“Where there’s tea there’s hope.” -Arthur Wing Pinero
I cannot remember when I learned to love drinking tea. Maybe it was during the time I developed a love for watching period drama movies and TV shows by BBC because I saw a lot of the characters having afternoon tea. Maybe it was the time I discovered how much I loved the taste of Dilmah Peppermint and English Toffee tea that I was able to try in a dessert shop that my favorite uncle always treated us to. I honestly cannot remember the exact time I learned to love tea, but I do remember being introduced to pearl milk tea or bubble tea back when I was in college.
I remember having a Zentea branch in front of my school, but I am not sure if they sold pearl milk tea. What I vividly recall is that bright red shop called SimpleLine, that sold pearl milk tea in a large size at a prize that a student can afford. My classmates and I loved celebrating small victories in school by treating ourselves to a large cup of pearl milk tea. Eventually, more milk tea shops opened near the school that I had about five to ten options should I crave for it.
Unfortunately, news about death from drinking milk tea laced with oxalic acid from a specific milk tea shop (not SimpleLine) somehow affected the industry for some time. I think people became wary of drinking milk tea despite the cause of the deaths appearing to be a foul play. Anyway, the story had a tragic ending and I don’t think the suspect has been identified to this day.
To my surprise, almost ten years later, the milk tea industry suddenly boomed to unexpected heights, with more and more milk tea shops popping up at every corner. Major milk tea brands from Taiwan also started entering the Philippine market. People were willing to wait and stand in long queues just to get their hands on this heaven of a drink that Taiwan came up with. Those who could not wait themselves relied on the convenience of food delivery services like GrabFood, LalaFood, Food Panda, and many more. The craze over drinking milk tea isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
My colleagues and I were not immune to the lure of pearl milk tea. We have tried several brands over the first half of the year and I’d like to share some of those I’ve tried recently.
This place is more known for its Korean food and the bingsu dessert. They also sell milk tea and I was able to try their Cream Cheese Tiger Milk Tea.
I loved the black tapioca pearls! I think they were at the perfect chewiness based on my preference. However, I could not taste much of the cream cheese and the sugar syrup just made the drink very sweet. Plus, I disliked the SpongeBob design on the plastic lid. It was too unsophisticated for my liking.
I’ll probably try their Korean snacks and desserts next time. After all, most of their high rating and reviews on Zomato were because of their Korean food.
This shop, I think I just came across in LalaFood. I have no clue at all where this shop is in Greenbelt because I am sure I have not seen it the last time I was there. However, I was so attracted to the name and to the design on the cups.
The drinks are really pricey though, but seeing leche flan as a topper/sinker/floater (however you’d like to call those things) that I can add to my drink, I decided to push through with the purchase. I ordered their frosted milk with honey and added tapioca pearls and leche flan to the drink.
I was not expecting the drink to come in such a big size! It was so refreshing and I love their leche flan so much!!! However, at more than Php 200 when ordering via LalaFood, it’s so expensive if I am only after the leche flan for the most part.
What I did learn, eventually, was that their cups and lids are made of a material sourced from starchy plants. I am not a chemist so I will not pretend to understand how it is a better alternative to the usual plastic material used in cups, but it’s probably part of the reason their drinks are a little bit more pricey, aside from their claim to use the freshest ingredients (I think every shop claims this anyway).
This brand got in trouble with the Buddhists in Thailand because of an event with a Buddha mascot and the logo on their cups, I think. The outrage came with the circulation of photos in social media. I believe it has been sorted out already, but I strongly feel they should do something with the logo.
I love anything panda-related. So when my officemates were ordering Panda Milk Tea from CoCo Fresh, I made sure to join in.
Placed in a laminated paper cup, this drink isn’t very Instragrammable. However, it becomes a tad bit more environmentally friendly than most brands.
The drink was refreshing and not as sweet compared to most milk tea brands. I also liked the combination of big black tapioca pearls and the small clear ones. It does live up to the “fresh” in its brand name.
However, I wasn’t completely mindblown by the drink. I’ll probably try it again when there’s a chance to, but it’s not the first on my list when I crave for milk tea.
