I have a confession to make. I was 16 years old when I first tasted a strange drink called bubble tea. I was amazed that I had never seen, much less tasted, this drink before. Sweet and flavourful, with a hint of bitterness from the tea, it was so refreshing. I was hooked. Every trip to Toronto after that required at least one large cup of bubble tea. I tried many flavours, but my favourite remained lychee.
Fast forward a couple of years later. Jimmy and I went to the small bubble tea place in Kingston (can’t find an address or even the proper name from Google. It’s in downtown Princess Street, beside Dairy Queen and across from Pizza Pizza on Division Street), and I managed to horrify him with my order of lychee iced green tea with pearls. He ordered the Royal, which is the original black milk tea, and couldn’t believe that I had never had milk tea before. I thought HE was the weird one for ordering milk tea. To him, a fruit juice-based bubble tea was blasphemous. We ended up bickering about it all night.
A few years after that incident, Jimmy has stolen my order of lychee iced green tea. Every time we get bubble tea now, he orders my favourite, and I’m stuck trying to figure out what I should order. I don’t like to get the same flavours as someone else, you see. If you have three people in a group ordering the same flavour, then it’s just boring.
All of that crap was just for me to say that Jimmy and I have discovered that it’s cheaper to make bubble tea at home. We bought a package of dried tapioca balls and canned lychee in syrup from one of the Asian markets. We lacked cool glasses and a giant straw, but the bubble tea tasted the same.
Half a package of dried tapioca pearls
Enough boiling water to cover the pearls, plus two inches
2 tbsp honey
3 cups brewed tea, cooled
1 can lychee in syrup
Ideally, make the tea the night before you want to have some bubble tea. That way, the tea will already be cooled and won’t be diluted by the melted ice cubes. I used three bags of Lipton’s Yellow Label Tea for about 3 cups of water.
Bring some water to a rolling boil. Toss in the tapioca pearls, and boil for half an hour. Make sure to stir a few times at the start, so that the pearls don’t stick to the bottom of the pot and burn.
These are the lovely tapioca balls after they’ve been cooked to chewy perfection. All of that slime is honey, by the way.
Shake up 1 cup of tea with a couple of ice cubes and 2 tbsp of lychee syrup in a martini shaker. This part is critical to get the bubbles for the bubble tea. Contrary to popular belief, the bubbles are the frothy bubbles caused by shaking, not the pearls. Anyway, this is the brand of canned lychee I used. Not quite the same as fresh, but still hella delicious!
Pour into a bowl with a ladleful of honeyed pearls, and enjoy!