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November 24, 2011

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Milk tea - How sweet it is

LOVERS of milk tea in all its varieties have many options in Shanghai, from Hong Kong-style "silk stocking" tea to Taiwanese bubble or pearl to Vietnamese milk tea made with coffee. Or you can blend your own, as Nie Xin reports.

Bubble tea, boba tea, pearl tea, silk-stocking tea or pantyhose tea - milk tea has many names and many varieties around Asia. Connoisseurs say you can tell the quality of a Cantonese restaurant or teahouse from the quality of its milk tea.

Milk tea (nai cha) is sold in many Shanghai restaurants, cafes, teahouses and Southeast Asian restaurants.

Hong Kong-style milk tea originated during British colonial rule over Hong Kong where afternoon black or red tea was a ritual, served with sugar and milk.

The Chinese milk tea consists of black tea mixed with evaporated or condensed milk, making it rich and thick.

It may be sweetened or people add their own sugar for a tasty high-energy, high-calorie drink, a real pick-me-up.

Since it was strained many times through sackcloth, the fabric filter became very fine. People said the tea could have been strained through a silk stocking in the old days. In later days, it was also known as pantyhose tea.

RBT Tea Shop

Taiwanese style

RBT (Xian Zong Lin) Tea Shop, part of a chain, was the first place to serve Taiwan-style milk tea in Shanghai. That was more than 10 years ago.

The Pearl Milk Tea is famous. Many locals might try their first Pearl Milk Tea at RBT on Huaihai Road M.

Bubble tea - so named for the bubbles that would form when tea and flavorings were shaken - originated in tea shops in Taiwan in the 1980s. It's also known as boba (bubble) tea and pearl milk tea because tiny tapioca balls or "pearls" were added. It's a kind of tea you can eat.

There are many variations of the drink at RBT, depending on the types of tea and other ingredients and flavors. The most popular are pearl green tea and pearl black tea.

The Classic Bubble Tea (24 yuan) is made with a basic blend of teas plus fine Assam red tea. The tea is made with water at exactly (or so they say) 82 degrees Celsius.

Unlike other venues serving Hong Kong-style milk tea, RBT has introduced many innovations, such as lavender milk tea, matcha latte roasted milk tea and taro milk tea.

Address: 638 Huaihai Rd M.

Tel: 5306-9812

Cha's Cantonese Restaurant

Hong Kong style

Opened two years ago and filled with 1970s Hong Kong ambience, Cha's is a favorite place for young people to hang out, either at the original on Si'nan Road or in Tongxin Square on Xingeng Road.

Cha's enthusiastically recreates old Hong Kong and is decorated in the style of the 1970s. It's Cantonese food and beverages are popular.

Many people regard Cha's milk tea as the most authentic Hong Kong style in town. The original-flavored iced milk tea (15 yuan) is smooth, creamy and full-bodied, with a strong black tea flavor, aroma of thick sweet condensed milk.

The ice is made from the same tea, so that when it melts the tea is not diluted.

Business is very brisk, there are long waits for seats and guests mostly have to share a table with others.

Address: 30 Si'nan Rd (near Huaihai Rd M.)

Tel: 6093-2062

Lung Kee Restaurant

Hong Kong style

This restaurant is famous for Cantonese barbecue and authentic Cantonese food and beverages.

Business is brisk and the queues are long at Lung Kee on a lower level of Foursquare Department Store. Customers go for the tea, not the ambiance. It's not quiet or cozy.

It serves authentic Hong Kong-style milk tea, including the original-flavored smooth milk tea (15 yuan/icy, US$2.35) and Yuanyang (literally mandarin duck) milk tea, which is made of a mixture of coffee and Hong Kong-style milk tea. It can be served hot or iced.

It's filtered in a long sackcloth bag to make it smoother. Repeated use turns the fabric brown and makes it feel very soft. The shape and texture suggest a silk stocking.

The milk tea uses a mixture of several black teas (the proportion is a commercial secret) and it has a strong black tea flavor.

Address: B1, 1618 Nanjing Rd W.

Tel: 6288-2757

Pho Sizzling

Vietnamese style

Pho Sizzling on Wujiang Pedestrian Road serves typical Vietnamese cuisine (pho refers to rice noodles) with Western influence. Adventurer's Choice pho and the vermicelli and grilled lemon grass pork are favorites.

While the food features fusion, the Vietnamese milk tea is delicious. Authentic Vietnamese milk tea (14 yuan/hot, 16 yuan/icy) is made with espresso or plain regular coffee, black tea and sweetened condensed milk. It can be served hot or iced, in a typical Vietnamese aluminum cup.

The unsweetened condensed milk makes it very rich; customers add their own sugar.

At lunchtime, the set meal includes a huge bowl of pho, shrimp chips and Vietnamese milk tea or other drink. The cost is usually around 30 yuan.

Address: F2, 200 Wujiang Rd (near Nanjing Rd W.)

Tel: 3210-0528

Twist Brown Sugar Ice

Modern style

This spot is really, really small and can accommodate fewer than 10 customers. Opened by a few young people, Twist Brown Sugar Ice is very cozy and home-style, with many photos on the walls. Most customers buy takeaway or order delivery.

The shop is famous for its brown sugar ice and various brown sugar milk teas are available. Prices range form 9 to 11 yuan.

Customers can order their own tailor-made teas, selecting various teas, milk and condensed milk. It also offers pearl tea, pudding tea, herbal jelly tea, sesame, almond and other flavors - hot or iced.

Address: 708 Weihai Rd (near Shaanxi Rd N.)

Tel: 6258-9938


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