TuanTuan Chinese Brasserie and The Dessert Kitchen were brought to the Philippines by the same group that brought Lugang Cafe to the country. TuanTuan Chinese Brasserie serves Hong Kong style food with The Dessert Kitchen serves Asian desserts. Recently, they also started selling pearl milk tea.
I happened to pass by a branch of The Dessert Kitchen in SM Mall of Asia and I could not resist the pull of that huge pearl milk tea advertising tarp. I just knew I had to try it no matter what.
They have a variety of tea served in various styles as well. I cannot remember exactly what style of bubble tea I ordered, but it was Iron Goddess with Cheese Milk Cap or something of that sort. I am not sure what’s causing the gray part on top of the drink because I was sure I did not order the one that had charcoal sea salt or whatever. After shaking, the drink pretty much turned into a pastel gray color.
The tapioca pearls were nicely done and at the perfect chewiness that I liked. The drink itself though was very puzzling. I cannot put a finger on what’s making this drink so different from the other I’ve tried. Was it the iron goddess tea? I do not know for sure, but I know I would love to try more pearl milk tea drinks from TuanTuan Chinese Brasserie or The Dessert Kitchen.
It turns out that iron goddess tea (or tieguanyin) is a type of oolong tea. You can read more about it in Wikipedia. The legends of where this tea came from are interesting.
Affiliated with the Royaltea Malaysia brand, this shop was the first to introduce cheese tea to the Philippines and uses tea from the Sun Moon Lake tea plantation in Taiwan. Knowing my love for milk tea with cream cheese or cheese brûlée, my officemate, Sarrah, encouraged me to try this. We specifically scheduled buying from the shop as soon as we got our salary.
Roycetea is also pricier than most brands, but not as expensive as Bobaism. However, the serving size is large and the cup they use is sturdy and I think it can be reused.
I ordered the Oolong Royce Cheese Milk Tea. It came with super delicious cheese foam that was topped with coconut flakes. I really loved this drink!
Another brand from Taiwan, I discovered Chachago in GrabFood. I knew I had to try it!
I was able to try their Roasted Brown Sugar Tea with Salted Cheese Cream. This came only in medium size and had no tapioca pearls. It was truly refreshing and light, with the cheese cream so delightfully yummy!
Another flavor I have tried was the Brown Sugar Pearl with Milk Tea. This also only came in medium size. Like the previous drink, this was also really refreshing and the sweetness was just right to suit my preference.
I don’t remember putting the sugar level when I ordered, but I was glad they just put 75%. I will find time to try their other drinks as well.
I was able to try this because I was treated by a colleague for helping out during our teambuilding activity. I was so excited because, at that time, the only branch they had was a city away from work.
I am not sure if this started the brown sugar milk tea trend, but I remember it being famous for the tiger stripes of brown sugar that one must be quick to take a picture of if they don’t want theirs to end up looking like mine.
This brand turns out to have originated in Taichung, Taiwan, around November of 2017. For a relatively new company, it’s making a name for itself really fast! Its branch in Bonifacio Global City was always busy and always had a long queue of customers waiting for their turn. Recently, they opened a branch in Glorietta 4, making it more accessible to customers in Makati and those ordering via GrabFood.
I like it, but I find it a little too sweet. I cannot remember if the sugar level could be adjusted though.
They used to be available in GrabFood, but I think it’s only available over LalaFood these days. Their shops are always filled with customers because they have a lot of options. By “a lot,” I do mean “A LOT!” Seriously, I always had trouble deciding what to order in their GrabFood app menu, so I always ended up ordering any milk tea with Oreos and requesting additional Oreos. One simply cannot have too many Oreos.
Whenever I crave for drinks with Oreos, Dakasi is my go-to place. Their Creme Okinawa with Oreos is my favorite!
When I used to work in BGC back in 2014, there was a Dakasi branch in the terminal of BGC buses. I used to ignore it, not knowing it’s a well-established brand that started in Taiwan way back the 90s.
My first time to try Sharetea was in Wan Chai, Hong Kong. I ordered the most basic kind that they had and I liked it so much, drinking it while I ate fishballs from the adjacent food stall.
Imagine my surprise when I saw Sharetea was already in the Philippines and accessible thru GrabFood! I simply had to place an order right away.
I placed an order for Rock Salt and Cheese Cream with Oolong Tea and Oreo. Because I saw that they also had snacks, I bought egg waffle and potato tots as well.
