Is there a way to make a bubble tea without the caffeine?
March 16, 2013 3:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking to make a bubble tea style drink at home, but all of the mixes seem to be tea based. Is there any that don't have caffeine that you are aware of or have used before?

I'm thinking a syrup, or something else that you could add. Any info would be appreciated. Thanks!
posted by timpanogos to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
When you say "bubble tea style drink", what do you mean exactly? I mean, if you can handle making the tapioca pearls, you can stick them in whatever you like: smoothies, milkshakes, fruit juice, beer, gazpacho, whatever.

Obviously some combinations will work better than others, but pretty much any creamy sweet drink should be tasty. I'd probably go with making a thin milkshake and adding pearls to taste if you want something with a little body, but I've had lots of bubble tea drinks that were effectively little more than tapioca with milk and Nestle strawberry syrup, so syrup + milk and pearls will work too.
posted by Diagonalize at 3:17 PM on March 16, 2013

You could probably get the same (or better) flavor from brewing a decaffeinated or herbal tea you like and mixing with milk and sugar.
posted by elizeh at 3:22 PM on March 16, 2013

So you're saying, Diagonalize, to use maybe a flavored syrup to achieve the same effect/flavor as a normal bubble tea?
posted by timpanogos at 3:31 PM on March 16, 2013

Is there any reason why you couldn't just use decaffeinated tea?
posted by Flunkie at 3:47 PM on March 16, 2013

Huh. Whenever I used to get bubble tea I would get, like, "watermelon," which was basically pureed watermelon. My sense is that you can just put it in whatever you feel like drinking, though I'm not sure what effect carbonation might have.
posted by rhizome at 3:58 PM on March 16, 2013

Here's a recipe that explains how to make bubble tea at home with any kind of tea (you'll want to use a decaf black, decaf green or herbal tea), and if you're accustomed to a fruit-flavored bubble tea you'll also want to add the appropriate flavor syrup.
posted by milk white peacock at 3:58 PM on March 16, 2013

Could you use an herbal tea instead of black/green? I've had some really good fruity bubble teas that seem like they could be made with any type of tea...something like chamomile or mint even. Whatever you like. Could also add flavored syrup.
posted by fromageball at 3:59 PM on March 16, 2013

timpanogos, to clarify, the "bubble tea" that some of us are familiar with comes in many fruit flavors (my favorite is taro) and is basically a slushy with flavor syrup and tapioca pearls. I sense from your question that this type of bubble tea drink is not what you are referring to?
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:17 PM on March 16, 2013

Wikipedia suggests that even the fruit-slushie bubble teas are probably actually tea-based. But you do get (for example) places that do obviously tea-based, er, teas. I've actually never encountered somewhere that does only things of the slushie variety (my sample is a few random bits of the US).

For my great home boba experiment of a couple years back, I ended up using iced coffee I made myself and not any of the tea powders. So I'll add my vote to the 'make your own tea' chorus. (I ended up sort of averaging a couple of sets of instructions I found online and trying to deduce the instructions from the pictures on the back of the packet. I did a trial batch first and I was successful enough that I didn't end up asking anyone to read the packet for me.)
posted by hoyland at 5:35 PM on March 16, 2013

I've made a bubble tea style drink with puréed honeydew, coconut milk, and tapioca. It was caffeine free and very tasty.
posted by asphericalcow at 5:41 PM on March 16, 2013

This place has many bubble tea mixes. I believe that all of the fruit ones are tea-free.

That said, I make bubble tea (or bubble tea styled drinks) at home a lot, no mix required, and it's pretty great. One part liquid, one part dairy (optional), sweetener if needed, bubbles. So mango nectar, coconut milk, and bubbles. Or iced tea, milk, bubbles. If you want more flavors, you can use any flavoring syrup--Torani is a common brand that I can buy at my supermarket, and there are craploads of flavors available on Amazon and the like. Water + syrup can be used for the liquid, as can fruit puree. (If you use fruit puree, you'll probably want one part fruit puree, one part water, and one part dairy--puree by itself can make a really thick drink.)

For the slushie type, it's pretty much just frozen fruit or ice, liquid, puree: frozen strawberries, iced white tea, puree the crap out of it, add bubbles. Frozen mango, peach nectar, puree, add bubbles.

This basically can go on forever. I'm stopping so that I don't get boring, but if you want suggestions of things to mix together, drop me a line.
posted by MeghanC at 7:54 PM on March 16, 2013

Most average bubble tea drinks are tea-based, so if you're hoping to replicate exactly that flavor in your homemade versions, it will be difficult, but it's not at all difficult to create a tasty non-caffeinated beverage that happens to feature bubbles. The bubbles are really just big tapioca balls; they add lots of fun texture, but have very little flavor by themselves. You can make tastier pearls by letting them marinate in a sugar syrup, but the true deliciousness definitely comes from whatever you stick them in.

Basically all the suggestions above are good ones, and they'll likely result in a tasty beverage, but a standard bubble tea will be harder to fake without actually using tea. Green tea generally has significantly less caffeine than black tea, and there are decaffeinated versions of both green and black tea which you could use in place of regular and they'll work fine, but these won't totally eliminate all caffeine if you have a particularly pronounced sensitivity. There are also lots of herbal blends which aren't strictly tea, but they can be plenty flavorful, and they'd make a reasonable substitute. You can easily control the sweetness and add flavor to these decaf bubble teas and tisanes with syrups, and as you probably noticed, fruit-based bubble "tea" is also very common and popular.

Regular dairy products, condensed milk (very, very thick and sweet!), and coconut milk are some of the more standard "home brew" additions if you want that creamy texture, but there is no standard proportion, so it's really a question of what you like to drink, but MeghanC's suggestions are a good place to start. The bubbles themselves really are naturally bland, so if you want bubbles with a particular chew and sweetness, you're going to have to experiment a bit with cooking timing and syrups a bit, but once you've mastered that part, don't be afraid to just throw them into things. I mean, I've had everything from bubble root beer floats to aloe flavored bubble drinks to pureed mangoberry bubble slushies, so it's not like there are any hard rules about this stuff.
posted by Diagonalize at 6:06 PM on March 17, 2013

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