Many cultures, from Ireland to Vietnam, put milk in their tea, but these days “milk tea” usually refers to the drink popularized in Taiwan. There, as in mainland China, tea is traditionally drunk hot, unsweetened and without milk. This comparatively new drink (it probably originated in the 1980s), by contrast, is iced, heavily sweetened and with a copious amount of dairy. It can also contain other flavors, as well as flavored tapioca pearls referred to as boba. A recent flavor trend in milk tea has been the addition of brown sugar boba, or the addition of black sugar syrup, which has a subtle burnt or bitter flavor.
Similar, older versions of the drink have long been enjoyed in Thailand and Vietnam (and at Thai and Vietnamese restaurants in the United States), where it is usually sweetened with condensed milk.
Market research firm Datassential reports that 46% of the U.S. population knows what milk tea is but only 25% have tried it.
Click through the gallery to learn more about this Flavor of the Week and see how one restaurant is using Milk Tea on its menu.