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Is there any evidence that instant or traditional tapioca pearls - for bubble tea - are a better choice if I'm looking for a pearl that is very soft with just a little bit of chew? I've tried traditional pearls and always have okay results - but I've had better from some (not all) bubble tea stores. I haven't tried quick/instant pearls yet, but I'm tempted to. However, I still have a lot of traditional pearls that I don't want to go to waste if they're no better or worse than quick cooking ones.

Also, is there some way to keep the bubbles from getting harder when you add the cold drink to it (be it a smoothie, blended coffee, etc...)?

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I prefer traditional, how are you cooking the traditional ones? Are you using the dry ones or moist ones? –  Wil Aug 10 '10 at 11:52
    
I'm using dry ones - I didn't even know there were moist ones??? I boil a large pot of water with a ratio of 7 parts water to 1 part tapioca. I add them when the water boils, cover them and cook, boiling, for 30 minutes. Then, I turn off the heat and leave them to cool in the pot for 25 minutes. While these 25 minutes are going on, I make my syrup of 4 parts water, 4 parts sugar, 4 parts brown sugar and 1 part honey. After the 25 minutes, I drain the tapioca and put them in a container with the syrup. –  Chad Aug 10 '10 at 15:01
    
@wil - Any thoughts on my method? What are moist tapioca pearls? –  Chad Aug 12 '10 at 17:19
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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted
+50

After a whole lot of research, I think that I have achieved an answer, but I couldn't get my hands on any pearls so I don't have any experimental evidence. Most of it is based on messing around with tapioca flour, but I think it should carry over.

Anyway, the difference between traditional and instant pearls is merely the amount of processing they receive before they hit your hands, much like the difference between oats and quick oats. Instant pearls are cooked much farther than traditional pearls so I don't think you really need to invest in them.

Tapioca is a high starch, low protein ingredient so to make it softer we just need to cook it longer. Be careful though, as overcooking is going to result in a terrible mushy mess. Also, just like high starch sushi rice, rinsing will probably be a good idea, although I think it should be done after the initial boil and soak. The rinse should knock off the excess starch from the pearls, which I think is what is creating that tough skin when placed in cold liquid. You should rinse after cooking, in warm water, till the water runs clear.

The recipes I found on the internet were mostly split on the subject of stirring, but I think it's a bad idea (except to prevent the pearls from sticking to each other) as all it could serve to do is break starch off the pearls which is not what we are trying to do (save the stirring for when you want to use them as a thickening agent).

Anyway, I have some on order but they aren't getting here for a bit. I'll update once I get to play around with them.

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Thanks, Sarge! I hadn't thought of washing them, but that is a great idea. Yeah, my biggest quip with them is how much firmer they get after I add the cold drink, so that should help. I would think that soaking them in the syrup would also help form a barrier, but I guess that gets washed off when I add the drink. Wow, I can't believe you're getting bubbles - what flavors are you going to get? I prefer Taro or Taro+Coconut, but the possibilities are endless. Have fun and thanks again. PS - I'll accept your answer if nothing else comes down the pipe. You've clearly done some great research. –  Chad Aug 13 '10 at 18:46
    
I just bought the unflavored ones, because what I read about them was that the flavored just had the inclusion of a fruit juice. Do the flavored cook different than the non flavored? Can't I just use the juice I want to make them flavored however they want? –  sarge_smith Aug 13 '10 at 19:30
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oh and no problem, I have been opening up my world a lot based on the questions on this site. –  sarge_smith Aug 13 '10 at 19:31
    
Strange, I haven't even seen already flavored tapioca balls! In any case, you can create the liquid drink any way you want. Some people make a smoothie while others use coffee/tea with cream. To make the smoothie type ones, most people use prepackaged powders. For instance, I use amazon.com/gp/product/B000AN1YFC to make a cold, taro smoothie. It's okay, but I've had better taro bubble teas - that's just my bad for not picking a better powder/mix. It's pretty cool that you've been incorporating a lot from this site into your life! Enjoy the bounty :-) –  Chad Aug 16 '10 at 18:45
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The moist ones are the semi cooked ones

Dry is something like this (really quick Google) Dry Pearls

Semi moist is something like this (again, really quick Google search) - I think we might be talking about the same thing with the instant ones you are talking about Moist Pearls

From dry, have you experimented with the times and ratios? I find that depending on which versions you buy, the cooking times and ratios change. (I have no idea if it's from the composition of pearls or what) Not sure where your current pearls are falling short, but try going to 8-1 ratio of water-pearls. Other techniques to try is to before turning the heat off for your post boil time, let it simmer instead for another 20-30 mins and then cool off in the water afterwords. The problem I find is that there is no hard and fast techniques that work on all pearls!

The way I do it is

8-1 ratio boil

40 min simmer

20 min cooldown

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Wil, thanks again for the clarification. You're right that we're talking about the same thing: 'moist'=='instant' :-) Thanks so for checking that out. I have tried both 7:1 and 8:1 for the water, with pretty much the same results...I think other variables are affected them more. Is the extra water basically to help keep the starch off the pearls? As in, what Sarge is getting at with washing the pearls off with hot water when they're done? I usually do 30 and 25 for my times, I'll have to try 40 and 20. Do you have any tips for keeping the pearls soft once you add the cool liquid? Thanks. –  Chad Aug 14 '10 at 2:40
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