Give Milk a Chance

Milk Oolong
Milk Oolong
I'll be honest. The first time I tried milk oolong I wasn't crazy about it. I've never been a big fan of milk, so the idea of drinking a milk-flavored tea made me wrinkle my nose before I ever lifted the cup to my lips. I was content with the decision not to like it, and I went on living my life.

However, I recently decided to give it a second chance. This time, I boiled water to the perfect temperature, poured it into a one-person teapot, and let it steep for four minutes. Just when the leaves were beginning to unravel, I pulled the strainer out and poured the tea into a small ceramic cup. Before tasting it, I took a moment to breathe deeply and take in the aroma of fresh cream. I let the tea sit on my tongue and absorb its natural, buttery sweetness. To my surprise, it tasted nothing like the liquid cheesiness I remembered. Instead, I experienced a silky smooth flavor that I actually enjoyed.

Contrary to its name and my initial aversion to it, milk oolong is not processed with milk, nor any other dairy products. Its flavor is due to a sudden shift in temperature during harvest. Legend has it that this first happened when the moon fell in love with a comet. As comets typically do, it passed by and disappeared. Heartbroken, the moon cried big milky tears over the tea gardens, which chilled the leaves and gave them a creamy flavor.

Milk oolong is cozy when consumed hot, but the flavors are enhanced when it is cold. That's why I came up with the recipe below:

Creamy Iced Tea

Rooibos tea ice cubes really compliment the natural sweetness of milk oolong. Try it with hugs and kisses for a hint of vanilla and almond, or almond rooibos to enhance the nutty flavor of the oolong. I like to leave the ice cubes and tea separate until I'm ready to drink it. That way, I get to taste the two flavors coming together as it is happening.

For the ice cubes:

1. Steep 5 teaspoons of a rooibos tea of your choice in 16 oz of boiling water for 10 minutes.
2. After steeping, allow to cool to room temperature before pouring into an ice tray.
3. Freeze at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Cold brew iced tea:
This is my favorite way to make iced tea. You just set it and forget it!

1. Fill 2 paper tea filters with 4 teaspoons of milk oolong each. While you can probably fit it all in one filter, I recommend using at least two separate ones to make sure the leaves have space to expand.
2. Fill a pitcher with 8 cups of filtered water, add tea filters, and refrigerate overnight (at least 12 hours).

Hot brew iced tea:

1. Steep 8 teaspoons of milk oolong tea in a 4-cup (32 oz) teapot for 4-7 minutes. The ideal temperature for oolong is 185 degrees F. If you don't have a fancy temperature-controlled kettle, bring the water to a boil on the stove, and then let it sit for five minutes.
2. Transfer the hot tea into a pitcher and fill with 4 cups of cool water.

Looking for more ways to spice things up? Check out these other recipes:

Oolong donuts with a milk tea glaze
Milk oolong, honey and rose water tapioca
Milk oolong tea-braised fish (or tofu)