Bubble tea has come a long way since… well, I first heard about it. A lot of tea shops have taken shortcuts on how to make the tea, so instead of freshly brewing real tea, they will instead use cheap powders loaded with artificial flavors, colors, and excessive sugar, then charge you $5-7 for a low quality drink.
The good news is that while many shops have done this, a good number of other shops are doing the opposite. These shops are the ones that use fresh, seasonal fruit, make their own in-house tapioca balls, among other treats like grass jelly, lychee jelly, and pudding, use fresh milk (dairy and non-dairy versions), and freshly brew tea every single day. One of my and Chris’s favorite variations of bubble tea is fresh taro bubble tea, and I mean the REAL taro: the ones that use real, fresh taro paste and mix or blend it into the milk or tea, along with the tapioca balls or the jelly. Chris’s preference is pudding on the bottom, and I will take any and all of the above if there is fresh taro paste involved.
Since Chris’s cousin’s daughter is a big fan of taro, and I happened to see taro at a good price at the Chinese market while in Elmhurst last Friday, I decided to buy some to make homemade taro milk. At this time of year, taro isn’t actually in season and because of that, tends to be more on the pale white side in terms of color. The color of taro tends to vary: sometimes, it can be a nice purple color after steaming or boiling. Other times, it can be a pale purple or grey, and many times even just white or off white. After steaming my little taros today, they really didn’t turn any shade of purple at all like they do in the winter time. So in order to add color without using artificial flavoring (because at the end of the day, we all do eat with our eyes first, and the color of taro matters because people associate taro with the color purple), a lot of shops will add some purple yam or mashed ube and mix it into their taro paste. And that’s what I’m doing today for fresh taro milk!