Many years ago now, I was thirsty while shopping in a Japanese grocery store (in Columbus, Ohio – I miss it there, sometimes). I took a look in the refrigerated case and there, beckoning, was some beverage I’d never seen before: Milk tea. I take my hot tea with just milk, so I was intrigued. I picked it up, and I’ve never looked back. Since buying smallish imported bottles got expensive fairly quickly, I decided to try to make my own milk tea at home.
I’ve been doing this for about 10 years occasionally, but in the past year or two, this has been a fairly regular afternoon beverage choice for me. I do love hot tea, but – especially when it’s nearly 80F in February – sometimes a nice, icy, cold drink option is preferable.
If you check the ingredients on a bottle of Japanese milk tea, you’ll see that many of them use powdered or evaporated milk. I did try playing around with those things at first, but landed on this method because it’s simple, straightforward, and involves only stuff I keep in the house anyway.
Most of the commercial brands also list sugar as a sweetener, but I’ve found that it tastes closer to true with… artificial sweetener. I know. It’s weird. But I use Ez Sweetz (affiliate link), and it literally involves tiny drops, so I don’t get any weird aftertaste. You could try simple syrup or just adding plain sugar; I’ve never gotten the taste I want that way, but that doesn’t mean you won’t!
My opinion is that Ceylon orange pekoe (e.g. Lipton) is the best tea to use for this. It’s got that intensely leafy aroma with a hint of floral lightness playing at the edges, and milk + that dried, vegetal scent that just fills your nose = amazing in every dimension. It’s a full, round flavor and it pairs perfectly with full, round milk fat. Right? So, you can do this with Earl Grey or what have you. And of course, chai lattes are a dime a dozen, so that works, too. But I urge you to try this with plain ol’ Lipton black tea first.
There are two ways (at least) to make a milky, cold drink with tea. One is to brew the tea in water and add milk after the fact; the other is to brew the tea in the milk itself (a la spiced chai). The latter is really lovely but again, since I drink this daily, I wanted it to be easy to make and to store well. So I choose to brew the tea in water – but a bit more concentrated than I would for drinking hot. That way, when I add the milk, the flavor isn’t lost.
I prefer to drink this over ice, because, ever since I was pregnant with my first, I cannot resist drinking things with a ridiculous amount of ice in them. (Previously, I frequently ordered cold drinks with no ice. I thought I’d do so well in Europe, with my preference for less ice. Ha, ha. Joke’s on you, body.) You could instead refrigerate and drink it sans ice, for a smoother experience.
However you decide to make and enjoy this, I’d love to hear about it! Come chat in our Making Peace with Dinner Facebook group while you sip (or gulp, I wouldn’t know about that) your cold, refreshing milk tea.
Cold, refreshing, aromatic milk tea is a refreshing and different twist on iced lattes. Inspired by Japanese milk tea, it's simple to make with everyday ingredients!
- 2 bags black tea I prefer Lipton for this (in the US)
- 8 oz water
- 2 oz whole milk
- 3 drops Ez Sweetz or use sugar
Bring the water to a boil; meanwhile, place your tea bags in a heatproof vessel. Once the water boils, turn the heat off and pour it over the tea bags. Brew as you normally would - I go for 4 minutes.
Pour the tea over ice in a tumbler or other drinking vessel that can handle thermal changes.
Add the milk and sweetener, and stir. That's it! Drink and enjoy.
If you make this and find you really like it, you can brew a big batch of concentrated tea at once. We do this by following the same ratio of about twice as much tea to water as you'd normally use.
Bring the water to a boil and turn off the heat. If you're using a pot to boil the water (as we do, being sans fancy electric kettle at the moment), you can just put the tea bags directly into the pot and hang the tags over the edge for easy retrieval. Use the same brewing time; if you leave the tea in too long it draws out more tannins and can become bitter.
You can either store the concentrated tea in a pitcher in the fridge by itself or mix ahead of time with milk and sweetener. I like the ritual of adding milk and sweetener just before I drink my tea, so I do each glass separately.