Pearl Tapioca Failed Experiment

Cooked and dyed pearl tapioca. Pretty, but not pleasant.

Cooked and dyed pearl tapioca. Pretty, but not pleasant.

When I was in Vancouver about a few year ago, Bubble Tea was the rage. So for halloween this year I thought cool, I’ll make pearl tapioca beads of different colours to look like frog or fish eggs! The thought was to make a drink, and then add the clear coloured tapioca pearls and serve – scary looking but fully tasty and eatable.

So with this in mind I had my wonderful sister-in-law pick me up some tapioca pearls at safeway, proceeded to cook them up with some flavourings and colours in the water to make “faux fish eggs”.

Turns out this is not so easy, nor is it correct. Pearl tapioca comes in more than one form. Bubble Tea is made out of large pearls, that are either dry or partially cooked called Boba.

Bubble Tea or more correctly Boba Tea is a T”aiwanese tea-based drink invented in Taichung in the 1980s.[1] The term “bubble” is an Anglicized imitative form derived from the Chinese bōbà (波霸), meaning “large”, slang for the large, chewy tapioca balls commonly added to the drink.” According to Wikipedia. According to Amazon boba “are made of the starch derived from cassava root. When prepared perfectly, boba becomes sweet, chewy, and translucent with a gummy bear-like texture.” Seems like due to the size, processing and the addition of a few ingredients, these large tapioca balls are different than their smaller white commonly found cousins.

So not having the Real McCoy, I thought, no problem just make something that used the smaller tapioca pearls – less like large frogs eggs, and more like roe or fish eggs and I can go for greens, reds, clear… yeah not so brilliant.

Small tapioca is made like it’s bigger cousin from the Cassava tree. This starchy root is processed to removed of it’s dangerous chemical linamarin which would turn to cyanide when consumed. WOW! Then it is converted into grains, balls, bars etc to be used in cooking and puddings as thickener. The small pearls are white, have no taste and turn to mush fairly quickly it turns out.

I made three flavours, mint, cherry and licorice. Each looked cool, like fish eggs, but was rejected by my family as being unpalatable. Slimy, squishy, mushy and unpleasant in drinks. Definitely not the sweet, chewy and gummy bear-like texture I was going for. Not only that but the shelf life of this tapioca is about 3 hours then they are too mushy. Some other things I noticed were that the tapioca floated or sunk in the drink, depending on how much water was absorbed in cooking, and often started to sink —as in the picture— after a time as it absorbed more water from the drink itself.

Boba tapioca comes in black, green tea and coloured. It is so large it requires a special thick straw to suck up the pearls, the shelf lift is slightly longer —but not by much–  8 hours. There is some articles stating that these large specialty tapioca balls may not be safe to eat. If you are interested look here.

So what have I taken home from this experiment? Serving spooky drinks is ok. Serving slimy drinks is not.

Experiment results: Fail!

2 thoughts on “Pearl Tapioca Failed Experiment

  1. Well, it certainly achieved the LOOK you were going for. Looks like salmon eggs and frogs’ eggs for sure! Wonder if there were fewer balls in each drink if it would be more palatable? The Bubble Tea doesn’t have many balls, as I recall. Even at that, Bubble Tea is an acquired taste that I have never acquired.


    1. Bubble Tea uses a larger tapioca ball, that remains firm and chewy in liquid and doesn’t disintegrate as easily from my experience with the drink a few years back. We did try a few only, but the texture was still unappealing. Yep – looks cool, but not tasty.


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