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Making HK style milk tea in the Bay Area

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I'm interested in how people attempt to reproduce HK style milk tea using what's available in the Bay Area. Tell me what loose tea leaves you blend, or if you use teabags, which kind you use.

I used to be able to make a pretty satisfactory milk tea using the Lipton Rickshaw black teabags, but now Chinatown and the Asian grocery stores don't sell it anymore. (I've been looking for several months but no luck.) I've tried Lipton Yellow Label and just plain Ceylon tea, but it just didn't give the taste I've enjoyed for so long. I thought Lipton Yellow Label was a bit weak, better for a lemon tea than for a milk tea.

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  1. Here's an older post about the subject from the General Board

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/297868

    The brewing process, should one attempt to get closer to the actual taste, is too laborious (especially with emulating the cha chan teng cafe brewing technique of inter pouring between vats, for an example, see how the store in Hong Kong that invented the drink, demonstrates the process, although entirely in Cantonese: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGA9l0... ).

    For a lazy fix, I just hit up my local Cost Plus import, get UK's PG Tips tea, pour in evaporated milk with a dollop of condensed milk, and call it a day. All I can advise against is do not use the so called HK milk tea teabags from 99 Ranch (distributed by some company in Southern Cal)...I think it's a single blend of orange pekoe, and PG Tips did have a 2 blend teabag of Ceylon leaves, but it was not to my liking.

    But when you have places like the Slanted Door (and Out The Door for to go) in SF that does a hardcore superb upscale and virtually undefeatable version with a secret 7 leaf blend, it's hard to justify making it at home yourself. Frankly the more downscale versions at Washington Bakery, ABC (both in Chinatown), and the hole in the wall type places in the Sunset (e.g Tak Kee Lee on Noriega) do a pretty decent cuppa as is.

    5 Replies
    1. re: K K

      Does Slanted Door sell its secret blend, so people can brew it at home? I've seen the Youtube video before. Do you know what "cha moot" (Mandarin: cha mo) is? I do speak Cantonese, but I don't know what type of tea leaf he was referring to. It was the last of the five ingredients, and he said that it has a lot of flavor.

      1. re: michaelnrdx

        Doubtful, but you can ask

        I'm not sure what cha moot is, my guess would have been the flower bud, but nonetheless part of the tea plant. It shares a similar character root as "jasmine" though.

        The youtube video does not tell the entire story. The mixture of leaves used by Lan Fong Yuen creates the color, taste, and fragrance. Each blend of leaf brings a certain texture to the mix, and in Cantonese is referred to three different sizes/ages (young, "middle" and "rough"). One of the older TVB food documentaries on LFY (can't find it on youtube) mentioned part of the mix comes from Sri Lanka.

        ABC cafe in San Mateo, per a KTSF TV interview with owner Tiffany Lam (former Ms Hong Kong 2002) claimed that their HK milk tea leaves were imported from HK (also a blend).

        1. re: K K

          HK milk tea leaves is a blend of Assam and Ceylon. I learned (from my own attempt to recreate it) that Lipton Yellow Label blend is different (i.e. the ones sold in HK is different from the ones sold for India, Canada etc). If you can get your hands on the yellow label made for Hong Kong market..it might be stronger.

          I got a bag of Lipton Yellow Label loose leaf tea from a trip to Hong Kong (available at supermarkets) for recreation at home. My relatives thought I was weird for going all the way to Hong Kong to buy cheap supermarket tea.

          The closest non Hong Kong "brand" tea that I came close was a English Breakfast blend from Crate and Barrel, made by Republic of Tea. But it comes in tea bags, and I think C&B no longer stock it.

          1. re: K K

            I stand corrected on cha moot. According to one of the comments in the video:

            "(cha moot) includes the very very fine and tiny tea leaves which are the left overs like almost powdery form"

            1. re: K K

              Isn't that very low quality then?