If you do not have a cocktail shaker, you can shake up the drink in a covered jar instead. It is important to use double strength tea for this recipe because the flavor of the tea is diluted when you shake it up with the milk and ice. You can replace the brown sugar with honey for a slightly different flavor.
Makes 8 servings
3 quarts plus 2 cups water, divided use
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup small tapioca pearls
12 bags black tea
1 quart whole milk
Combine 1 cup water with the sugars and bring to a boil, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer 2 or 3 minutes to make a syrup. Set aside.
To prepare the tapioca, bring 7 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepot and add the tapioca pearls. Simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, until they are mostly transparent and slightly gummy, about 30 minutes. Remove the tapioca from the heat and cover the pan. Cool for 30 minutes, then drain through a wire-mesh sieve and rinse with cool water.
Add the cooked tapioca pearls to the sugar syrup and stir to coat the pearls with the syrup. Store in the refrigerator until ready to make the bubble tea.
Put the tea bags in a teapot or a pitcher. Bring the remaining 6 cups of water to a full boil and pour over the teabags. Brew until you have a double-strength tea, 5 to 6 minutes. Discard the teabags and cool the tea to room temperature.
For each serving of bubble tea, put 1/3 cup cooked tapioca pearls into a large glass. Combine 3/4 cup tea, 1/2 cup milk, 3 tablespoons sugar syrup, and a few cubes of ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake it thoroughly and pour over the tapioca pearls. Serve immediately with a wide straw.