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Asian Tea Café Trends

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January 30, 2021

Tea is a way of life in many parts of Asia. Teahouses and tea cafés serve as popular locations for socializing and are responsible for driving many of the world’s hottest tea trends. Below, learn about some of the most exciting tea trends from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and other nations, and discover three delicious recipes you can try at home.

1. Milk Tea

It is traditional to add milk to tea in many cultures around the globe. But the phrase “milk tea” usually refers to Hong Kong-style milk tea, which originated in the days of British colonial rule in Hong Kong. The British custom of serving black tea with milk and sugar during afternoon teatime became popular in Hong Kong during this period of time. However, Hong Kong-style milk tea uses evaporated or condensed milk rather than ordinary milk.

Milk tea can be served hot or cold, and with varying degrees of sweetness. High quality milk tea is creamy, smooth, full-bodied and strongly caffeinated. In Hong Kong, milk tea is an important part of many peoples’ daily routines. It is usually enjoyed during lunchtime, but may also be sipped with breakfast. People in Hong Kong consume approximately 900 million cups of milk tea each year. 

In recent years, milk tea has become increasingly popular in China, Japan and Taiwan. The Chinese often serve their milk tea on ice, with summer being the peak season for milk tea consumption. By the end of 2018, China was home to more than 400,000 milk tea shops

Hong Kong-Style Milk Tea Recipe

Makes four servings


  • 6-8 Tea Bags (any flavor, though strong black tea is traditional)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup evaporated milk (or ⅓ cup sweetened condensed milk)
  • Optional: sweetener of choice


  • Add the water to a large pot. Add the tea bags, and bring to a boil. Allow to steep according to package instructions.
  • Portion out the tea into four separate cups. 
  • Add evaporated or condensed milk to each cup. Add sweetener as desired. 

2. Boba Tea

Boba tea (also known as bubble tea, pearl milk tea, tapioca tea or simply boba) is a Taiwanese tea-based beverage served with chewy tapioca balls and a range of optional toppings. It was created in Taiwan during the 1980s, and became popular in most parts of East and Southeast Asia during the 1990s and 2000s.

Bubble tea usually contains a combination of tea (black, oolong or green tea), milk, sweetener and tapioca pearls, also known as boba. There are hundreds of variations of boba tea, with the option to customize the type of tea, color of the pearls and amount of sweetener used. 


Other optional toppings include jelly (available in flavors such as mango, lychee, coffee and coconut), mung bean paste, egg custard, syrup-filled popping boba and cheese foam. 

Boba Milk Tea Recipe

Makes two servings


  • 4 Tea Bags (black tea, green tea or oolong tea are recommended)
  • Sweetener of choice, to taste
  • 2 cups milk of choice
  • 2 cups of crushed ice
  • 1 cup cooked Boba ­— large black tapioca pearls (cook to manufacturer’s instructions)


  • Add the water to a large pot. Add the tea bags, and bring to a boil. Allow to steep according to package instructions.
  • Remove tea bags, add sweetener to taste and let cool.
  • Divide tapioca pearls and place in two tea glasses. 
  • Place all ingredients (except for the tapioca pearls) in a shaker and shake vigorously until frothy. 
  • Pour into prepared glass tea cups with the tapioca pearls and sip with fat straws. 

3. Cheese Tea

Cheese tea is the name for milk tea topped with a soft, airy cream cheese-based foam. It originated in the night markets of Taiwan, and quickly gained popularity throughout Asia. The creamy foam is usually lightly salted to create a delicious contrast to the sweetened milk tea.

To drink cheese tea correctly, tilt the cup at a 40-degree angle and sip from the top. This allows the milk tea to pass through the cheese foam, resulting in the perfect combination of salty, sweet, creamy and foamy. Do not use a straw and do not blend the layers before sipping.

Cheese Tea Recipe

Makes one large serving


  • 2 Tea Bags (any flavor) or ¾ teaspoon matcha
  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • 3 Tbsp whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 1 Tbsp sugar (or sugar substitute)
  • ¼ – 1/2 tsp Himalayan sea salt


  • Add the tea bags to a large mug and pour in 8 oz. of heated water. Let steep according to label instructions. 
  • While tea is steeping, make the cheese foam topping. In a medium mixing bowl, add the sugar and cream cheese. Beat on high until smooth and creamy. Add the milk and whipping cream to the mixing bowl. Beat until thick and frothy. Slowly add sea salt and adjust according to desired taste.
  • Remove the tea bags (if using) from the steeped tea and spoon the cheese foam on top. Enjoy immediately.

Interested in learning more about tea trends around the globe? Visit the Tea Culture section of the Tea Mind Today blog.

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