attempting homemade bubble tea

I feel like I mention bubble tea rather often. I was a bit of a latecomer to tbe bubble tea trend, so I assume mostly everyone but me has had it before, but just in case you haven't: it's ice tea with big tapioca pearls. The tapioca pearls are usually cooked in a sugar solution, so they're slightly sweet, and often the iced tea is mixed with milk or cream and/or lots of sugar. The liquid is sometimes blended with ice to be slushy/shake texture. Vegans can order it without milk (or with soymilk, if the place has any!), and people like me who don't like sweet drinks can often order it without sugar. While many bubble tea places use pre-mixed powders to flavor the tea, my favorite places to get bubble tea brew their own iced tea.

A while back I thought, hey, I've made tapioca pudding before, so why not try my hand at bubble tea? The bubbles are bigger, but that doesn't make them harder to cook, right?

I bought a package of large tapioca pearls at an Asian market, and looked up recipes online: boil the pearls in simple syrup until they are cooked through. Different internet recipes made this sound like it could take anywhere from 30 minutes to 6 hours, depending on the recipe I consulted. I figured I'd be able to tell just by the texture of the tapioca pearl. I dove right in.

After 2 hours of first boiling, then simmering in a slightly weak simple syrup (using lots of sugar kinda freaked me out, so I cut back), the tapioca pearls started to get gelatinous and dissolve. I was worried they'd all dissolve and I'd end up with one big pot of gel, so I decided they were done. Drained and strained!
However, if you look closely, they look a little like frog's eggs; the middle is still opaque, which means it's not done yet. I took them out too early. Though tapioca starts to look like it's losing its shape while cooking, it maintains is structure pretty well--and once in cold water (and stored in the fridge), it firms right up. And was a little too firm when drinking it.
It still tasted good, so the fiance and I still used it for bubble tea, but the middles were a bit crunchy.I think from now on I'm going to stick with buying my bubble tea.