I’m not much of a coffee person. I’m more of a tea girl, if not a water girl.
Milk tea is old news. To people thinking of opening more milk tea holes: please don’t. Unless it’s a miraculously new or delicious milk tea, bring something else into the market.
Don’t get me wrong. I love milk tea. It’s just that the food scene gets boring when there’s too much of a good thing. Much like the time it was (and still is) full of cupcakes, and the time yogurt was the craze. Why am I writing about tea all of a sudden? After consuming the drink right below several weeks ago, for the first time I was inspired to write about it. Below are my favorite teas.
Gong Cha House Special Wintermelon Milk Tea (with grass jelly)
A revelation at first sip
Until one Saturday evening, I’d always been served my usual pastel-colored wintermelon drink with a heap of black pearls at the bottom. It was good, but got boring. When the server handed this over, I thought they gave the wrong one. It looked like Happy Lemon’s Rock Salt Cheese Cocoa drink, but substituted the cocoa with tea. The milk mixed with the tea in swirly poofs. I pushed in the straw (missing the thrill of stabbing the plastic lid, however) and took a sip. It was mellow and soft. It’s fragrantly wintermeloney with a hint of milky sweetness, while silky bites of jelly slither into the mouth. Every sip tastes milkier, since the thick cream continually blends with the tea. This is the kind of drink that takes you from clear and delicate to slightly milky, then richly milky. No boredom, but all kinds of satisfying.
(Note: the second time around, it was a bit too sweet for my taste. Gotta try it again to make sure!)
A Gantea Taro Milk Tea
(30% sugar level)
That afternoon was a sampling of all the best sellers. That’s the fun in going out with non-saliva-conscious family. But the drink that won me over had tapioca-ball-chewy, gelatinous-with-bite, and mushy textures. I’d always been a fan of taro milk tea (during that ancient time when Zagu and Quickly was the craze), but for now this is my ultimate taro fix. Thank you, Isa and Den, for recommending the place.
CBTL African Sunrise Tea Latte
This simple drink came in a mug with a generous cloud of froth. (A bit too sweet for my taste, but lessening the sweetness would also reduce creaminess since their sweetener is vanilla powder.) African Sunrise is a full-bodied herbal infusion of African honeybush and orange peel with a smooth vanilla undertone and hints of citrus. In other words, it’s a combination of three of my favorite things. Plus, the folks at CBTL are great. They gave me a free coffee capsule. At another time, they even gave me a tiny free tea latte when I ordered the cold spicy chicken salad.
Roasted Barley/Rice Tea
and their variations which may include blends with green tea
Especially the complementary tea at Sugi which combined roasted rice (or was it barley?) with some green tea. (they wouldn’t tell me where they got it though) Roasted barley/rice tea tastes clean. They also remind me of paper, pandas, grass, and the color beige.
Kirkland Matcha Green Tea
Inexpensive, and comes in a fine wire mesh bag (one of my only particularities when it comes to tea) that lets the clean/grassy (in a good way)/papery (in a good way) taste emerge, uninterrupted by any hint of soggy paper (because there’s desirable paper taste, and undesirable paper taste). After steeping for thirty seconds, you get to pour matcha powder from the bag on top of the tea, a pleasurable act which let’s you pretend you’re living a fine Japanese life for five seconds.
The Tea That Got Away
- That tea from Origins (the beauty store, of all places), NYC, last Christmas 2010 which they served in stingy little cups to half-frozen customers lost in SoHo. They came in silky wire mesh pyramids. I vaguely remember tasting a fruity aroma (citrus? berries?), with some leafiness, and a vanilla flavor. I bought a box. That’s as much as I remember.
- That once in a lifetime experience of oolong tea where, in a fateful collision of the perfect temperature, the perfect teapot (used for a hundred years, give or take a decade), and the right leaves, and the right Chinese girl (???) I was able to taste non-bitter, light-to-medium bodied oolong that finished with a sweet aftertaste. It was supposedly because the leaves and temperature were just right (you have to be perfect with oolong, too hot and it will be bitter), and because the frequent use of the pot absorbed some magical properties that gave that sweetness. I half believe that it’s all Dr. Tea Beijing sales talk bullshit, but I half want it to be true. So far, all personal attempts have only produced piles of unfurled little black balls and a lot of bitter tea.
Merry Moo Earl Grey Ice Cream
Not a drink, but I had to include it because it’s one of the best ice cream flavors of all time. Merry Moo makes delicious artisinal ice cream, and this is my favorite flavor of them all. Subtle, smooth, with a distinct Earl Grey flavor and a creamy consistency. These days, people are even making good earl grey cupcakes, earl grey macarons. Yay.
Moonleaf Hakka Milk Tea (25-50% sugar level)
Serenitea Wintermelon Milk Tea (25% sugar level)
and most other wintermelons out there
The dark, bold flavor of the wintermelon is rounded off by milk and a hint of sweetness. It tastes deep and three dimensional (I can’t stand teas that taste like sweet milk with only a drop of the tea flavor). Serenitea was my first encounter with wintermelon. I still remember processing its taste as mysterious. Ever since, it’s been a hunt for the best wintermelon out there. When I find something I like, I stick to it. On occasion, I try something else, but usually end up regretful. This is my standard drink, the one I get when I’m not sure, whose basic qualities just need to be present, but can be added onto or given a new spin for a drink that I’ll probably enjoy.
What are your favorite tea fixes?