Lychee Bubble Tea combines homemade iced tea, half and half, delicious lychee fruit, and chewy boba for a sweet and creamy drink. It's the best fruit bubble tea that's incredibly simple to make at home!
🧋 What Is Lychee?
Lychee (or litchi) is a tropical fruit native to China with bumpy reddish-brown skin and white flesh. They're small and round with a large dark seed in the middle. The lychee meat itself is very sweet and juicy with a floral note. You have to remove the skin and pit before you can enjoy it, but the effort is well worth it!
Lychee is actually my favorite fruit and whenever I see a drink or dessert with it, I absolutely have to order it. It adds a tropical, fragrant note that makes it so addictive. Lychee milk tea can be hard to find at boba shops, but like I said, I'll always order it if I see it. Turns out making it at home it way easier and tastier!
What Is Lychee Bubble Tea?
Bubble tea originated in Taiwan in the 1980s' and grew to massive popularity around the world. It usually consists of sweetened tea and boba pearls, which are made from the starch of cassava fruit to give it a chewy (or "qq") consistency. There are countless ways to customize bubble tea, from various fruit and tea flavors to unique toppings.
One of those fun variations is Lychee Bubble Tea! It combines Classic Milk Tea with lychee-infused syrup to make an easy lychee milk tea. In addition to the simple syrup, lychee bits and syrup adds fruity, fragrant flavor. You get plenty of texture from the chewy pearls and diced fruit. The result is a super creamy, sweet, and aromatic fruit bubble tea!
Why You'll Love It
- Unique flavor: Lychee may seem like an exotic fruit, but once you taste it you'll absolutely love it. The sweet, fruity, and tropical flavor adds a lot of dimension to bubble tea.
- Homemade is better: Several boba shops still use artificial syrups or powdered milk to make their bubble tea. Making lychee boba tea at home gives you total control of the sweetness and fresh quality.
- Refreshing: Is there anything more refreshing than a fruity iced tea on a hot summer day? This lychee milk tea is guaranteed to be the ultimate thirst-quencher!
- Boba (tapioca pearls): Pre-made boba can be found at your local Asian supermarket. I get the Bolle brand from H-Mart, which can also be found on Amazon. But shipped tapioca balls can become powdery during delivery so I recommend purchasing them in-person if you can.
- TIP: Avoid "quick cook", "instant", or "5 minute" pearls. They have a hardening quality in the starch that prevents them from getting perfectly chewy. You can check the instructions on the back of the bag to double check - there should be a 20-30 minute cooking time.
- Syrup: I like using a combination of honey, brown sugar, and white sugar. It adds a great depth with a slight honey-caramel flavor.
- Tea: You can use either black or green tea in lychee boba tea. I like black assam tea for its deep bitter quality, which can help balance out the sweetness in bubble teas. But green tea is more mild, which allows the fruit flavor to be more prominent.
- Lychee: This recipe uses canned lychee in syrup for convenience. Fresh lychee is delicious, but can be difficult to find and will have varying levels of sweetness. You can find canned lychee in most grocery stores in the canned fruit or international cuisine aisles.
- Half and half: Super smooth and creamy - it's my favorite dairy creamer to use in boba.
Substitutions & Variations
- To save time with the boba, you can purchase instant frozen boba from Costco. I use these to make an easy bubble tea in a pinch - but they do harden quickly. You may also need more litchi syrup since these don't have a lot of sweetener.
- If you prefer to use fresh lychee, remove the skin and pit of 8-10 fruit. Add to a blender with the half and half and purée until smooth. Use as your creamer but you may need more sweetener.
- Want more fun lychee flavor? Try adding lychee coconut jelly (cut into small strips to fit through a boba straw) or lychee popping boba.
- Use any type of creamer you'd like. Whole milk, oat milk, almond milk, or coconut milk would be great options.
- Pretty much any type of tea would taste great in lychee drinks. Oolong, earl grey, genmaicha, or jasmine tea are great pairings with fruit.
- To make hot lychee milk tea, brew tea and sweeten with litchi syrup while warm. Heat your creamer in the microwave or on the stovetop over medium heat, making sure to not boil and scald it. Combine with boba and brown sugar syrup to your liking.
- Add more flavors to create a delicious blend with litchi. Peach, rose syrup, matcha, and mango would be fun pairings!
- If you can't find fresh or canned lychee, rambutan or longan would be fine substitutes. They're all very similar to each other, with lychee being the sweetest and brightest flavor.
🔪 How To Make Lychee Bubble Tea
⬇️ Please scroll down to the recipe card to see full ingredient
amounts and instructions.
STEP ONE: Cook the boba first since it'll take the longest. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add the tapioca pearls. Turn the heat down so it's at a rolling simmer and stir for 1 minute to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Then cover with a lid and cook for 30 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes and make sure they're fully submerged in water, adding more if needed.
