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Mar 25, 2017

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Chai Bubble Chic
by Maja Tarateta
Magazine Issue: U.S. Vol. 5.3

Chai, a modern take on an antique tea, has recently been discovered by all the haute coffeehouses across America. Although it's existed globally for thousands of years, it's only been easy to find here in the states for the past seven or so.

In the early to mid 90s, several U.S.-based chai concentrate manufacturers began marketing their concoctions, and chai lattes became the rage in a few cafes around the country. Those serving it believed chai would become an integral part of a growing consumption of tea in the U.S. But acceptance of chai into the American cafe scene has been slow. Even though U.S. tea consumption rose eight percent last year, many market analysts chalk chai's slow growth to the decrease in coffee consumption among Americans. See, the majority of American cafes serve chai more like a latte than like a cup of tea. Thus, chai competes more for the everyday coffee drinker than it does for the tea sipper.

What is Chai?
In India, the birthplace of chai, the word "chai" simply means "tea." Here in the U.S. though, chai refers to a specific, and oft-overlooked and undermarketed, coffeehouse cup... a pumpkiny-cinnamony-spicy tea-based concoction that competes with every other fu-fu coffee drink. And we've latched onto only one of the many different types of chai prepared in India -- masala chai -- adhering to a southern Indian, British-style service method of incorporating milk into the mix.

So the chai we drink here, hot or cold, tends to be in the form of a chai latte, infused with spices we commonly consume in pumpkin pie -- cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, vanilla and star anise. For the hot version, milk (whether whole, skim, rice or soy) is steamed at the espresso machine and added to the concentrate; for the cold one, straight milk is incorporated and the drink served over ice. An iced chai latte might also take a few whirls in a blender. Regardless how it's served, the comparisons to pumpkin pie in a cup are uncanny.

Chew on This!
There's a new tea trend threatening to overtake chai on the popularity charts. Hipsters on both coasts have been spotted sipping "boba" tea at local tea bars. Sometimes called "pearls" or "bubbles" (all slang references to women's breasts in Chinese), boba's a Chinese beverage that's squishing its way into the mainstream. Although there are many variations, it's primarily made by combining black, marble-sized tapioca balls with a variety of tea- or fruit-based drinks, most of them milky. The concoction is then combined with ice, shaken (often in the ever-trendy martini shaker) and served topped with a dollop of the tapioca pearls. The drink's then sucked -- milkshake style -- through extra wide, colorful straws.

Tapioca Pearls for Bubble Tea
(approximately 6-10 servings)

1 cup tapioca pearls
6-8 cups water

The ratio should be a minimum of 6 parts water to 1 part tapioca pearls. Boil water in a large pot. Add pearls to boiling water. The tapioca pearls should float in the water. Boil (with cover on) for about 25 minutes, depending on the pearl size. Turn heat off and let sit 25 minutes. Rinse cooked tapioca pearls in warm water, then drain. Cover with bubble tea sugar syrup (below) or brown sugar, and serve.

Bubble Tea Sugar Syrup
(approximately 32-35 16 oz. servings)

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups water

Mix sugar and water in large pot. Cook at medium to high heat. Once mixture boils, remove from stove immediately. Let cool, and serve. Refrigerate any excess.

Bubble Tea Flavor Powder Drink
(makes one 16 oz. serving)

1 scoop bubble tea powder flavor
1 scoop non-dairy powder creamer
1 scoop bubble tea sugar syrup
3/4 cup water
1 cup ice
2 oz. cooked bubble tea tapioca pearls

Put all ingredients, except tapioca, into shaker and shake. Make sure flavor powder and creamer are mixed well. Add bubble tea tapioca pearls to a cup, and pour drink over. Sip with big fat bubble tea straw, and enjoy. (Add more flavor powder and creamer for thicker drink.)

Boba Fresh Fruit Drink
The best tasting fresh fruit drinks include strawberry, watermelon, mango, red bean (adzuki) and papaya.

1 cup fresh fruit
1/2 cup milk
1 scoop bubble tea sugar syrup
1 cup ice
2 oz. cup cooked bubble tea tapioca pearls

Put all ingredients, except tapioca pearls, into blender and blend well. Make sure fruit is ground up into the milkshake. Add bubble tea tapioca pearls to a cup, and pour drink over. Sip with big fat bubble tea straw, and enjoy.

Thai Tea Bubble Tea

3 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup Thai tea mixture
10 oz. cooked Thai tea
1 scoop bubble tea sugar syrup
2 T sweetened condensed milk
2 oz. cooked tapioca pearls

Boil water. Then, using four layers of cheesecloth as a filter, pour the water through the tea four times, or until tea reaches right color. Mix together Thai tea, bubble tea sugar syrup and sweetened condensed milk, and shake until little bubbles form on top of drink. Add tapioca pearls to a 16 oz. cup, and pour drink over.

*Recipes courtesy of Bubble Tea Supply


Chai and Bubble Tea on the Web

Here are some sources for info about the two teas. They not only serve as sales sites, but they also offer much entertainment and information to boot.

www.chaistall.com (loose-leaf chai and some history)
www.odie.org/chai/index.html (aka "The Enthusiast's Online Chai Resource")
www.nub.com (a Santa Cruz, California-based organic chai company)
www.bubbleteas.com (targeted to cafe owners and has everything you need to make bubble tea, including the shaker and straws)
www.tenren.com (up-and-coming bubble tea retailer that includes bubble tea home instructions and recipes)
www.bubbleteasupply.com (offers a bubble tea party kit and recipes)
www.bubbleteastore.com (features a party kit and sells everything, including shakers, scoopers and straws; also features recipes)

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