How to Make Milk Tea Like a Barista
From China and Taiwan to Britain and South America, adding milk to tea is an ancient tradition that dates back for centuries. Milk is a great way to add a creamy texture to your favorite go-to teas or to introduce you to new, more robust tisanes. There are a few rules and techniques you need to master to make the perfect cup of tea every time.
There’s not just one way to add milk to your tea. Whether you like to consume tea cold or hot, there’s an option for you when it's time to brew tea. Keep things interesting by trying out these four popular tea and milk drinks.
How to Make Milk Tea
There are several different kinds of milk tea and we'll go over some of the most popular. Some teas, like our milk oolong tea, come with a creamy, milky taste right when you brew, while other tea blends such as Indian chai benefit from the addition of milk. Whether you enjoy coffeehouse-style lattes or prefer the textured bubble milk tea, drinking tea with milk never gets boring. Read on for the most popular ways to drink milk with your favorite teas.
British Milk Tea
No one drinks tea quite like the British. With a national obsession that dates back centuries and social gatherings revolving around tea, the United Kingdom knows how to serve a delicious cup. From royal gatherings to daily chats with friends, tea and crumpets is a staple of British life. If you want to drink tea just like the Brits and Irish across the pond, check out the milk tea recipe instructions below.
How to Make It:
- Start with a tea bag or loose leaf tea of your favorite variety. The most popular British teas include Earl Grey, Darjeeling and breakfast blends, but you can opt for more traditional Asian or herbal options as well.
- Boil a cup of water to the proper temperature and pour into your teacup or tea pot.
- Let the tea steep for the prescribed time. Make sure not to stir or squeeze the tea bag or loose tea leaves while brewing.
- Add warm or hot milk to your brewed tea. You can use regular cow milk or an array of alternatives including almond milk, rice milk and soy milk depending on your diet and taste.
It's important to note that milk is used in tea to enhance flavor so you should be careful not to add too much. Adding too much milk will disguise the flavor of the tea and can result in bland cups. Aim to add just enough milk to achieve a tan color. Stir to blend and enjoy.
Iced Milk Tea
Nothing says summer quite like a chilled pitcher of iced tea on the porch. Make your iced tea even more delectable by adding milk for a creamy, smooth finish. Iced milk tea is the perfect treat on a sweltering afternoon and you can still garnish with summertime lemons.
How to Make It:
- To make sure your iced milk tea is packed with flavor, use two tea bags or 2 tablespoons of loose leaf tea for every 8 ounces of water. Brew the iced tea just as you would a cup of British milk tea — simply bring water to a rolling boil and steep tea leaves for the recommended amount of time.
- Add a small amount — about 2 teaspoons — of condensed milk to your tea brew. You can add less or more depending on your taste preferences, but keep in mind that condensed milk is exceptionally sweet so be careful not to overdo it.
- Fill your glass or pitcher about halfway full with ice cubes or ice shards. Pour tea brew into a glass and enjoy!
Bubble Milk Tea (Boba)
Bubble tea, or boba, is one of the latest tea crazes to hit the Western world. With chewy black tapioca pearls, boba tea originated in Taiwan back in the 1980s before spreading through Southeast Asia and hitting American shores. Originally, boba tea was made with frothy milk in addition to basil seeds or cubes of jelly, although now black tapioca pearls are the norm. You can make this tea using Chinese, Indian, or Ceylon black teas or any true tea or herbal tea you'd like.
How to Make It:
To make this tea, you'll need to get your hands on tapioca pearls. Luckily, that's fairly easy nowadays and you can find boba at Asian grocery stores or on Amazon.
1. Cook Tapioca Pearls
While most tapioca pearls will come with cooking instructions, you should use about 7 parts water to 1 part tapioca pearls. The cook time for boba pearls is about 10 minutes on high heat or until they are soft and chewy. Make sure to stir occasionally to prevent the pearls from sticking.
