Eat a Drink!

50 Lán.

Beverages. 50嵐. (50 Lán). The best boba in Taiwan.

I’m not going to pretend like I’m any sort of boba expert because I certainly don’t drink it on a regular basis, but I have to say… I’m still entitled to my opinion.

That being said, 50 Lán’s boba was to my liking. Not sickly sweet, not too astringent, and no chemical aftertaste. A rather pleasant experience that sort of makes you want MORE. Good marketing on their part, or perhaps just a fine concoction.

In the states, most boba shops vary in their flavor, which makes sense because they vary in the tea they use, the form of dairy added, and even the type of sugar used. Usually, the tea is pre-brewed/pre-made/pre-obtained, subsequently combined with fresh heated boba, a dairy component, and a sweetener.

I recognized 50. That's about it. Second word was out of my vocabulary range.

I’m making the process sound rather simple, but don’t be mistaken; it’s not. There’s far more that goes into the creation of boba than just the culinary ingredients.

On top of the entire operation that is needed to even start contemplating about serving more than a handful of people, contemporary boba shops now have customizations for how you want your drink prepared. This of course, includes substitutions as well. You can think of it like shopping for accessories. You’ve made the decision to get boba, and now you’ve gotta spice it up somehow. You gotta make it yours.

I like my boba to have more of a bodily tea taste than a milky sweetness, and not too many of the chewy tapioca pearls (they never seem to digest well). On the topic of chewy tapioca pearls, now would probably be an excellent time to speak to why tapioca starch doesn’t eat like a potato, and why it is able to stay in a spherical shape even under the heat stresses of cooking.

I love those English translations.

When I think starches, I think of potatoes, noodles, breads…you know, flour-y products and natural occurrences of starch. Usually, they all posses the characteristics of a thickener of some sort. Tapioca pearls can be made from the starch of the cassava root, manioc, or yuca root (manioc being processed cassava root with cyanide components removed). The process of creating a coherent sphere of tapioca mass is outlined below.

  1. Tapioca “grains,” or powdered tapioca is formed into small spheres (the tapioca that we know and love) and steamed.

  2. Steaming causes gelatinization of the outer spherical layer of starch, which creates new glucose to glucose bonds.

  3. The steaming process is stopped once the outer layer is gelatinized, and all the tapioca balls are subsequently dried. This leaves the center of the tapioca balls nice and powdery, and allows the outer shell to retrograde (forms a stronger matrix).

  4. Rehydration and cooking does not destroy the retrograded matrix, but rather, would result in cooking the free starch within the tapioca pearl, leading to a translucent yet chewy pearl. The retrograded matrix inhibits the sphere to fall apart, but allows it to flex, hence, the chewiness.

  5. Tapioca pearls are the most fun when one is able to chew them. I find it odd to be calling a drink “fun,” but in this case. It’s true.

Drink/chew it up.