Needless to say that even if I was home alone at that time, I was so happy with my snack that afternoon. The milk tea paired incredibly well with the potato tots dusted with mildly spicy barbecue flavoring. I was also taken back to my time in Hong Kong when I shared a drink from Sharetea with my sister.
Another brand present in many countries, Macau Imperial Tea is my go-to place for cheesecake pearl milk tea. There’s no other place I’ve tried that served milk tea with the amount of sweet cream cheese goodness that I liked, which is A LOT of it! Seriously, I love cream cheese that much!
I bet their other variants are also just as good because there is always a long queue of people waiting for their turn to order. That’s why I always make sure to give the GrabFood driver a tip when I order from Macau Imperial Tea because I know how long it took them to line up and deliver the drink to me.
Aside from their cheesecake pearl milk tea, another thing that I love about Macau Imperial Tea is that some of their drinks come in glass bottles like the For Me (strawberry milk) and For You (iced coffee) drinks that come with bear ears hard plastic cover. It was sad that a quarter of my coffee spilled the first time I ordered For You, but I have since reused the bottle for other cold drinks. In the picture below, that’s my For You bottle containing peppermint mocha drink.
They also have soda drinks that come in glass bottles, but the bottles aren’t as cute as the For Me and For You ones.
I was initially under the impression that this is the same as “The Alley” in Hong Kong, the one that had a deer for a logo. Apparently, a lot of other people thought the same thing.
Alishan @ The Alley can be found beside Dean & Deluca branches. So far, I’ve seen one in Makati and one in BGC. My golly, the queue at the Makati branch is always long! That is a testament on how good their milk tea drinks are.
My favorites so far are the Brown Sugar Milk with Cheese Brûlée, Sea Salt Caramel Milk Tea Latte with Pearl, and the Alishan High Mountain Tea Latte with Pearl.
For the brown sugar series, I love the bits of brown sugar that have not fully melted and incorporated with the drink because it adds an extra layer of texture to the drink. I also like requesting for cheese brûlée to add to my other drinks.
My friends and colleagues would normally request their drinks to be made less sweet, and I will admit to their drinks being sweet. However, it’s not the sickly sweet kind for me. I also find the taste to have more depth than the brown sugar milk tea of Tiger Sugar.
For now, Alishan @ The Alley is not available on food delivery services, so one must endure the waiting time to order. On the positive side though, they already started accepting GCash payments. Additionally, last Friday, they started a stamp card promo wherein you get a stamp for every Php 200 purchase. Since their drinks are around Php 160 max, you’ll have to get someone to buy with you to get a stamp. Complete the stamps to get one free drink!
Update (07-Jul-19): Alishan @ The Alley is now on LalaFood! Plus, they already started accepting GCash payments. Lastly, they already started a loyalty program for customers. Purchases over Php 200 is equivalent to one stamp. Get ten stamps to get a free drink!
I’ve started feeling guilty about how much single-use plastic is used up by milk tea shops. While some already have reusable cups and bottles, most do not. Also, one can only request to use their own cups and tumblers when they are the ones lining up. If you happen to order via food delivery services, you’d get the plastic cups and straws.
I came across a post about FLOAT, a non-straw, glass cup that will make drinking pearl milk tea/bubble tea more environmentally friendly. It’s already under production and will hit the markets in winter of 2019 in Taiwan. I am not sure how soon it will be available worldwide, but since I am going to Taiwan in next year’s spring, I will try to get my hands on one of these.
Realizing how much pearl milk tea I’ve drunk in the last few months, I’ve decided to limit my purchases when I can be the one to line up and buy (or when I can ask my friends to buy for me when they do and just hand them my tumbler), and when I can use my reusable cup or tumbler. That will not only help me take care of the environment but also help me take care of my blood sugar levels as well. This love for milk tea is in no way near healthy!
Also, ever since I tried the Black Tea with Ruby Grapefruit and Honey from Starbucks, I kind of feel like trying out fruit teas instead of pearl milk tea. I’ve already bought a reusable cup from Starbucks to use when buying their black tea or their hibiscus tea. I heard Alishan @ The Alley has delicious and refreshing fruit teas as well. I feel they won’t have as much sugar as the pearl milk tea drinks and I hope I am right.