Spare The Calories And Long Lines By Making Your Own Favorite Milk Tea At Home
It's pouring hard and there’s still a line at this popular brown sugar milk tea chain from Taiwan. I don’t get it, isn’t it a “hot cocoa with your office crush” kinda afternoon? I definitely won’t be fancying anyone who drinks milk tea on the regular. I was one of those who almost walked out of the cinema when they made Thor fat in Avengers: End Game and had to see his perfectly sculpted abs again in the latest Men in Black movie just to redeem my ticket’s worth. Call me shallow, but I do not dig dad bods. Unless you’re Leonardo DiCaprio, which you’re not.
As a certified nutritionist, I always cringe whenever someone sips water, food coloring, artificial flavoring, and about 400 calories worth of high fructose corn syrup in a single-use plastic cup and straw around me. Which is all milk tea is. I mean, c’mon, it’s not even real tea.
I’m probably going to get another round of hate mail for saying this, but that’s okay because they don’t know where I live (ha!).
I remember drinking Zagu in high school which is probably first gen milk tea. What makes this drink such a treat is the tapioca balls which, granted, given that they’re authentic, are made of gluten-free cassava flour and therefore healthier than rice flour, right? Wrong! To make tapioca balls, starch is deep fried and coated in layer after layer of refined sweetener. This is how you achieve the black gummy pearl that’s so addicting (think sago leveled up).
For the “tea,” it’s mostly just full-fat milk, a tablespoon of artificially colored, powdered fake flavorings, and even more sugar. Which makes me wonder how they can even call it milk tea when there’s no loose leaf tea ingredient in it.
But it’s a treat! So why am I such a hater?
Because you’re drinking empty, acid-forming calories which immediately spike up your blood sugar, lower your immunity, and over stimulate your adrenals as they expand your waistline. You feel a giddy high precisely because you’re ingesting nutrients devoid of pure energy that go directly into your bloodstream, only to crash an hour later as they get stored as fat, and nothing else.
Do it often enough and you’ll start feeling more anxious as the sugar messes up with your dopamine reserves by over stimulating them. You may also have to start seeing your dermatologist more often as your skin, in an effort to help your liver detox from the inflammation, starts breaking out. Let’s not even go to what’s going to happen to your weight, but let’s just agree that no amount of gym trips is going to undo the pounds you add from your regular milk tea habit.
What’s worse than eating pure sugar? Drinking it. Add dairy and oil to the recipe and you have yourself a recipe for obesity, immuno-deficiency, hormonal imbalance, acid reflux, and a fatty liver. This is what functional doctor Mark Hyman calls “sweet fat” and he cautions 100% avoidance of such.
When you eat cake, it goes through your digestion at least, and gives your body time to metabolize it better (although I’m still not recommending that slice outside of very special occasions because it still falls under sweet fat). However, drinking the equivalent of this in calories, which is what milk tea is, doesn’t even give your body a fighting chance to resist or recover.
But what kind of health coach would I be if I just told you what you can’t have without recommending something better to swap milk tea with? So here’s my treat for you—a recipe for homemade milk tea using real ingredients, including chia seeds (instead of tapioca pearls) loaded with omega vitamins, some protein, and acts as a hydration power bomb. This isn’t just a treat for the senses but is also nourishing and soulful. What can be better?
Dairy-free Milk Tea
2 tablespoons chia seeds
cashew nut milk, for steeping
300 ml cashew nut milk
1 tablespoon coconut milk powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tea bag of choice (green or black)
4 ice cubes
1 to 3 tablespoons yacon syrup or coconut nectar
1. To make “tapioca” balls, steep chia seeds in cashew nut milk, just enough to cover the seeds, overnight in the chiller. Sprouting chia seeds for 24 to 36 hours will make them gelatinous.
2. Stir 300 ml cashew nut milk with coconut milk powder. The coconut milk has good fat for extra creaminess. Or alternatively, combine 100 ml freshly extracted coconut milk with 200 ml cashew nut milk.
3. Add vanilla extract.
4. In a saucepan, gently bring cashew nut-coconut milk mixture to a mild simmer. Add tea bag and let steep for 10 minutes. Let cool.
5. Transfer non-dairy milk to a blender. Add ice cubes and blend until smooth.
Blending dairy-free milk tea with ice cubes in the Breville Kinetix Pro blender for that froth on top
6. In a glass, settle sprouted chia seeds on the bottom. Layer yacon syrup on top. Pour dairy-free milk tea until the rim of the glass. Serve with a reusable steel or bamboo straw. Or heck, just sip.
You can double or even triple the recipe to make 2 to 3 glasses to keep in the chiller and enjoy regularly. To keep longer, simply keep the sprouted chia seeds and dairy-free milk tea in separate containers in the refrigerator, and only mix in when ready to drink. Sweeten according to your taste.
For this recipe, we sourced all the natural, homegrown ingredients at Real Food. It is also the only store that carries Hineleban yacon syrup, the lowest glycemic sweetener made from the super root, yacon. Real Food has branches at the Icon Showroom, 5th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City and at Molito Lifestyle Mall, Alabang or you can visit realfood.ph
The author is a certified Lifestyle Nutrition Coach who specializes in weight-loss and detox food. She is also an accredited Macrobiotic and Raw Chef. Follow her on Instagram at @weizelgulfan for wellness tips and recipes.
Photos by Paulo Valenzuela