Introducing our very first "Spooning with" series, Spoon UBC was fortunate to be able to attend UBC Food Science Club's bubble tea pearl making workshop. 

What is "Spooning with"? Every other week, Spoon UBC collaborates with another student-run organization on campus to highlight the diversity and presence of other passionate food lovers. Because what's better than sharing our love for food than with our community? So, let's get spooning. 

Upon entering the workshop, I was warmly welcomed by the executive members of the Food Science Club who were prepping all the ingredients for their members and guests. I got to know a few of them, one of whom is the current Vice President (VP), Shirley Li. 

coffee, tea, cake
Athena Huynh

Spoon UBC: So who is Shirley Li? Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Shirley: I'm a fourth year nutritional food sciences student and the VP of Food Science Club this year. I'm so ambitious about food and during my free time I, of course, spend it cooking all types of food. At home, I like to try to cook different types of entrées and cuisines, for example Chinese, Japanese, or Korean.. oh I just noticed all of those were Asian. But nonetheless, I would like to cook dishes from different countries.

Spoon UBC: So, how long have you been cooking for?

Shirley: In terms of actually and practically cooking, I started in first year and, at the same time, I was also working as a volunteer at Agora Cafe (where I'm still working at.) I gained all of my baking experience (and a little bit of cooking experience) there, as I was a prep Chef leader where I got to learn a lot. A lot of aspects in my life are tightly linked to cooking, and I do like spending a lot of time in the kitchen.

Spoon UBC: Out of everything that you've made, what's your favorite thing to cook so far?

Shirley: I just made a crepe cake last week, it's 25 layers of crepes with cream between each layer. It's super time-consuming, but you will realize that it's worth it in the end.

Spoon UBC: That sounds absolutely mouth-watering, do you have any tips or lessons that you've learned about cooking since you started?

Shirley: 1. Make sure you're totally safe whenever you're cooking or eating. I once spilled hot soup onto my thigh and it hurt for an entire week. So, make sure that you keep yourself safe whenever you're in touch with food.

2. Don't be afraid to try out new things. If you're following a recipe and you're lacking in some of the ingredients, just add in another ingredient you have and see how things go. (But if you're not confident in the taste, then just follow the recipe.)

3. If you really want to be good at cooking, make sure that you have the passion for it. If you don't like staying in the kitchen, then maybe cooking isn't your thing.

4. Although, for people who don't like cooking, you have to believe that there are people who are super nuts about cooking around the world. So don't worry if you don't want to cook, there will always be people who will want to cook for you.

Spoon UBC: We will definitely keep those in mind – especially your first tip. Is there anything you would like to share about Food Science Club?

Shirley: I don't know how much you know about our club, but to be honest, we are more than cooking. You can see that we're not cooking regular stuff, we're cooking fun things that you can have fun with your friends during a workshop.

We also have presentations that try to explain the principles behind what we make, for example why some people can just make food [according to the recipe] and why some can't. We also want to try to appeal to our members who are really interested in the science, we want to give them the knowledge that they are seeking. 

There's definitely science behind it and I really love digging in and finding out what is going on. I just love everything about food, and there are many interesting things behind it. That's why I love being in food science, whether it's a major or a club. 

And without further ado, I am honoured to be able to share Food Science Club's recipe with you today. This is a simple and really fun recipe to make – and I even got to learn about the science behind it too.

Shirley's Bubble Tea Pearls

  • Prep Time:5 mins
  • Cook Time:15 mins
  • Total Time:20 mins
  • Servings:4
  • Easy


  • 200g tapioca flour or tapioca starch
  • 110g water
  • 90g brown sugar
  • Step 1

    Dissolve the brown sugar in the water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.

    coffee, tea, espresso
    Photo by Athena Huynh
  • Step 2

    Pour mixture into the tapioca flour immediately after it starts to boil.

    milk, cream, cereal, dairy
    Photo by Athena Huynh
  • Step 3

    Mix the ingredients together with a spoon or a fork until it forms a dough.

    bread, dough, flour
    Photo by Athena Huynh
  • Step 4

    Tear small pieces of the dough to roll into little balls.
    #SpoonTip: If the mixture is too loose or runny to hold its shape, gradually add more tapioca flour until the dough can be rolled into little balls.

    vegetable, sweet
    Photo by Athena Huynh
  • Step 5

    Dust the balls with tapioca flour (to prevent it from sticking together.)
    #SpoonTip: The balls should be evenly sized and small enough to pass through a typical bubble tea straw. If the balls are too big, the inside of the balls won’t be thoroughly cooked and will taste starchy when bitten into it.

    Photo by Athena Huynh
  • Step 6

    Boil another pot of water with the rolled balls inside while stirring gently.

    coffee, chocolate
    Photo by Athena Huynh
  • Step 7

    Cover the pot with a lid and let it boil for 15 minutes until the balls become completely translucent.

    coffee, water, fish, tea, seafood
    Photo by Athena Huynh
  • Step 8

    Drain the water out and enjoy the tapioca pearls with your favourite tea.

    coffee, oil, wine, espresso
    Photo by Athen Huynh

It was an absolute pleasure to be able to connect with food on a scientific level. Be sure to follow the Food Science Club on their Facebook page and send them some spoon love!