This blog entry is part of ATB Blog Carnival hosted by Gongfu Girl. A full index of blog arnival entries can be found here.
The topic of this blog carnival is: about how to brew a specific type of tea.This blog post was written a year ago. I pulled it out since it fits the topic. I also added a few notes on it.
Before I ever tried adding tea to my milk (I haven't tried adding milk to tea yet), I had Milk Tea (it should be more precisely called Tea Milk, in fact) with my Tibetan buddy, Laja.
The milk tea Laja makes is easy. He just throws tea leaves into boiling milk. I read it somewhere that tea made in this way is called "Sweet Tea" or "Lasah Sweet Tea". But Laja just calls it Milk Tea. I asked what tea he used, and he had no idea. He only knew it was The Tea. Based on what I heard, what I read, and what I saw from tea products, Tibetan tea is a Hei Cha (what Asian would call Black Tea, which is different from the Black Tea in western sense), which is somewhat similar to Shu Puerh. However, this guy has no idea whether his tea is a Hei Cha or not. I guess if you drink it every day (scientifically speaking the milk tea is physiologically essential in traditional Tibetan diet), it's part of your life, it's The Tea, and the genre and category don't matter at all. These days I see Laja about once a year, and every time I had his tea but forgot to ask him to show me the package of dry tea leaves. So I haven't yet figured out what he uses for his milk tea. He told me that any black tea can be used. From time to time, he has tea sent from his hometown in Qinghai. But when he first came to America and didn't have any tea in hands, he even used the regular type of Lipton teabag. Now I think, if Lipton teabag can be used, then pretty much any tea can be used for it.
(Later, after a few phone conversations, Laja and I guessed that very likely his hometown "black tea" is some sort of Hei Cha from Hunnan, possibly Black Brick Tea. But I also have the impression that the tea leaves somehow looked like some Sichuan Hei Cha. Anyway, Laja's tea seems a Hei Cha. Puerh is also commonly consumed in certain regions of Tibet. - May 2011)
I don't often feel a need for milk tea. But out of curiosity, I tried making it for a few times, mimicking what Laja did, with some modifications. A modification I've had is packing tea in a bag. Laja would throw tea leaves in the milk and eat the tea leaves eventually. I would rather not eat the leaves. To save a filtration step, I seal the leaves in a small teabag.
At the first, I tried using the last bit debris of a 2004 Xia Guan Tuo.
I planned to make only a small bowl of milk tea, so I packed up only small amount of the tea debris. In my impression, Xia Guan Tuo is very strong and that much in a small bowl would be enough.
However, the milk tea turned out rather weak. I boil the milk in a small pot. When steam started to rise, I threw in the tea pack. Then after the milk was fully boiled, I let the electronic stove adjustment lever stay at about "11 o'clock" position with very weak heat for about 5 minutes. Then I squeezed the teabag and threw it away. To my surprise, the strength of Xia Guan Tuo seemed to be entirely shaded by the milk. Besides, since this is a sheng puerh, it doesn't change much of the milk color, which was very unexciting to me. So the second time, I used a 2009 Bulang Stamp Tea, Shu.
This is the Bulang Stamp Tea by itself:
This is probably one of my favorite Shu so far. But I've never really got super excited about Shu, most of which tastes hollow to me. What I like about this tea is, it's relatively lightly fermented, compared with most Shu. After each sip, there is actually some "kick", a little bit similar to the aftertaste of Sheng. But after all, I don't treasure Shu that much and wouldn't hesitate to throw it into some experiment. So I made a teabag with this tea. And this time, I used a lot more tea, probably twice as much as last time.
Boiled in milk, the tea changed the milk to a pink color.
This time, the tea taste was much more explicit. And I think it tasted more like Laja's tea. But still, I feel I could have used even more tea. With either Sheng or Shu boiled in the tea, the tea elicits some special "fat" flavor from the milk. The flavor is unique to lamb or beef. I used to dislike such flavor. But in recent years, frequently fed lamb by Robert (I sometimes joke that he must have been a Muslin in his last life), I've started to like such "nomad" flavor more and more, especially when it's not too strong.
It seems to me that the milk tea can make me go a long way. When I had a bowl of milk tea after a meal, by the time of the next meal, I didn't feel very hungry at all. Does this mean the milk tea can possibly be developed into some slimming tea? :-p
I would also like to try red tea, especially Darjeeling and Kenya black tea, in milk too. Darjeeling boiled in milk makes Nepal milk tea. Actually, in most milk tea recipes, concentrated tea is made first, and then it's mixed with a lot of milk and some sugar. But our milk, even whole milk, is not as rich as the "original milk", and I usually only have 2% fat milk at home. So boiling tea directly in milk is the easiest and produces rich milk tea.
(As I started drinking more and more milk tea, eventually I found it more convenient for me to make darker tea first and mix it with whole milk. - May 2011)
Some people believe British custom of adding milk to tea originated from Tibet. According to that theory, Tibetans influenced Nepali in making milk tea; then this drinking custom was brought to India, including Assam Province; and British people learned of adding milk to tea from Assam tribes. I don't know where this story is from, but it sounds very possible.
May 2011 -
In the past year, especially during the winter time, I made milk tea frequently with Fu Zhuan, a favorite Hei Cha of mine. The tea and milk are perfect match! I also "milked" some Black Brick Tea, Tibetan Ya Xi Hei Cha, Thousand Liang Tea/Qian Liang Cha, and a few other Hunnan Hei Cha and Sichuan Hei Cha. They are all pretty good! So, if you are a hard-core tea lover and not fond of the idea of adding milk to tea, I urge you to consider the option of adding tea to milk, haha :-D
To me, a constant problem is, even when whole milk is used to make milk tea, the milk is somewhat diluted eventually. One solution I've learned from a Uyghur friend is adding "milk skin" to the milk tea. "Milk skin" is the top layer of boiled milk. The fresh version of it (if you scratch the bottom of the saucer that has just been used for boiling milk, you will know it!) is heavenly delicious. But I only got some dried milk skin, which is perfect for milk tea. It looks somewhat like this:
My Uyghur friend said, at home, they sometimes also add rose petals to the milk tea. This sounds terribly luxurious to me! But it's a great idea if you have lots of roses growing out of your window. I don't have fresh roses to eat. But ever since I heard of the rose milk tea, I've been dreaming of getting some rose jam for my milk tea!