Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble. Here is a whimsical spooky take on bubble tea just in time for Halloween. Frog Spawn with Beetlejuice aka Lemon Infused Tapioca Pearls With Cranberry Tea. Blame my girls who have developed quite the obsession with bubble tea, an Asian concoction of icy cold, super sweet fruit or milk based tea with big, fat translucent tapioca pearls. On our last visit to Chinatown I was persuaded to scour the aisles of an Asian grocery store for bags of ‘boba‘ or giant tapioca pearls, one of the key ingredients of bubble tea. Sadly they have lain dormant in my pantry for some months now, it’s almost ironic after all that time they be resurrected today for Halloween.
I’m sure many of you will remember tapioca pudding; a stalwart of many an old fashioned nanna’s dessert repertoire. Usually made with seed tapioca, milk, sugar and eggs. Flavoured with lemon or vanilla. Variously dubbed fish eye or frog spawn pudding in reference to it’s murky, lumpy, gelatinous texture. Little wonder it quickly went out of fashion. Today’s trendy boba is, in truth, just a giant, supersized version of nanna’s seed tapioca. Prepared a little differently, perhaps, by cooking in copious amounts of water until soft and almost translucent before dredging in a simple sugar syrup. Whichever way you look at it though, you can’t get away from the fact that a heaping mound of lemon infused bubble pearls bears more than a passing resemblance to frog spawn.
For the beetlejuice I couldn’t go past good old fashioned cranberry iced tea. Dead easy and a deep, dark, almost blood red to boot. The perfect foil for my lemon-y bubble pearls. So there you have it. Spooky Bubble Tea. Waiting to be served. Jugs of beetlejuice and bowls of frog spawn at the ready. Decidedly non-alcoholic, but deliciously refreshing. Strangely moreish. Of course should you require something a little stronger to fortify the onslaught of all those door knocking ghosties and ghoulies just add a nip of vodka. Who said Halloween wasn’t for the grown ups?
Spooky Bubble Tea
Makes 2 litres Cranberry Tea and 2 cups Tapioca Pearls
Frog Spawn aka Lemon Infused Bubble Pearls
4 cups water
1/2 cup premium grade giant tapioca pearls (boba) (check packaging to make sure product is made from 100% tapioca with no additives)
Lemon Sugar Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed juice from one large lemon
FOR THE SYRUP bring one cup of water to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and stir in one cup sugar until dissolved, then add a quarter cup of citrus juice of your choosing. Set aside to cool.
FOR THE BUBBLE PEARLS measure 4 cups water into a saucepan. Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
ADD giant tapioca pearls and stir gently for a minute or so until they begin floating to the top of the water.
REDUCE heat to medium, cover with a lid left slightly ajar and continue to cook for 40 minutes. At this stage the pearls will be translucent on the outside with a small white starchy core.
REMOVE saucepan pan from heat, cover with lid completely, and allow the pearls to steep for another 40 minutes. Well-cooked tapioca pearls should be almost entirely translucent with a slightly chewy texture, similar to gummy style lollies. Undercooked pearls will be hard and crunchy in the centre, whilst overcooked pearls will disintegrate into mush.
DRAIN and rinse immediately under cold running water. Transfer to a small bowl and pour over citrus sugar syrup until the pearls are completely submerged. Refrigerate until ready to use. Best used within two days as the bubble pearls gradually harden over time.
Beetlejuice aka Cranberry Tea
4 English Breakfast tea bags
4 cups freshly boiled water
4 cups cranberry juice
2 – 3 tablespoons caster sugar, to taste
PLACE tea bags in a large 2.5 litre capacity heatproof jug. Pour over the water. Set aside for 20 minutes to infuse.
DISCARD tea bags. Add cranberry juice and sugar to the jug, and stir to combine.
COVER jug and place in the fridge to chill.
WHEN ready to serve, take a generous scoop of tapioca bubble pearls, place in a glass and fill with cranberry tea. Add an optional nip of vodka if so inclined.