STEP TWO: After the initial 30 minutes, turn off the heat and let the boba sit undisturbed for another 30 minutes. Don't be tempted to peek!
STEP THREE: After the 30 minute rest time, drain the cooked pearls and rinse briefly with cold water.
STEP FOUR: While the boba is cooking, brew the tea. The temperature of the water will depend on the type of tea you're using - make sure to read the box instructions. Steep the tea bags for 3-5 minutes, discard the bags, and let the tea cool completely.
STEP FIVE: Meanwhile, make the brown sugar-honey syrup. Add water, white sugar, brown sugar, and honey to a small pot. Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 5-7 minutes until everything is dissolved. I recommend making the syrup while the boba is cooking so it'll be ready in time.
STEP SIX: Add the warm boba to the syrup. Let sit for 30 minutes for maximum absorption.
STEP SEVEN: Finally, get everything ready for assembly. You'll need the brewed tea, tapioca pearls in syrup, half and half, ice cubes, and diced lychee fruit in syrup.
💭 Top Tips
- Reserve the syrup in the canned lychee. It adds a lot of fruit flavor while sweetening the tea.
- Make sure to dice the litchi very finely so the small fruit bits can fit through the straw.
- Consume cooked boba within 4-6 hours. They don't store well and will harden as they cool. I recommend only making as much boba as needed.
- Make sure you have a proper boba straw! I like these reusable straws from Amazon.
- If making bubble tea for a large crowd or party, keep the cooked boba and syrup bath warm in a slow cooker. It's fun to have a boba bar with several fruit and toppings!
🥡 Storing And Make Ahead
Storing: Store each component separately and assemble right before consuming.
- I don't recommend storing cooked tapioca pearls since they'll harden in the fridge. Instead, consume them day-of and make them fresh each time.
- Brewed tea can be stored in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Keep it in the fridge for up to 3 days. It'll turn cloudy but it won't affect the taste.
- If you've used up the boba but have leftover brown sugar-honey syrup, you can use it any drink or cocktails. Store in a jar in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Make Ahead: Always make the boba day-of since it's best when it's warm and freshly made. But you can brew the tea, make syrup, and chop the lychee up to 3 days in advance.
📖 Recipe FAQs
I pronounce it as LEE-chee, but many people pronounce it as LIE-chee. There isn't a right or wrong answer, as both pronunciations are derived from different languages.
There is no difference! Both refer to sweetened tea drinks with tapioca pearls. Boba is usually referred to the tapioca pearls within the drink, but can also be used to call the drink as a whole. Boba, bubble tea, boba tea, pearl milk tea, and tapioca tea are all the same.
It depends on the tea you're using. Almost all teas have caffeine, with black tea having the most. But you can find easily decaffeinated versions if you'd like.
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Lychee Milk Tea
- Boba straw
Boba In Syrup
- Cook the boba. Pour 2½ cups water into a small pot. Cover and bring to a boil, then add the boba and stir for 1 minute. Bring the heat down so it's at a rolling simmer, cover with a lid, and let cook for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Make sure the boba is fully submerged in water - add more water if needed.
- After the first 30 minutes, take the pot off the heat and let sit for another 30 minutes - without peeking!
- Then drain the boba and rinse briefly with cold water.
- Make the syrup. While the boba is cooking, add ½ cup water to another small pot. Add the white sugar, brown sugar, and honey. Heat over medium heat for 5-7 minutes and whisk continuously until sugars are dissolved. Let cool.
- Add the drained boba to the syrup and let sit for 30 minutes to sweeten.
- Brew the tea while the boba is cooking. Steep the tea bags in 1½ cups hot water for 3-5 minutes, depending on how strong you'd like the tea to be. Let cool completely, either on your countertop or in the fridge.
- Prepare the lychee. Pick out about 5 lychee from the can. Dice very finely, making sure they're small enough to fit through a straw. Reserve the lychee syrup.
- Assemble. Divide the boba, lychee bits, tea, and half and half between two tall glasses. Sweeten with a couple spoonfuls of lychee syrup to your preference, then top with ice.For one glass, my preferred measurements are: ¼ cup boba pearls (with a little of the syrup), scant 1 tablespoon lychee fruit, ⅔ cup tea, ¼ cup half and half, 2-3 tablespoon lychee syrup, and 1 tablespoon homemade honey boba syrup.
- Tapioca pearls: Look for vacuum-sealed bags at Asian supermarkets. Avoid "quick cook", "instant", or "5 minute" pearls. They have a hardening quality in the starch that prevents them from getting perfectly chewy.
- If using fresh lychee, remove the skin and pit of 8-10 lychee. Add to a blender with the half and half and purée until smooth. Use as your creamer but you may need more sweetener.
- Want more lychee flavor? Try adding lychee coconut jelly (cut into small strips so they fit through a boba straw) or lychee popping boba.
- Make sure you have a proper boba straw! I like these reusable straws from Amazon.
👩🏻🍳 Products I Used
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