It’s Foodie Tuesday!
When I was little, my dad used to make me this concoction of hot weak tea with sugar and milk. He would make me drink this when I was feeling under the weather, so I have always associated this creamy tea concoction with being soothed and comforted.
I grew up to be more of a coffee drinker, but lately I have been reconnecting with my affinity for tea served with milk. But aside from the traditional and proper hot tea with a splash of milk or a dollop of cream, I have really gotten into this icy cool mutation of it. Over here there’s an influx of these trendy little tea shops that serve iced milk tea. In these shops customers are given a choice of tea, or the option to skip it altogether and go for a wintermelon-based or a fruit-based beverage. And when the choice of liquid is made, there are choices of chewy goodness that can be hidden in the milky tea depths — usually, tapioca pearls, cream pudding, or jelly. An oversized straw is provided, which allows the solids to be sucked up along with the tea — or non-tea, as the case may be.
This stuff is so amazingly good, I’m on the brink of getting addicted to it, with only the calories serving as deterrent.
All around Asia, there’s some version of this available. Different countries have different names for it, and different ways of preparing it, but the basic components are the same, milk and tea.
Bubble Tea, aka Pearl Milk Tea
Apparently this is what I have described above. The addition of tapioca pearls is an innovation that originated in Taiwan in the 1980’s. And it sure had those pearls rolling. Now nearly just about every smoothie, and ice-blended beverage is served with pearls.
This is what it’s called in Hongkong, and it’s made of freshly made hot black tea, evaporated milk, and condensed milk, and poured through a sock-like sieve over ice. There’s nothing mild about this one. The flavors are unabashedly strong. There’s an intense tea flavor, which contrasts beautifully with the thick, rich, sweet condensed milk.
I replicated this one quite successfully at home. I just steeped a couple of tea bags in freshly boiled water, let it cool for a while, and then poured it over some ice cubes. I then drizzled a satisfying amount of condensed milk on it and stirred.
Thai Milk Tea
The Thai have put a more unusual spin on this. The tea used is an unusual shade of brick red, due to the addition of certain spices during steeping – orange flowers, cardamom, star anise, vanilla, cinnamon. Aside from, and sometimes instead of, regular cow’s milk or condensed milk, coconut milk is used, and this gives it its fabulous identity.
Doodh Patti Chai
This is the Pakistani variation, instead of being boiled in water and adding milk afterwards, the tea is boiled in milk and sugar to begin with.
Iced Chai Tea Latte
This is surprisingly a regular item in most international coffee chains that I have been to over here, and it’s one of my favorites too.
This is actually for hot milk tea, and the term means “pulled tea”. This is the way they do it in Singapore and Malaysia.
The “pulling” involves pouring the hot tea and condensed milk back and forth between two containers, from a certain height. This process mixes the tea and milk thoroughly, cools it to optimum drinking temperature, and incorporates some air to lighten it up and create a fine foam. It also provides an opportunity to incorporate a little showmanship, a little drama into the enjoyment of the tea.