100gramstapioca flour, aka tapioca starch (plus extra for dusting)
Cooking the Pearls
1tbspdark brown sugar, optional
Combine water and tea leaves in a small pot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in caster sugar and milk. Turn up the heat and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover partially and let steep until cool to room temperature before storing in the refrigerator.
Making the Pearls
From the 100 grams of tapioca flour, scoop out 2 heaping tablespoons of tapioca flour into a small bowl and set aside.
Combine water and dark brown sugar in the smallest pot you own. Dissolve the sugar over low heat, then turn up the heat to bring it to a boil rapidly. This is to prevent over-evaporation of water.
Lower the heat to low and add in the 2 heaping tablespoons of tapioca flour and stir, quite vigorously, until the flour has been absorbed.
Turn off the heat and stir in the remaining tapioca flour. Scrape out the dough and knead the dough while it's still hot into a smooth dough. If it's too dry, add hot water bit by bit. If it's too moist, add a bit of tapioca starch.
Once dough is smooth, cut out a portion and roll into a log. Cut into small pieces and roll into a ball. The pearls should only be around 1-cm big as they will expand when cooked. Toss the pearls in extra tapioca flour so they don't stick together. (This is the most time-consuming step so you may want to do it while watching your favourite drama.)
Once all the pearls are rolled and coated with tapioca flour, transfer the pearls into a sieve to dust off any excess tapioca flour. (The pearls can now be cooked, or frozen for 3 months in an airtight container until needed.)
Cooking the Pearls
Bring a pot of water to boil. Add in the pearls and stir to make sure they are not sticking to each other. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Once 15 minutes is up, turn off the heat and continue to steep for another 15 minutes.
Drain the pearls using a sieve (don't have to be completely dry) and transfer into a bowl. (If not using the pearls immediately, do rinse the pearls with running water to stop the pearls from cooking.)
Stir in dark brown sugar (optional).
Strain the milk tea. Transfer into a cocktail shaker or a jar with a lid. Add in half of the strained milk tea and some ice cubes. Shake until frothy.
Scoop pearls into a tall cup. Pour in the frothy milk tea. Serve with a thick straw. Enjoy!
Do note that the milk tea recipe is for 2 cups of bubble tea while the pearl recipe is for 4 cups of bubble tea. It is difficult to halve the pearl recipe as the quantity of the ingredients is little. If not doubling the milk tea recipe, freeze half of the rolled pearls until the next bubble tea craving!
Only tapioca flour / tapioca starch can be used. There is no substitute for this ingredient (at least none that I know of).
You can always substitute the tea leaves with your favourite tea. The amount of tea leaves to be used may vary depending on the strength / flavour of the tea.
Do cook the pearls only on the day you want to eat them and enjoy them as soon as they are cooked.