Cheese tea, bubble tea, milk tea and nitro tea are all available in the US markets. However, few consumers know what they are and where they originated from. We explore each of these delicious treats to explain what they are and provide the essential back story so you can hold your own in any foodie conversation.
This is tea topped with a combination of cream cheese, whipped cream and sugar. Yes, this sounds strange, but done correctly and it is an awesome culinary experience. We are found of Tie Kuan Yin or Jasmine Green in this combo with low sugar. Originating out of Guangdong, China by the Royal Tea Company, now called HeyTea, it is immensely popular in China and comes in a wide range of flavors and levels of sweetness. It can be served warm or over ice. The company Gong Cha, also from China, has chains in New York City serving what is supposedly the same recipe, but the cheese is more whipped cream than cream cheese and sweeter. (We prefer the ones we had when visiting Guangdong over the ones served in New York City). Rest assured this is not a low calorie beverage or a low sugar beverage. The cheese topping is said to contain at least 20 grams of sugar but could have as much as 50 grams and that is before they offer to add more sugar to the tea. We haven’t found a company in Virginia making anything close to the original, but Gong Cha is moving into the area beginning in Rockville, MD.
Bubble Tea or Boba Tea
This is a tea like beverage containing large tapioca pearls at the bottom of the drink. Yes, there is tea in the liquid but you may also find that it has been blended with fruit juice or milk. This also comes in a wide variety of flavors and requires an extra large straw to suck up the tapioca pearls. It is generally served cold or at room temperature. It is a different beverage to drink as it is chunky. So if you are ok with chewing on the tapioca pearls, you may enjoy this. This is another calorie dense drink as the tapioca pearls themselves will give you over 100 calories and may be cooked in sugar water to help sweeten them, adding even more. With milk, fruit juice and other sweeteners added this beverage quickly makes it way above 300 calories.
Milk Tea & Thai Iced Tea
Milk tea originates in Hong Kong and is simply evaporated milk (not sweetened) and tea. The milk is sometimes steeped with lavender, jasmine or other floral flavors and then blended with the tea. Sugar is added on request and the beverage is generally served warm. Think of this as a reflection of the century of rule by the British Empire. Thai Iced Tea is a very close in nature to the Hong Kong milk tea. Originating in Thailand, it is served cold and with sweetened condensed milk. This makes the beverage much thicker and sweeter. Sometimes additional spices like star anise or ginger are also added. The milk and sugar add calories, but no where near cheese or bubble tea.
This American invention is the tea lover’s answer to nitro coffee. Nitro tea is cold-brewed tea pressurized in a canister of nitrogen gas and dispensed out of spigot just like beer. The nitrogen gas makes the tea naturally sweeter and adds little bubbles to the tea. There are no additional calories, unless the maker of the cold brewed tea added sugar or fruit juice. So think of this as bubbly iced tea. You can add simple syrup after dispensing it but it will deflate the bubbles.
So as you are out and about, keep your eyes open for these unique versions of tea.