Here in Manila, pearl shakes have come back with a vengeance. A few years ago, the market leaders here were brands like Quickly, Easy Way, Zagu, and Ersao that sold ice cold shakes with chewy pearls and an assortment of other drink ‘accessories’ (like puddings, nata de coco strips, jams, etc.). Prices ranged from an estimate of P45 (plain shake) -P70 (with all the bells and whistles).
I’m not sure how trendy these brands still are. But these days, pearls are still one of the famous go-tos for refreshments. However, they seem to have reincarnated in the form of teas and milk teas instead. Pretty much every mall you go to, there will probably be a kiosk or full-blown store selling a plethora of flavors and drink add-ons to choose from. So here are my comments on the milk tea craze that has blown us away:
1. These brands often have flavor staples.
I’ve had Oolong or Jasmine or Original (Nai Cha) milk tea with pearls at Serenitea, Cobo Bubble Tea & Snow Ice, and Simple Line/Simple Life. What I can say is that, overall, the Oolong in store A tastes similar to the Oolong in store B and store C. The same can be said for the Jasmine and Default/Original flavors. In terms of making each brand’s version distinct, I would have to say that it relies on the ‘milkiness’ (the use of milk to dilute), the essence (the strength of the tea they used), and the pearls (chewiness and size).
2. Perhaps there is a flavor for every occasion.
After a heavy meal, I find that taking Oolong milk tea has the equivalent of taking coffee when it comes to cleansing the palate. There is a certain strength in the taste of Oolong itself (even if you drink the tea without the milk in a Chinese restaurant): a roasted flavor that seems to have the ability to cut away any greasy taste you may still have in your mouth.
But when I am looking for a dessert flavor, I go for Jasmine milk tea. When you taste it, it has a pleasant floral aroma to the tongue. It’s milder than Oolong, less floral than Rose (which can sometimes feel like I’m drowning in a pool of roses), and is harmonious with the flavor of milk.
3. Still, there are some differences worth knowing.
Notably, Cobo Bubble Tea has many variations of the Oolong milk tea. They have a roasted version (which isn’t so sweet and tastes similar to roasted seaweed), another version that I haven’t had the opportunity to try, and the original version (which I really like!). The drinks come with pearls, but you can choose from add-ons like the popping bobba and yummy brown sugar han tien jelly
Bubble Tea “tokyo milk tea place” has big pearls and small pearls which is fun and exciting for those who love to their sago. They also have authentic Asian flavors like azuki red bean and black sesame. You even have the option of ordering the drinks as milk shakes, but do order a smaller size as the shakes are so heavy on the stomach.
Zen Tea has one of the most affordable milk teas of the lot (around P50-P70), but there tends to be some milk tea powder sediments at the bottom of the drink. Ditto for Bubbletealicious at Megamall (P45 – P55 for a small cup, and add P5 for every upsize; slight sediment).
At Simple Line/Simple Life, you can get some Oolong with pearls for about P55 (small) to P60 or P65 (big). No powder sediments. That’s a sweet deal.
The other brands tend to verge on presyong Starbucks (price range of Starbucks) with drinks starting at P80 and reaching P130 (depending on flavor and number of add-ons).
The quality of the milk tea in these establishments are, across the board, good. The only ways you can ruin this drink are if you burn the pearls (I’ve experienced this at Quickly in Megamall) and if the concoction comes out too sweet (which is solved by the availability of ‘less sugar’ options).
Do try out this new trend and, preferably, find each brand’s unique specialty for an enhanced milk tea experience.
*Photos taken from the FB/multiply pages of the milk tea places.