I grew up making milk tea at home every night before bed, long before I discovered it wasn't the standard recipe that everyone used to make tea. (Which may explain why I never fell asleep remotely close to bedtime.) It was only in college that I was finally confronted with how uncommon my method for making tea was—when I would make tea for a girlfriend, and they would give me a weird look before reluctantly discovering that it actually tasted pretty amazing.
Milk tea is a very popular drink in several Asian countries, and most countries have their own unique recipes for making it.
In Japan, milk tea is so popular that it's sold at most convenience stores; a benefit I've made use of on many occasions. (Along with the convenience store imitation KFC fried chicken that, on a bad day, still somehow tastes better than the actual KFC it’s trying to imitate. I have no explanation for this.)
If you want to make milk tea at home, it's actually ridiculously simple:
How to Make Basic Milk Tea
To make basic milk tea, all you need are 4 ingredients (1 is water, which really shouldn't even count):
- 1 cup of water
- 1 tea bag or 1 teaspoon of black tea leaves
- 1/2 cup of milk
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
“Milk” is a large part of the equation when it comes to how to make “milk tea"—second only to the "tea" part of the equation. Dairy or non-dairy milk (soy, almond, or coconut milk) options all work fine.
Depending on which type of milk tea you're emulating (and from which country) each of these milk choices will contribute varying levels of "authenticity" to the final taste. My personal favorite one to imitate is the "Royal" Milk Tea, which really requires dairy milk for a more authentic taste—but you do you.
Here's how to make it at home:
- Boil the water and let it cool for a minute. (This will help discourage the tea from becoming bitter)
- Place the teabag or tea leaves + strainer in a cup.
- Pour the hot water over the tea and let it steep for 3-5 minutes.
- Remove the tea bag or leaves.
- Add milk and sugar to taste. (I usually go for about 1/2 cup of milk and 1 teaspoon of sugar.)
You now know how to make milk tea. It's really that simple.
If you think it tastes similar to milk bubble tea without the bubbles, you're right. In fact, milk bubble tea is simply milk tea with tapioca pearls added. If you want to make milk bubble tea at home, all you really need to do is add some tapioca pearls (found at many Asian markets) to the drink after step 5.
We've found a great option on Amazon for bubble tea.
There are, of course, many variations on milk tea, and similar drinks such as matcha milk tea and Thai milk tea which taste fairly different. (Thai milk tea is really its own thing, since it uses condensed milk and evaporated milk, and it's often quite a bit sweeter than your basic milk tea.) But those are recipes for another time.
What Tea Should I Use for Milk Tea?
If you're looking for the best black tea to use in your homemade milk tea, I recommend using a high-quality Assam tea.
Assam tea is a type of black tea that originates from the Assam region in India, and it's known for its full-bodied, malty flavor. It's one of the best black teas to use when making milk tea, since its bolder flavor can stand up to the milk and sweetness. Some other black teas will get overpowered, and it’ll just taste like you’re drinking a cup of milk with sugar in it. And that’s not what we want here.
Here are two Assam teas I recommend for making milk tea at home: