Milk tea is Hong Kong’s undisputed king of drinks. Hong Kong-style milk tea is a beverage originating from Hong Kong consisting of black tea with evaporated milk or condensed milk. It is usually part of lunch in Hong Kong tea culture. Hong Kong milk tea is also known as “pantyhose tea” or “silk stocking tea” because it is often brewed in a large tea sock that resembles pantyhose. It has a smooth, creamy texture thanks to the evaporated milk (or, if you opt for sweetened, condensed milk, it becomes beguilingly sweet and full flavored).
The first criterion of a good cup of milk tea is its “smoothness,” in other words, how creamy and full-bodied it is. Another criterion for tasty milk tea (and also bubble tea) is some white frothy residue inside the lip of the cup after some of it has been drunk. This white froth means that the concentration of butterfat in the evaporated milk used is high enough. The taste and texture of ‘Hong Kong’ style milk tea might be influenced by the milk used. For example, some Hong Kong cafés prefer using a filled milk variant, meaning it is not purely evaporated milk (as with most retail brands) but a combination of skimmed milk and soybean oil.
And so yours truly continues on a tea-drinking saga to find out which ones offer the most satisfying and value for money milk teas. Read on.
Disclaimer: Tea shops listed below were in the order of dates by which I tried them, not necessarily in the order by which I rated them 🙂
EasyWay and Quickly – My First Loves
EasyWay and Quickly are the 2 stores that first introduced me to love this kind of beverage. I’m not sure if EasyWay still exist here in the Philippines though but the two flavors that I loved from this store are taro and almond. I believe those two were also their best sellers during their times. EasyWay is an international tea outlet that serves hot and cold beverages with assorted flavouring. It started out as a small store in Taiwan owned by Kuo Wun-Ho and Fu Hsin-Chin back in 1992, its success riding on the popularity of bubble tea in Taiwan. EasyWay is now a company with more than 700 stores worldwide, including outlets in Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand,Canada and the United States.
Quickly is one of the largest tapioca milk tea franchises in the world, with over 2000 locations in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. Quickly is the brand name of Kuai Ke Li Enterprise Co. Ltd., which was founded by Nancy Yang in Taiwan and started franchising. Here in the Philippines, Quickly stalls can usually found in shopping malls especially at SM and Robinsons. Years back, I remember my shopping spree would not be complete without buying Taro-Taro (iced taro with taro pudding and black pearls).
Kozui Green Tea
The first time romance with Kozui was in November of 2011 when Joe and I were waiting for my friends at Tomas Morato Avenue in Quezon City. According to them, they use real Matcha green tea for their concoctions. You won’t find a wide range of milk teas here and the prices are a bit stiff, but they have a good selection of fruit-based tea drinks. You could also try their Korichios (like tea Frappuccinos, so to speak).
Zentea: Perfecting Teas, Innovating Drinks
Zentea was established in July 2005 with a branch in SM North Edsa. A privately owned business of tea-based drinks inspired from oriental concept of drinking tea. It aims to be the leading tea-based beverage shop in the Metro by 2011; and to be the most innovative drinks using the best teas and ingredients around the world. True to their word, they have continued to live on along with the rest of the tea shops. It was Joe Panahon who introduced me to this tea shop. I frequent their Banawe and St. Luke’s branches as they are the most accessible from where I am.
Feeling the ambience, the location and looking at the creative menu you would first think that Zentea products are expensive, why not? The place and products can be compared to a popularly expensive coffee shop except that the price is really affordable. An XL glass of my favorite Autumn (Nai Cha with gooey pearls and black gelatin) costs only P80. Affordable right? This may be attributed with the fact that Zentea was first conceptualized to cater to students and true to their commitment Zentea has maintained their products’ affordability. Zentea’s Autumn is by far one of the milk teas I most love!
Serenitea: Not your ordinary cup of tea!
The hunt for milk teas left me wandering in the roads of N. Roxas corner Banawe and led me to Serenitea. I tried their Okinawa and Joe tried the Royal milk tea.
Inspired by a long stay in Taiwan, Juliet and her partner Peterson Chen saw the immense popularity of tea stores wherein people in the streets drank tea like it was water. And with a couple of visits in local tea shops, they were convinced by the wide potential of selling tea as a fun and healthy drink that people would definitely love. But what makes Serenitea truly unique is their specialized equipment and fresh tea leaves. They are the first to use a customized espresso machine especially made for tea so that means each drink is freshly brewed every time they order. Also they get all their tea leaves from Taiwan. They also serve snacks inspired by Taiwanese street foods like: Pepper Tofu, deep fried tofu seasoned with their special pepper mix; Pepper Sweet Corn, corn deep fried in vegetable oil; and Chicken Chops; Serenitea’s own version of crispy chicken strips. Price range though is quite stiff so be ready to shell out at least P100 for the beverages.
ChaTime: Good Tea, Good Time
I first heard of ChaTime from a colleague named Nina Peregrino. ChaTime also located in N. Roxas corner Banawe was founded in Taiwan in 2005, and aims to be the most loved and respected tea company in the world. Since its founding in 2005, ChaTime has become one of the biggest international bubble tea brands today, as well as being the only publicly listed beverage provider in the Taiwan stock exchange. As of September 2010, they have over 480 stores worldwide in Taiwan, Malaysia, China, USA, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Australia, Korea, Japan and the Philippines! The owners of the French Baker group decided to bring in Chatime, the #1 Bubble Tea store in Taiwan, to our local shores. What I love most about ChaTime stores are the interiors, because it’s in my favorite colors – violet and pink!
An array of choices on their menu led me to trying their classic ChaTime Roasted Milk Tea which is a must-try for newcomers, with its smooth, intense flavor and generous serving of gooey pearls. But if you’re looking to try something new without being too experimental, be sure to try the Red Bean Milk Tea. The Grass Jelly Milk Tea is also highly recommended. Prices of the beverage start at P90 for the large drink.
Moonleaf Tea Shop: In the neighborhood
Moonleaf is a tea shop offering freshly-brewed tea mixed into a variety of delicious and refreshing concoctions, milk tea being the most popular. From what started as a quaint shop on October 3, 2010 along Magiting Street, UP Teacher’s Village in Diliman, Quezon City, it became a big hit among the student and young professional crowd in the area. As long lines formed and word spread like wildfire about this affordable and delicious beverage alternative, Moonleaf expanded to a bigger space along the famed foodie street of Maginhawa in the same village, to accomodate its now varied clientele. Today, Moonleaf has branches in the main metropolitan centres north of Manila, in the nearby provinces and soon in metropolitan centres of the south. The branch located in Seneca Building along E. Rodriguez Quezon City is the one that I frequent most.
Moonleaf Tea Shop was introduced to me by Joe Panahon. What I love about this tea shop is that the mixture that is not that sweet nor tasty, just enough for me. The shop’s interior is screaming of a minimalist clean white and green decor combination. They also have a cork board wall where one can pretty much write just about anything for everyone to see 🙂 And of course the pricing, ah it’s just too affordable, even students can afford it. My favorite – the winter melon milk tea with pearls – is priced at P85 only. Moonleaf Tea Shop is one of the tea shops that I truly love.
Gong Cha: The best tea contributes to the Emperor from all possessions of China in the ancient time
Gong Cha was first launched in Kaohsiung, Taiwan in 2006. There are over 100 outlets worldwide spreading from Taiwan to Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau, and China. Gong Cha sets the highest standard when choosing materials, and takes the most severe attitude in quality control in order to provide the best tea with the most considerate services to their customers. In order to control quality severely, even though the liquid tea doesn’t go bad, they throw it away every 4 hours. Every beverage is tailored for the customers and is made by well trained people. You can also choose how sweet your beverage would be.
- Taste the special cream. Open the lid and drink, feeling the tea pass through the foamy layer.
- Sip the freshly brewed teas. Insert the straw and taste the flavor of the tea.
- Mix the two for that perfect Gong Cha experience! Use the straw to stir and savor the splendid texture of the mixture.
Why milk teas have become such a frenzy?
In a continent full of tea drinkers, the coffee-guzzling Philippines is just starting to catch up with the rest of its Asian neighbors. But it’s catching up with a vengeance. Today, milk teas are usually prepared with the addition of tapioca, ice cubes and a wide array of choices for flavoring. I am quickly addicted to milk teas. In the past year, tea shops have sprouted up all over the metro, effectively cementing its place as the biggest food/beverage trend of 2011. And in my opinion, it will soon become a popular preference by Pinoys nowadays as an alternative to caffeine. Affordable, healthy and yummy, I do see all the reasons why tea shops continue to grow like mushrooms around the metro; and as long as they offer their distinct flavors I’m very happy with that. And the milk tea frenzy will continue to live on, and as long as there is one around the corner, yours truly will surely be the first ones to try it. Make milk teas your one daily habit 🙂