No Boba? No Problem: Make Bubble Tea With Frozen Blueberries

Two refreshing recipes with jasmine tea—one shaken, one stirred
May 4, 2021 Updated: May 4, 2021

Drinkers of bubble tea are bracing for the worst. Boba balls, the tapioca-based spheres that collect at the bottom of a cup of this wildly popular Taiwanese beverage, are reportedly in short supply.

Bubble tea is a combination of milk and tea, shaken or stirred to create the namesake bubbles. The boba balls sink to the bottom of the cup, waiting to be sucked up through an extra-wide straw and chewed with the sips of tea.

Boba—as the kids call this wildly popular beverage—has spread throughout East and Southeast Asia and is available wherever such food is sold. Taiwan exports boba balls worldwide—in several colors, and sometimes even with little juice pockets inside. The diversity of boba tea recipes is like a drinkable distillation of the myriad Asian food scene: Vietnamese coffee boba, Japanese matcha with cheese foam, potted plant boba, black tea with strawberry gummy bears.

Epoch Times Photo
The diversity of boba tea recipes is like a drinkable distillation of the myriad Asian food scene. (Jaybranding Studio/shutterstock)

The popularity and reach of boba tea has been expanding exponentially, but—as first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle—the dried boba pearls are in short supply, thanks to a perfect storm of boba-blocking occurrences.

With the world’s economies reopening, more people are going out for boba, straining supplies. Simultaneously, many ports are still running at partial capacity because of COVID-19. And ships these days are larger than ever, including more than 20 supersized cargo ships anchored offshore from the port of Los Angeles, as well as one that was recently stuck in the Suez Canal.

Tapioca is a starch made from the root of the cassava plant, which was domesticated in Brazil and dispersed by the Portuguese to the tropical regions of Asia, Africa, and elsewhere. It’s beloved wherever it grows for its large harvest of tubers that can be prepared in many different ways. Most Taiwanese boba balls are made with Thai tapioca.

Boba wholesalers are strapped and retailers are stressed, because without those chewy balls at the bottom, boba buyers are bailing.

“Some people will not buy a drink if we’re out of boba,” bubble shop owner Alex Ou told the Chronicle. “They’re literally here for the boba.”

Diehards can still fashion their own boba balls with tapioca flour from the South American motherland. It’s labor-intensive—especially for a novice. But if you’re literally here for the boba, that’s what you have to do.

A Refreshing Substitute

Even if there wasn’t a shortage, I would prefer frozen blueberries to boba in my tea. They are my summertime ice cube of choice for many drinks. They get the job of cooling a drink done, and then offer their soggy bodies as a sweet, tart finish.

I’m lucky to live near a northern Idaho farm that grows monster blueberries, which I buy by the gallon-ziplock. The only work involved in freezing them is keeping the bags open for a few minutes to let moisture out as they cool, then sealing them shut with as little air inside as possible.

In bubble tea, in place of boba balls, blueberries act as a very juicy substitute, reminiscent of the extra-fancy juice-injected boba balls of Taiwan, but even juicer. I use jasmine tea, because its magical flavor pairs perfectly with the blueberries.

To make a very boba-esque blueberry bubble tea, all you need is whipped cream, tea, sugar, and frozen berries. Or substitute carbonated water for milk and add lemon, for a berry bubbly blue-boba lemonade.

Blueberry Boba

The glorious combination of blueberries, cream, and jasmine tea makes this something you could imbibe to the bursting point, with no possible regret.

Makes 2 pints

  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 3 cups room temperature jasmine tea
  • 1/2 cup cream, whipped

In a bowl, toss the frozen blueberries in the sugar. Add the berries to your pint glasses or jars, followed by the tea, and finally the whipped cream. Shake vigorously, and serve.

Blueberry Bubbly Tea

This is a lighter, fruitier, summery-er and bubbly-er take on bubble tea.

Epoch Times Photo
This is a lighter, fruitier, summery-er and bubbly-er take on bubble tea. (Ari LeVaux)

Makes 2 pints

  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 2 cups room temperature jasmine tea
  • 1 lemon, sliced and squeezed with seeds removed
  • 2 cups bubbly water

In a bowl, toss the frozen blueberries in the sugar. Add the berries to your pints glasses or jars, followed by the tea, and then the lemon juice and slices. Finally, add the bubbly water. Stir this one, or leave it alone. Definitely don’t shake it.

Ari LeVaux writes about food in Missoula, Montana.