There are various types of milk tea and each differs in flavor, depending on ingredients and cultural origin. One thing all milk teas have in common is the combining of… you guessed it, milk and tea. The most popular type of milk tea that people are familiar with is Taiwanese bubble tea, also known as boba tea, and has the inclusion of tapioca pearls.
Bubble milk tea can be served hot or iced and may include black, green, or herbal teas or possibly even a blended fruit base. The inclusion of tapioca pearls is what makes this milk tea a bubble, or boba, tea.
The original creation of milk tea included strongly brewed black tea, sweetener, and milk. The most common types of black tea used are Ceylon, Assam, or a black tea blend. Flavored black teas like Earl Grey and Chai are commonly used in milk tea.
Straightforward milk tea in its purest form would taste smooth and sweet with a creamy lusciousness. The bold nuttiness and roasted malt flavor of black tea would be accompanied by the deep caramel sweetness of brown sugar and the richness of velvety half & half. Flavor notes from the tea would be reminiscent of the aromas of leather and tobacco while the brown sugar would create a toffee-like profile.
Different variations of ingredients will greatly change the flavor and mouth-feel of milk tea.
Variations of Traditional Milk Tea
Some other types of traditional milk teas that stay closest to the original are Hong Kong-style milk tea, Thai milk tea, and Masala Chai. Both Hong Kong style and Thai teas use sweetened condensed milk, but Thai milk tea is much sweeter as it also includes added sugar. Thai milk tea and Masala Chai both include added spices in the black tea.
Hong Kong Style Milk Tea
This variation is made with very strongly brewed Ceylon Orange Pekoe tea and served hot with both evaporated and sweetened condensed milk. Chinese Orange Pekoe will be medium-bodied, malty, and may have notes of chocolate; Sri Lankan Ceylon will have faintly crisp citrus notes. The evaporated and sweetened condensed milk will leave a moderately sweet flavor and opaque viscosity.
Thai Milk Tea
Thai tea is probably the sweetest option for black tea-based, traditional milk tea. Strongly brewed Ceylon is infused with spices like cardamom, cinnamon, tamarind, and vanilla bean then sweetened with both sweetened condensed milk and sugar. Evaporated milk or coconut milk is added and it is typically served over ice.
Warm spice, marshmallowy vanilla, creamy milk, crisp citrus, and malt are noted in this type of milk tea with the most prominent flavor being vanilla. Sometimes Thai tea is bright orange in color due to the addition of food dye.
The same notable warm spice of Thai tea can also be found in Masala Chai along with clove, ginger, coriander, nutmeg, and peppercorn. Whole spices are boiled in Assam black tea and milk, strained, then sweetened with sugar.
Assam tea yields bold, malty briskness, slight astringency, and has notes of nutty caramel flavor. Spicier than Thai tea, Masala Chai has more of a pepper spice from the ginger and peppercorn and a warming sensation in the mouth and belly. Masala Chai is more of a spicy milk drink than its counterpart, Chai Latte, which is much lighter and sweeter.
Popular Flavors of Non-Traditional Bubble Milk Tea
A starchy root vegetable with very slight potato flavor, vanilla sweetness, and faintly nutty.
Tropical fruit with floral rose flavor combined with white grape and pear.
A paste made from adzuki bean and sweetener with an earthy flavor similar to sweet potato.
Ground green tea powder with a bright vegetal flavor, sweet but slightly bitter, astringent, with savory umami quality.
Final Thoughts on Milk Tea
With an endless variety of flavor combinations, milk options, and sweeteners, milk tea is easily customizable no matter your taste preferences or potential dietary restrictions. Cold or hot, milk tea is a tasty way to switch up your usual coffee or tea routine. You can use almond milk instead of normal milk in your coffee as well..