A Cook's Diary

How do you like your tea? With milk and sugar or without?

I’m a little weird when it comes to my coffee and tea habits. I can’t drink my coffee black — I need to add sugar and cream or milk. But with tea, it’s the complete opposite. I like my tea plain. A squeeze of lemon juice and a bit of honey is fine. But milk and sugar? I used to balk at the very thought of adding milk and sugar to tea until Alex, who loves milk tea, learned how to prepare her own brew according to what her taste buds prefer. My taste buds seem to like the same flavors that her taste buds like and I learned to enjoy the occasional milk tea.

Alex has very definite tea preferences. She likes jasmine tea and green tea, better if its jasmine green tea, but she loathes black (oolong) tea which her father enjoys so much. And Alex likes loose tea leaves, not tea bags, because she says she can taste the tea bag. As snobbish as that may sound, it’s true, actually. If you’ve been drinking tea for a long time and you’ve had the pleasure of enjoying the brew from loose tea leaves, tea bags somehow become, well… inferior. It was my father who introduced me to loose tea leaves when I was in college and I’ve never really looked back. So, Alex was exposed to loose tea leaves at a young age. Not that she drank tea when she was very young but she knew about tea leaves because we always have some in our house.

So, to cut short the digression, when Alex makes milk tea, she uses jasmine tea. Her current stock came from Singapore (she asked a friend to buy the tea). Her milk tea mix is something subtle — not too sweet with just a hint of tea within all the creaminess. And that’s fine by me.

So, one time, I was Facebooking and a friend posted something about Moonleaf Tea Shop. She even “liked” Moonleaf’s Facebook Page. I got curious, I clicked on the link and, wonder of wonders, Moonleaf has a branch in Antipolo about five minutes from our house. That’s rare. Usually, when I find a restaurant, bakeshop or cafe that I’m dying to try, the nearest branch would be at least an hour’s drive.

casaveneracion.com Moonleaf milk tea

The Moonleaf branch in Antipolo is right beside Shoppersville near the gate of Beverly Hills Subdivision. Since we often buy our French baguettes at Shoppersville, one time we were there, I suggested that we try Moonleaf. Sam wasn’t interested (she’s a coffee girl) so, while Speedy was buying bread at Shoppersville, Alex and I who went to Moonleaf next door.

casaveneracion.com

Okay, that’s the clearest photo of the menu that I was able to take.

casaveneracion.com pearl, pudding and nata

The add-ons to choose from: nata de coco, pudding and pearl balls. Alex didn’t want any add-ons.

casaveneracion.com jasmine milk tea

Since we were just trying Moonleaf’s milk tea, we decided to limit our order to one item. Alex chose jasmine milk tea with some fruit. We went back to the pick-up and started passing the plastic container back and forth. I thought it was just me but, goodness, was it really supposed to be THAT BITTER? Speedy took a sip, said the same thing and Alex who’s ordered milk tea at a dozen other places declared the same. To make a long story short, the plastic container was still half full by the time we got home and it went straight into the trash can outside the kitchen door.

Anyone who knows how to brew tea properly is aware that a strong tea is not the same as bitter tea. To make a strong tea, you use more tea leaves — you don’t lengthen the time that they steep in hot water. If the tea leaves stay in the hot water for too long, you get a bitter brew. In fact, real tea connoisseurs put the tea leaves in the pot or cup, pour in hot water then throw out the water to remove the excess bitterness. Hot water is poured in a second time and that is what is drank. The best, the experts say, is the brew that one gets after the third or fourth time that water is poured into the tea pot or cup.

So, whether you like your tea with milk and sugar or without, the bottom line is the same. You have to start with a good brew. No amount of milk or sugar or add-ons or artificial flavorings will hide badly brewed bitter tea.

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