What’s life without dessert, especially when it’s drinkable? No, we’re not talking about milkshakes, hot cocoa, chilled mocha drinks, or pie that’s been given the blender treatment (what, you’ve never puréed pie?). We’re talking tea!
Yes, some teas are so yummy and sort of sweet that they are dessert-like. Vanilla and fruit flavored teas are good options. Other teas are the basis of tea drinks that have a dessert quality. Chais and bubble teas are the best known.
Adding vanilla to tea is a quick and easy way to turn your tea into dessert. You can go cheap and easy by adding a few drops of vanilla extract to your teapot or a drop in your teacup. A better way is to purchase a tea with vanilla already in it. Usually, these “ready made” vanilla teas have other ingredients, too, making them even more dessert-like. Monk’s Blend is one I’ve tried. It also contains pomegranate, and has a fruity, caramelly, mild, milky smooth taste that needs little sweetener. Get back to basics with Vanilla Naturally Flavored Black Tea. Add some mint to your vanilla tea for a heavenly taste experience, like Golden Moon’s Vanilla Mint that uses both green and black teas. Don’t forget the coconut, like you find in Harney & Sons Green Tea with Coconut.
Fruits have been a part of dessert for about as long as man has eaten fruit. (“Here, have a bite of this apple!”) So, fruit-flavored teas are a natural substitute for more calorie-laden fruity desserts such as pies, tarts, and ice creams. Black tea flavored with peach and apricot is one that comes to mind. Cranberry Orange Flavored Black Tea is another. Both of these can stand a bit of milk and sweetener added to give them a creamier, more dessert-like quality. Of course, you can also drink them straight and enjoy every fruity drop. Green teas with fruit flavors added can be just as dessert like. Granny Green Apple and Bohemian Raspberry are a couple of prime examples. Don’t forget white teas like Revolution Tea’s White Pear and Harrisons & Crosfield White Tea with Blackcurrant.
While “chai” is the Indian word for “tea,” in Western countries that word has come to mean “spiced tea.” Most are based on black teas, but some are based on green teas. The variety of spices that are used varies widely, depending on whether you want the tea to be more on the sweet side or more on the spicy side. Cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, and cloves push your chai toward that sweet side. Add milk and maybe some sugar and you have dessert in a teacup.
Bubble tea (pearl milk tea)
Also called boba tea, milk tea, pearl shake, tapioca iced tea, and zhen zhu nai cha (Chinese). Originating in the late 1980s in Taiwan as a children’s drink, bubble tea is now a phenomenon in many other parts of the world, especially where there is a large Chinese population.
So, what’s in it? Start with a darker Oolong or a green Jasmine tea served in a tall glass. Add enough milk and sugar so that they dominate the taste. Don’t forget a flavoring of your choice. There are lots of options, such as fruits, coffee, almond, and — of course! — chocolate.
The most important ingredient, and the one that sets this apart from other dessert teas, is the marble-sized tapioca balls (made of starch from the roots of manioc, also called yucca, and loaded with carbs). They are chewy and usually black. They lurk in the bottom of the glass, waiting for you to slurp up all the tea and get to them. Sort of like those cookie crumbs that break off when you dunk and then wait patiently for you at the bottom of the teacup or mug.
Actually, here I must distinguish between Oolongs that are good with milk versus a special type of Oolong that has a milky aroma and flavor. An example of the former is The Republic of Tea’s All Day Breakfast Black Tea, made from Keemun Oolong (oxidized toward the black end of the Oolong scale). The latter kind is available from a variety of vendors online. It’s an Oolong made from tea leaves harvested at the right moment (after a sudden shift in temperature, an uncommon occurrence) to produce that milkiness. There are several versions of milk Oolongs, and the tastes are described as creamy, caremelly, coconut milky, and milk toffee candies.
There is also Golden Moon’s Coconut Pouchong, made with a different type of milk — the kind from a coconut (great for those of you who are lactose intolerant). It’s a sweet flavor you’ll love in place of heavy desserts.
That should give you some good places to start. Pick a tea and imbibe it in place of that calorie-laden pie or cake. Not necessarily every day, but certainly once or twice a week. Your waistline will thank you. Mine does!
Don’t forget to check out A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill!