 ml) water and soak till soft. Put the gelatin mixture into the microwave for just under a minute then stir (or heat in a pot on the stove stirring till dissolved but don't boil). Mix well and add this to the juice. Whisk. Pour into a small shallow dish and refrigerate for 3-4 hours (or freeze for 2 to set more quickly)
- Put a very large pot of water on to boil. Once boiling add the 1/2 cup of Tapioca Pearls and boil. Turn down after about 20 minutes and simmer for a further 30 minutes. Turn the pot off and let the Tapioca sit till the water is just warm. They should be almost entirely clear now. They need to be kept in a light syrup as mentioned above.
- To make this use the 500 ml (2 cups) of warm water and 2 Tablespoons of honey and mix together in a deep bowl or bucket. Scoop the tapioca out of the pot and into the syrup. They will keep now for 4-6 hours (Do not refrigerate)
- Make the tea by adding the 750 ml (3 cups) of boiling water to the tea. You can simmer it on the stove for a couple of minutes if you like. Sit for 10 minutes to cool and steep. Drain and stir in the extra honey. I used 4 Tablespoons (80 ml). This didn't make it very sweet, just enough. There is no other sweet element to this dish so make sure it tastes great.
- Cool the tea ( if hot it will melt the jelly!)
- Now everything is ready. Put your favourite chopped fruit into a bowl along with squares of the juice jelly. Spoon over enough tea to cover the bottom of the bowl . Put a few spoons of Tapioca and a dollop of coconut cream on the top of fruit and a sprinkle of chopped peanuts.
- Eat with a spoon!
Dongshan Township, Yilan County
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I was invited to Taiwan by The Taiwan Tourist Bureau to attend the Taiwan Culinary Exhibition 2016. All opinions are my own. I loved Taiwan so much I will be sharing more with you over time. I hope you enjoy these posts as much as will enjoy showing you some of the amazing sights and innovative Food that makes Taiwan so special.
Sun drying naturally before heat treating.