Taro (Colocasia esculenta) is a tuberous, evergreen plant with an edible starch vegetable root that adds a pearly and purple hue to desserts and drinks.

This beverage is perfect for an uplifting refresher or best paired with avocado toast or a breakfast bowl for a healthy start to your day.

If you haven’t heard of boba milk tea, its origins trace back to the 1980s in Taiwan, where cooked tapioca pearls were added to traditional milk tea. The pearls looked like bubbles floating at the bottom of the drink and were chewy and had a pop of sweet liquid, thus creating an instant favorite and a new drink trend!

For this recipe, Matthew Herrman, Tropical Fruit Specialist, harvested taro root from the Marcia and L. Bates Lea Asian Garden. Fogg Café Chef Andrew Foyt used the taro root for a tasty drink, the taro milk boba tea.

You can purchase taro at your local grocery store. Find boba in the international aisle or at a local Asian food store. 

Taro Milk Boba Tea


Taro root purée:
15 ounces peeled and diced taro root
2 tablespoons sugar

2 cups water
1/2 cup tapioca pearls
2 tablespoons sugar

2 cups spring water
2 tablespoons loose-leaf jasmine tea
1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk
1 cup milk

Preparation and Process

For the taro root purée:
Bring a small pot of water to a boil, and add the peeled and diced taro root.

Cook for 20 minutes or until tender. The taro root should be soft enough to poke through without resistance.

Discard the water.

Using a food processor and working while the taro is still hot, purée the cooked taro root and sugar until a smooth paste forms. Set aside.

Note: All forms of taro, a popular, starchy root vegetable, contain calcium oxalate in their raw form. Taro must be cooked to minimize this toxin, which causes severe mouth and throat irritation.

For the boba:
Add the tapioca pearls and 2 tablespoons sugar to 2 cups of boiling water.

Boil for 5 – 7 minutes.

The boba are done cooking when they begin to float. You can adjust the cooking time depending on how firm or soft you prefer your boba pearls.

Remove from hot water, and set aside to cool.

For the jasmine tea:

Heat 2 cups of water in a tea pot until it reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit, or when the water starts to simmer.

Remove from heat, and add the jasmine tea leaves.

Steep tea for 2 – 4 minutes, or until you reach your desired tea strength.

While the brewed jasmine tea is hot, mix well with fresh ground root paste and condensed milk to form a light purple-hued tea. Add the milk and tapioca pearls to the mixture. Serve the taro milk tea hot or cold.

This recipe originally appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of Cultivate, the Garden’s magazine.

About the Author

Darby Kordonowy is the Content Coordinator for Naples Botanical Garden. Darby loves learning! Her favorite plants are the jade vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys) and the Camellia japonica ‘Pink Perfection.’ She is an amateur bird watcher! 

Questions? Email us at info@naplesgarden.org, or read the Garden FAQ.

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