Around the World in (Eight-Tea) Five Ways

By Azam

Milk with two sugars, an almost traditionally British way to take your tea. Yet in some parts of the world, having tea with milk is considered odd, some would even raise an eyebrow at adding sugar. After all, the addition of milk and sugar was a British way of taking tea, following the old tradition of adding milk and sugar into medicinal herbal drinks. If we go back several centuries to the first consumption of tea, you would find that tea leaves were eaten as a vegetable! Oddly enough, when the first shipments of tea arrived on British soil, the first thing people did was also to try and eat the leaves as a vegetable. The way we take our tea has changed in the last few centuries, and it could change soon as well. Let’s explore some of the wonderful ways people around the world consume this humble leaf.

Butter Tea

Up in the Himalayas, yak butter and salt are added to tea to create this peculiar drink. The tea used is boiled for several hours until it is dark brown. Then it is mixed with a large lump of yak butter and salt in a special churn (though electric blenders are now used as well), before it is put in copper pots to be kept warm over a fire. Some say it is more like a soup than a drink, and indeed butter tea is also mixed with tsampa (roasted flour) to make an energizing porridge for activities in high altitudes.

Tibetan Monk Churning Butter Tea

Cheese Tea

Moving on from butter to another dairy product, cheese tea is slowly becoming a trend in Asia. While at first the name might bring up memories of adding a dash of milk to your cuppa that may have been several days past its expiration date, it is not the case here. Instead of your brie, cheddar or wensleydale, the cheese added to the tea is more like a foamy sweet cheese like mascarpone, though much lighter in comparison. I personally had the chance to partake in some during the winter holidays back in Indonesia, and I must say I was delightfully surprised. I would highly recommend it.


Hong Kong Style Milk Tea

Hong Kong style milk tea is tea with condensed or evaporated milk. The tea itself is brewed using a sackcloth strain, which supposedly allows it to be ‘smoother’ compared to tea bags or conventional strainer and is brewed for a considerable amount of time. It is essentially the ‘milk two sugars’ of Hong Kong

Teh Tarik

Now to something from my own neck of the woods: Teh Tarik. Literally, it means ‘pulled tea.’ The ingredients are quite simple, just black tea and sweetened condensed milk, very similar to Hong Kong style milk tea. The name comes from the fact that it is pulled, or poured, between two jugs several times before being served. Those who serve it often pull the tea with flair, pouring the tea from great heights or flipping the jugs. This serving method mixes the ingredients and cools the drink down to something much more suitable to be drunk in the tropical heat. It can also be served chilled if you have some ice at the ready.

Teh Tarik Being Pulled


Personally, I am a ‘tea is for leisure, coffee is for business’ kind of a guy. But when you’re not exactly sure if you’re on business or leisure, Hong Kong have created Yuenyeung. It’s made from three parts black coffee and seven parts Hong Kong style milk tea, giving it an extra kick of caffeine from the coffee but also reducing its bitterness. Quite useful for particularly groggy mornings. I personally have tried this at home several times and I must say I am very surprised on how well it blends together, would highly recommend.

I’ll leave you all with some recipes should you find yourself wanting something different from your usual cuppa.