In my dorm house, every Wednesday from 10:30pm to whenever is study break. Every week, a dorm room gets $40 to spend on sundry food for 25, 50, or 107 people. Yesterday was my roommate TJ and my turn, and we wanted to do something spectacular! The make-your-own sundae thing has been done too many times, chips were too trite (but we bought 2 packs anyway)...so what could we do!?
TJ came up with the idea. Bubble tea.
So, despite the fact that I had a proof to do for maths, I ran to Chinatown, met TJ there (she took SEPTA), bought 6 packs (so, 1.5 kilos) of tapioca pearls, 1 tin of green tea and 1 tin of black tea. I didn't want to use tea bags due to environmental reasons, and I think that the loose tea leaves added a more "authentic" effect to the tea while people were scooping it up, which is always nice even though I'm sure that authentic tea doesn't mean ladling tea out of a giant saucepan.
We then bought 4 lbs of sugar (even though sugar generally comes in 5-lb packages) and 2 gallons of whole-fat milk. I know that sweetened condensed milk might've been better, but that would've meant that we'd have to add the milk into the tea, which would have been really confusing since:
1. How much tea did we need?
2. What if people are lactose intolerant?
I used this recipe as a guideline although I don't really think that I should even cite it because I didn't follow it since it is really difficult mixing ratios of tea leaves:sugar:water:milk when people are crowding around you.
Note that I used my own bag. NO PLASTIC BAGS!!
Miraculously, the tapioca pearls were quick-cooking, which is SURPRISING because last time, for the same price ($1.68) at Kamman, I bought tapioca pearls that took hours to cook. This time, the bubbles floated up to the top in 5 minutes. Less than 5 minutes.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS? I'M NEVER BUYING $3 BUBBLE TEA AGAIN! (Well, perhaps in the company of friends) $1.68 can yield me so much more bubble tea in 5 minutes (whereas walking to a bubble tea store, ordering, paying etc. takes more time than that, and it also wastes plastic).
We bought two types of tapioca pearls: coloured ones and the typical black ones. They don't taste different, and I find it bizarre that most stores sell the black ones since the rainbow ones are quite pretty; I guess it's just tradition. Unfortunately, 1.5 kilos of bubbles (purported to serve around 40 people?) was not enough to serve my dorm house (and a few people from other college houses who came because I made study break the subject of a Facebook status and I'm currently kicking myself for doing that *insert selfish angry rant*). TJ also bought bubble tea straws from a bubble tea store nearby, although I was against it (plastic waste) but I agree that it made it more "authentic".
We had a huge problem because we had three spoons, an electric kettle, one saucepan, and one giant saucepan (I borrowed the saucepans). I also had a pie pan and a glass bowl (in which we put the tapioca). We also obtained a ladle, a colander and a vegetable-washing bowl. The main issue was making enough tea to please everyone. We made enough tea to fill the two pots, brought those downstairs, and decided to wait until study break to make refills.
People ladle tea at the speed of sound. Really. Luckily, two friends lent me their kettles (and we promptly ran out of electrical outlets), and we started doing this boil-water-pour-water-refill-throw-in-sugar-throw-in-tea-stir-serve!-serve!-serve! while attempting to communicate and transport kettles and saucepans back and forth. Meanwhile, a mob (a.k.a people in my dorm house + intruders) was scooping up tapioca pearls, sloshing out milk, chattering happily, and complimenting us. Yay!
The House Dean said that this certainly hadn't been done before. :) I must say it was a chaotic success.
An hour later, the crowd has dispersed, the bystanders were trampling stray bubbles on the carpet or sitting on the sticky-tapioca-studded tables, and TJ and I were packing up. We went to the kitchen and had a nice laugh and evaluation of the event while we picked out tapioca from the leftover 2 L of sweet Chinese tea and tea leaves (There were a LOT of tea leaves) and drank tea. I note that this is something I won't forget, and I can't wait to make 5-minute bubble tea again!
I will definitely take better photos in the future. I really wish that I had the time while shuttling hot water around to shoot the crowd - I mean, shoot pictures of the crowd.