003 – Boba Addiction


“Want to get boba?” After every dance practice in my college days, guaranteed you would hear somebody ask this to a fellow dancemate. If you asked me, I would’ve said, “I don’t want boba, but I’ll come,” you know, to be social.

A History of Boba

For those of you that don’t know what boba is, it is a ball made from tapioca starch. It is dense, chewy, and if found in a tea drink, sweet.

Here’s a nice stock image of boba milk tea. The black things in the ramekin are the boba balls, which are then put in with the milk tea. You drink all of it through a straw.

Boba is said to have originated in Taiwan. It was traditionally called 珍珠 (zhen zhu), or pearl, but over the years, acquired a more casual name, 波霸 (bo ba), which is slang for breasts (apologies for being borderline NSFW but this is HISTORY 😅 ). Having parents born in Taiwan and visiting the homeland my whole life, you would think I would’ve cherished the bouncy balls more. However, my mom in passing mentioned each boba serving was 100 calories, and my young, impressionable mind thought that she meant each boba ball was 100 calories, so I maintained my stance. NO to boba! It was a great way to prevent any glucose spikes though, because each boba ball is packed with brown sugar.

One day, I converted to boba because of the magical chain that is called Tiger Sugar.

The black balls look the same as the next store, but I swear, this one is S tier!

Tiger Sugar got its start in Taiwan and got so popular that it came over to the city where my parents live. My mom suggested I try it, and at this point in my life, the 100-calories-per-ball myth was debunked, so this was not the blocker anymore. I just didn’t have a reason to like any of the prior bobas I’ve had.

I took a sip and chewed on the ball, and it was game over.

Now I occasionally crave boba from time to time. But you know how distance make the heart grow fonder? I visited Ohio for a couple of weeks and strangely had an immense craving for the boba milk tea taste. There was a shop that carried boba, but it was disappointing. So when I came back to my hometown, it had been 5 weeks since I had a proper boba drink, and I was fiending.

It didn’t stop with just wanting to buy myself boba. I wanted to make it from scratch! I watched a couple of people make it on YouTube and it looked relatively simple, so I thought I should try it out.

Boba Chef Serena

I won’t go too much in depth on how boba is made, so here are a couple of reference videos on how boba balls are made.

Joshua Weismann | Tasty | Inga Lam

But boba is only made with 3 ingredients: Tapioca starch, brown sugar, and water. Easy! Right?

I gotta be honest, the first 3 attempts were a flop. The dough was not only shaggy, but brittle and didn’t come into anything remotely rollable. But I think the problem was that my tapioca starch, the main ingredient, was expired! Or just really old. In today’s fourth attempt, I opened a brand new pack of tapioca starch, and my dough was coming along beautifully. I was ready to roll! Literally!

Rolling the Dough

The dough needs to be rolled into logs and then cut into small pieces that you then roll to become the balls. The YouTubers weren’t kidding when they said you should work quickly, because the dough is prone to breaking as you roll. I learned after a couple of pieces that if you force the cut dough into a ball, it will start to crumble. If you gently coax the cut piece into a ball, it will come into the shape you want. I felt like there was a life lesson to be learned there somewhere 😉

Rolled out boba balls
Left: nicely shaped balls. Middle: broken pieces from being forced. Right: too small to be boba balls

Cook and Enjoy!

The boba in total takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes to fully cook. Although this is not a quick snack you can simply whip up, it is immensely satisfying when you eat your own creation.

My boba from scratch! Very chewy.

Now all I gotta do is put this in a drink and enjoy 🙂


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