You know you’re approaching a bubble-tea shop when you can smell the sweet scent of freshly brewed tea and fruit-flavoured syrups in the air. Many who venture in leave with a tea in each hand because there are so many styles, sizes and toppings to choose from.
Pamela Yip and Jenny Le were two such bubble-tea fanatics, until the coronavirus restrictions stopped them from getting their usual boba fix (boba is another name for the popular Taiwanese beverage, which combines tea, milk, tapioca pearls and fruit syrups). They attempted to make the drink themselves, but finding the right ingredients in Melbourne proved tricky.
“You can go to a big supermarket and buy milk powders and tea bags, but no tapioca pearls. Then you go to an Asian grocery and it’s there, but not the taro flavour, which is my favourite,” Yip says. “We could only find [the ingredients] separately, so we wanted to put [everything] together in one place.”
So they created Bubble Tea Club, which delivers customizable bubble-tea kits to help you brew and assemble boba at home.
Each kit comes with tea bags and fructose syrup to add sweetness. The basic milk-tea packs come with black tea; milk creamer (usually dairy-based); and tapioca popping pearls. The flavoured milk teas (such as taro, Thai and honeydew) also come with flavoured powder, and for the fruit teas, there are mango, passionfruit or lychee syrups.
Start with five serves to test your skills ($24.95), or scale up to a pack of 365 (reduced to $800) to feed your tumbler-a-day habit for a full year. Prices start at around $20 (the brown-sugar milk tea 10-pack is currently reduced to $19.95), and shipping is free if you spend more than $79.
There are add-ons, too: aloe vera, rainbow jelly, bags of popping pearls, brown-sugar syrup, and reusable metal straws and plastic cups (all ranging from $9.95 to $14.95).
The website has basic recipes you can follow, but part of the fun is learning to adjust the drinks to your own taste.
“We have 550 possible combinations with the toppings and syrups and teas. We’ve been adding and changing the flavours up quite a bit,” Yip says. “It’s like when you walk into a boba store and there are just so many varieties, you never really know which one to try.”
Everything in the kits – from the tea bags and mix-ins to the syrups and straws – is sourced directly from Taiwan, the home of bubble tea.
Yip was there at the end of last year and brought a bag of tea leaves home. When she was developing the kits and recipes, she found she preferred Taiwanese ingredients for flavour, aroma and depth.
“It just tasted so much better, with a lot more fragrance compared to using something that wasn’t as strong,” she says.
Bubble Tea Club delivers all over Australia, and while many customers have bought kits for themselves, others have been sending them as care packages to friends and family.
“There are a lot of people sending it as gifts to each other, then doing the activity – cooking and assembling the bubble tea – together,” Yip says. “We had someone send a pack to her boyfriend, and in the notes section she said, ‘I’ve said some mean things to him during PMS, so this is how I’m making it up to him’.”