Tea Drinks : Chai, Thai Iced Tea, and More

lesson #11

Thai Iced Tea

Bubble Tea

First, there was iced tea.

Americans tried it, it was good.

Then, in a mighty rush, global cuisine found its way onto the American palate. Thai tea became a sensation, a wonderful antidote to spicy foods. Masala chai, India's take on tea with milk, was next. Recently, a new addition to the iced tea family arrived, called boba, or bubble tea.

Cruising your local Chinatown or Asian community area, you'll be surprised to see how many different tea tastes exist. In this lesson, we'll be exploring the more exotic, yet interesting, variations on tea from around the world. These tea drinks are quickly gaining popularity in a market once ruled virtually exclusively by antiquated English tea.

For years, after indulging in pleasantly piquant Thai cuisine, many American taste buds have been quelled by Thai iced tea. Also called Cha Yen, this delicious delicacy blends the characteristically Thai tastes of coconut milk and star anise with vanilla, clove, cinnamon, orange, sugar, and, of course, tea (usually a China black). Served over ice, this is the perfect complement for a spicy summer meal.

Another Eastern tea to meet iced cubes comes from India. The enormously popular Masala Chai, or what many Westerners now refer to as just "Chai", is usually offered by cafes and tearooms in an iced form as well. The word 'Masala' means 'a blend of spices', and 'chai' simply means 'tea.' So, on your next trip to India, make sure you specify "Masala Chai" or you may be rather disappointed (or pleasantly surprised, depending on how you take your tea). This is traditionally prepared with cardamom, cinnamon, black peppercorns, clove, milk, sugar, and tea, but many variations exist based on regional recipes.

Already incredibly popular with Asia's youth, 'Boba Tea', known here in the U.S. as 'Bubble Tea,' is fast becoming a favorite with Americans, too. Invented in Taiwan, Bubble Tea is a concoction of juice, milk, tea (or herb tea) and sugar. It's finished off with the unique addition of large, chewy, black tapioca pearls (also called 'boba', hence the name) which are happily sucked up through a large straw.

Finally, many creative connoisseurs have developed original drink recipes involving tea. A delicious example combines Spanish Sangria with Chinese green tea. When diluting the iced tea, use a blend of your favorite fruit juices instead of water, add fresh fruit and seltzer. The result is a sweet, scrumptious Iced Tea Sangria. Virtually every trendy Tea Room or upscale bar has some interesting, unique blend involving tea.

Due to its many varieties and incredible versatility, the amount of beverages that can be improved with the simple addition of tea is endless. When selecting your next libation, be brave... try an exotic tea drink. You'll be pleasantly surprised by the delicious and diverse world that tea provides.

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