Once cooked, mix boba with sugar syrup such as simple syrup to add sweetness and preserve any pearls you won't use immediately.
2. Rinse the Pearls and Sweeten
Tapioca pearls should be rinsed with lukewarm or cold water once they have been boiled. Place the pearls in a fine mesh strainer or tea strainer before pouring the water. If you are going to store excess pearls, allow them to cool to room temperature before storing in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Most boba teas you find in stores are sweetened using powerful sweeteners such as condensed milk. You can use powdered sugar, brown sugar, or classics such as honey to sweeten your bubble milk tea. You can also add a Hong Kong spin to this tea by using condensed milk.
3. Add to Tea
In the meantime, brew your tea following the British guidelines above.
Just like café lattes, tea lattes are made using steamed milk. You can turn just about any tea into a latte from the classic black teas to more exquisite flavors like roasted brown rice and jasmine. Some of the most common teas that are served as lattes include chai tea and green teas.
How to Make It:
1. Add Tea
Start by adding your tea bag or loose leaf tea and tea ball to your cup. You can use a variety of tea vessels including a normal tea mug, a gourd, a to-go mug or a calabash depending on the tea type and your preference.
2. Prepare Water
Boil water to desired temperature and pour into your cup. Remember that some teas require different water temperatures. For herbal teas, use boiling water and aim for a water temperature of 212 F. For green and white teas your hot water should reach between 150 and 180 F. Oolong teas and pu-erh teas develop flavors best at 190 to 200 F, while standard black teas should be around 200 to 212 F.
Most teas should steep from 1 to 5 minutes. Allow your tea to steep for 1 minute and then taste every 30 seconds to get the flavor profile you prefer. Teas that are allowed to steep longer usually have more robust flavor profiles and result in strong tea.
4. Heat Milk
While your tea is steeping, heat 1/2 cup of milk in a saucepan until it steams or pop it into the microwave for 45 seconds. You can use whole milk, half and half, or a milk alternative such as coconut milk or almond milk.
5. Froth Milk
Once heated, transfer the milk into a mug or stainless steel container and use a milk frother to whip the milk. Aim to have about a half inch of froth on top before adding to your tea. If you have a coffee machine that steams milk, you can use that instead. You can also put the milk in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously.
6. Add Milk to Tea
Pour the steamed milk into your tea mug and enjoy! If you like to sweeten your tea lattes, do this after combining the milk and tea. Sprinkle with nutmeg or cinnamon to add a spicy taste.
Mix It Up With Milk
Tea brewing is an art that requires adjusting techniques and methods to suit different teas. The proper way of brewing tea all comes down to water quality, water temperature, steeping time, and using the right amount of tea. Always use fresh water, spring water, or filtered water for the best tea taste. As a general rule, do not use tap water or distilled water as these water types do not develop flavors well. Use the proper temperature for the type of tea you choose. Use a temperature-controlled electric kettle for the most accurate results during your tea making adventures. Make sure to adjust the steep time to your chosen tea type as well.
Stick to whole leaf tea instead of tea bags. Tea bags often contain tea dust and fannings that deliver fewer health benefits and poor flavor. Small tea bag design also does not allow the leaves to fully expand and infuse flavor. Always use high-quality tea to avoid negative side effects from additives and pesticides. Store tea in an airtight container to preserve freshness.
Whether you're throwing a British-themed tea party or lounging by the pool with a tall glass of iced tea, milk makes any tea flavor even more delightful. Tea time doesn't mean you have to drink the same bag or brand forever. The beauty of adding milk to tea is it inspires new flavors and textures in your favorite teas. Plus, the prep time, brewing time, and total time are minimal so you can brew at home without going to a tea shop.
Whether you enjoy a chilled sweet tea with herbal infusions or opt for strong black tea for a classic experience, adding milk is a surefire way to mix things up. Brew hot tea or iced tea depending on your personal preferences and follow the tips in this brewing guide for the perfect pot of tea every time.