spice bush bubble tea

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spice bush bubble teaSpice bush (Calycanthus occidentalis), which grows throughout the valley, was once prized by Native Americans for its medicinal value. Although the flowers and buds smell of Christmas spice, the leaves themselves have a fresh melonlike flavor. This pre-dessert calls for the leaves, pairing them with melons in a play on Taiwanese bubble tea.

  • Yield: 6 to 4 Servings


  • 1 kilogram | 4 cups canary melon puree
  • 50 grams | 2 ½ tablespoons trimoline
  • 25 grams | ¼ cup powdered glucose
  • 13 grams | about 4 sheets bronze gelatin, bloomed in ice water and
  • wrung gently of excess water
  • liquid nitrogen
  • 8 .3 kilograms | about 8 quarts plus 1 ¼ cups water
  • 150 grams | 1 cup large tapioca pearls
  • 300 grams | 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 300 grams | 1 ¼ cups water
  • 70 grams | 2.5 ounces spice bush leaves
  • 680 grams | 1.5 pounds peeled and seeded canary melon
  • 1 | lime
  • 25 grams | about 2 ½ tablespoons finger lime cells
How to Make It
  1. FOR THE CANARY MELON ICE: Combine the melon puree, trimoline, glucose, and gelatin in a saucepan. Place over medium heat and whisk just to melt the sugars and gelatin. Strain through a chinois into small plastic containers that hold about 250 grams (1 cup) each. Freeze for 8 hours.
  2. FOR THE SPICE BUSH PEARLS: Pour 8 kilograms (about 8 quarts) of the water into a stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the tapioca pearls while stirring constantly. Cook the pearls, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes, until they have turned from white to clear. Meanwhile, combine the remaining 300 grams (1 ¼ cups) of water and the sugar in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves. Pour the syrup into a blender, add the spice bush leaves, and mix on high speed for about 2 minutes, until liquefied. Strain through a chinois into a container and reserve. When the tapioca pearls are ready, drain them in a colander, then rinse with cold running water to remove excess starch and to cool. Place the pearls in a container and pour in spice bush syrup to cover. Keep at room temperature until needed.
  3. FOR THE COMPRESSED CANARY MELON: Using a Parisian scoop (about the same size as the cooked tapioca pearls), cut at least 50 spheres from the melon. Juice the remaining melon trim, then combine the melon spheres and enough of the juice to coat the spheres in a vacuum bag and seal on high. Store in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before use. Measure the remaining juice, then calculate 20 percent of that measure and measure that amount of spice bush syrup. Add the measured syrup to the remaining juice and season with lime juice until flavorful. Store in a very cold environment (about 36°F/2°C) for at least 2 hours before serving.

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