Jasmine Milk Tea

Adding Milk to Tea

Milk is not restricted only to black tea. In fact, milk had been used with green, oolong and post-fermented teas way before black tea was even invented.

People have a terribly wrong perception that milk is only for black tea. One of the first written records of adding milk to tea in the West was in 1698 in a letter a Lady Russell sent to her daughter with some “milk bottles” for tea (1). In a later letter she wrote, “excellent green tea is good with milk”. Black tea was not invented until some 30 years later (2).

All sorts of condiments, including milk etc, had been used with tea much earlier in other parts of the world, but let’s forget about history and make a fun and absolutely delicious drink this time: Jasmine Milk Tea

What you’ll need

  • Jasmine green tea (see below for selection criteria)
  • Milk/cream
  • Sugar
  • A thick teapot with size to the volume of tea you need
  • Jug with larger capacity than teapot
  • A big spoon or spatula for stirring
  • Serving mugs (250ml capacity each)
  • Kettle
  • Thermometer

The idea is simple: make a strong infusion and flavour it with milk and sugar, much the same as the tea most people drink daily. However, there are tips for a better tasting one for EVERYONE to enjoy.

Tea quality

Aroma requirements

Find a tea scented purely with jasmine. There are those scented with jasmine mixed with Michelia alba (3) (bai’lan) that yield a stronger aroma, yet less pure and sweet.

Traditionally, only extremely fine productions are scented purely with jasmine. To give the tea an intense floral aroma, as much as seven rounds of scenting, each using a fresh batch of flowers, is needed. The weight of flowers used can be a few times that of the tea. That means cost and steadiness of skills.

If tea quality is your criteria too, observe the differences in the two jasmine pearl selections above. The one on the left is made from old leaves and the one on the right much younger ones and full of leaf shoots. The taste also reflects the difference: a sharp, astringent one the left and smooth, creamy on the right. A rough quality tea such as that one the left is also rarely scented purely with jasmine, for price-competitiveness. Alternatively, you can choose a fine Spring harvest chunhao / maofeng, such as that on the rightmost.

Since bai’lan has an innately stronger scent, it is often used as booster for the softer aroma of jasmine. A tenth of the weight of that of jasmine or less is blended in so the fragrance profile of the softer flower is maintained. This lessens the amount of jasmine and rounds of scenting required for the same aroma intensity, thereby saving time and cost. Lower grade productions often raise the proportion of bai’lan for further cost cutting. Some simply do one round of scenting or even with used flowers. Others put in additives. Yet others just put in some flower petals.

A pure, sweet and yet intense selection is preferred. The scent of pure jasmine blends in well with that of tea and milk. Accented with the warmth of raw sugar (see below) and the overall olfactory experience is pure, soothing, and sweetly memorable. A lower grade jasmine with detectable bai’lan aroma would muddle the resultant perfume.

Taste profile requirements

The laurel for the taste of green tea for jasmine scenting still rests in China. However, different regions do yield various varieties. This is further complicated with quality grade differences within each variety. Better yields from the provinces of Sichuen and Fujian are known within the trade for smoother bodies and finer tastes. I higher recommend them for this recipe. In an infusion that you have to boost strength, a lesser original quality would be much amplified. In this particular demonstration, I am employing a very high grade jasmine pearl from Fujian.

raw sugar for jasmine milk tea

Raw cane sugar

Sugar

Although visually less appealing than refined white or brown sugar, raw cane sugar (aka Muscovado sugar) is one of my staple sweeteners (there is actually no refined sugar (4) in my home). It has a much smoother sweetness and is less sweet. I like it for its caramel and almost fruity flavours. It is entirely different from the white or brown sugar, which are basically tasteless other than mere sweetness. Raw sugar carries with it all the health contributing substances of sugar cane juice.

I normally buy a Korean brand from a discount supermarket for about 3 USD a kilo. It is not only very good price, but also one of the best quality I can get in the city. Once was comparing price in a mainstream supermarket and overheard two elderly ladies discussing whether they should use the more expensive pack of raw sugar or plain white sugar for their sweet soup. They worried that the dark, moist, sticky looking thing would be TCM hot and that depletes the purpose of their sweet soup. I explained to them that the use of white sugar in sweet soup is not good, because that would trigger heat toxins. Although the TCM nature of raw sugar is warm, taken in moderation, it helps to dissipate heat toxins and is a tonic for the spleen (5).

The older one responded, “Ah yes! Now I remember, but how come men now know about kitchen things?” If there is still discrimination of the sexes in this city, the male perhaps is more often the victim 😉

In Taiwan, it is even now trendy to use raw sugar in green tea for home treatment of migraines.

For me, it completes the tea recipe and makes it a most comforting drink.

Milk

I personally prefer full cream milk. A thick cream would be nice, if one doesn’t mind the trouble. My excuse for the indulgence of that creamy smoothness and original milk taste is that I have all the green tea catechins there in the cup to take care of the fat. I drink full cream milk regularly anyway.

milk jug

Milk for tea?

For those who really need to be careful about fat intake, skimmed ones are the alternatives. For the vegans or those avoiding dairy products, or if you are concerned that milk is taking away the health effects of tea, plain rice milk is a great alternative. Use one with strength in taste.

Infusion

Use 3 grams of tealeaves to the mug. More if you want it even stronger.

The trick in making the right cup here is to obtain the tea strength in relatively short time while maintaining the overall smoothness of the body, and not letting too much of dispersion (and therefore wasting) of the jasmine aroma.

Pick a really thick teapot. Preheat it in the oven to 90°C (194°F). If you don’t have an oven, let half a pot of boiling water sit in it for 2~3 minutes.

Contrary to making tea for straight enjoyment, preparing a tea for mixing with milk will need a high temperature. Your water should be a bit above 95°C (203°F) in the kettle before pouring into the teapot for infusion.

Different from preparing tea in gongfu infusion, gush the water into the pot after you have thrown in the tealeaves. Cover the lid and infuse for 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the jug to 80°C and measure 2~3 teaspoons of raw sugar to each mug of tea into the jug. Remember real raw sugar is less sweet than regular sugar.

When the tea is infused, pour it into the jug and beat-stir it for 10 seconds, at least until all the sugar is dissolved. You may choose to leave it to your drinking partners to add sugar to their own preference. The texture of the drink will only be very slightly different.

Decant into the mugs and add milk to your preference.

Have a good tea time!

footnotes
1. Jane Pettigrew, Chapter 1, The Seventeenth Century, A Social History of Tea, 2001 National Trust Enterprises
2. Please refer to the chapter on the Origin of Black Tea: https://www.teaguardian.com/what-is-tea/black-tea-origin-production/
3. Also known as magnolia alba, or white jade orchid, but most commonly bai’lan or bak lan, a flower grown from a tall tree native in the southeastern Asian continent
4. When refined sugars, such as white and brown sugars, are made, not only are they devoided of the health contributing substances in sugar cane juice, but also additives are added to them. To me they are castrated and bleached dried sugar cane juice with heavy powdery makeup.
5. Li Shi Zhen, Chapter 33, Fruits 5, Materia Medica (Bencao Gangmu), 1578 (published by the imperial court, Ming Dynasty)

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