Category Archives: Beverages

Starbucks Asian Dolce Latte + Classic Tuna Dill Melt

starbucks landmark

Coffee may be made up of beans (aka plants, Mother Nature’s ill begotten son) but that doesn’t make me a coffee connoisseur. If any, I am the anti-thesis of a cup of joe (bitchy and bland), which makes my non possession of the most coveted Starbucks planner my secret pride.

starbucks coffee manila

How I ended up with the newly introduced Starbucks Asian Dolce Latte is a long story filled with tardiness run-ins, barista showdowns and arm balancing acts. Quite adventurous but not worth the narration.

To cut this epic short, I found a coupon for a buy-one-take-one Asian Dolce Latte redeemable at the Trinoma branches and since the Bakemon has been triggering my insomnia, this was just perfect.

Let me explain the complexity of the drink: Asian because it is being launched only in Asia, Dolce for this sweet milk concoction that was made for the Asian taste (except me because I hate sweet) and Latte because of the milk composition—non fat thank you very much. The Asian part is stressed because the espresso shots are double the amount because Asians need to perk up because we tend to rise early and work hard. Of course that was a joke because as far as I know, I’m one heck of a lazy cat and no amount of caffeine will turn me into a powerhouse employee of the month.

To properly assess the drink, I only have a line to impart: A strong dose of rich coffee coupled with the sweet velvety and creamy milk close to condensed; it is best paired with eggs or plain toast in the morning. That’s what I think, though I paired mine with a hefty tuna-cheese-lettuce-egg sandwich on wheat with loads of mustard. Perfection.

starbucks to go

Of course being the usual sadist to myself, I ordered my Asian Dolce Latte in reduced form because I feared the cream would cause a sensation in the toilet. So here’s what I really ordered (customized), but to enjoy this unadulterated, do not ever copy me:

One grande iced Asian Dolce Latte, no whipped cream, half the dolce for the 100% lazy J.Anne, to go!

Will I ever buy this drink again? Maybe if a coupon magically finds itself in my back pocket. But if say, magic isn’t for real (it is, right?), then I’d best off use my P160 for the Starbucks Classic Tuna Dill Melt.

tuna dill melt sandwich manila

I warn you though that the Classic Tuna Dill Melt is not for everyone, especially those who hate boiled egg!

classic tuna dill melt philippines

 That killer sandwich on what tasted like rye bread contains tuna dill salad, egg, cheese inside and mozzarella cheese on top (flavored with paprika). For me, this is Lenten Friday protein salvation for the suffering. It beats the grilled cheese sandwich when I’m looking for that “something else” inside and the egg-cheese combination makes its properly filling.

For those who can’t stand the sight (and taste) of that hardboiled egg yolk, give it to me instead!

I promise to pray for you in return.

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Seeing Stars: Dakasi (Trinoma)

 

Being a constant labyrinth, I don’t suppose I will ever memorize Trinoma’s tributaries and tenants—despite my infamous boast of being its daily patron. To prove my case, I never knew J.Co was open until I noticed hordes of orange boxes that clouded my peripheral vision with citrus sights. And, our dearly beloved Cibo unexpectedly disappeared, to be replaced by a ribs place. All these happened during my watch, so much for retail omniscience.

Getting lost may have its points too. I stumbled upon the soon-to-open sign of Army Navy (Trinoma Foodcourt—who eats there?), and mindlessly followed the brightly shining Super Mario star that led me to Dakasi. For those new to this strange-sounding store, it is not a cousin to Saizen but more of the striving youngest sibling of Gong Cha and Chatime. Enough with the clues, it’s a milk tea placemore of a stall—that has no other USP than having the Eiffel Tower on its cup. It does not hail from Paris though.

From High and Guangzhou Post

The first time I had a cup of Dakasi, I was verbally struggling in the underground mall in China. This time, everything is in English, and so if I couldn’t get my order right, blame the Eiffel Tower. Oui?

For comparison, it was a necessity that I order the Matcha Brown Rice Milk Tea (which I had in China). Another petty craving was the Yakult Green Tea, which I felt was fitting since all these were in conjunction with Trinoma’s “going green” campaign. Show your love for Mother Earth, bring a big bag. 

In the absence of the language barrier I was finally allowed to utter “25% sweetness” and expect 100% comprehension from the cashier.

It was almost perfect until, “Ma’am you should try that in 100%. You will not enjoy the full taste of the tea if it’s only 25%,” the sugar-loving cashier urged as if I wanted to get into her red bull mode.

She did not know whom she was dealing with though. With my self-made allergy to sugar, if I could have it my way, I’d go for Zero % but of course couldn’t give them the shock treatment on their soft opening. I do have a soft spot for Super Mario.

So I just gave her the look, and a “No.” That’s me being short and sweet, she’ll recover.

 

At 25% sweetness, the Matcha Brown Rice Milk Tea is fairly flavorful and maintains the strong matcha taste (and color). Compared to Chatime and Serenitea counterparts though, it has a creamier texture, but not as silky smooth as Moonleaf (sedimentation occurs to which I have no qualms though). Had I gone for that horrendous 100% sweetness, this would be like sipping melted matcha ice cream. Delicious but will require one hour of carrying groceries with my bare arms. This is Quezon City, no plastic bags allowed.

The Yakult Green Tea is another story—watery and derives the flavor from Yakult which is not exactly the best tasting yogurt on the planet. Going for the 100% sweetness level might not remedy the flavor, and Dakasi ought to incorporate more fruit into this drink. This drink falls below my yogurt-tea drink standards since counterparts from Chatime and Happy Lemon are much more enjoyable and cheaper, and they’ve become part of my honorary to-crave drinks list. The Chatime Yogurt Green Tea, in particular, has that subtle citrus flavor that even at 30% sweetness, can suffice as the perfect dessert.  

Of course that’s just 2 drinks out of their vast menu, and with the Buy 1 Take 1 promo on their soft opening, I’m bound to make this a daily ritual until I become known as the “Lazy Black 25% Sweetness Cat” or more believably, that “annoying and demanding girl”.

 Oh and they offer chocolate pudding as a sinker, so how about that for super?

Dakasi is that middle stall near Marks and Spencer and Healthy Options, and if you get lost still, allow your humility to sink in and consult the concierge. Don’t expect mushrooms to guide you to the end of the level.

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Tea Pot Session

My conduct towards the rainy season (or shall I say Hagupit ng Habagat – sadly, I don’t know how to properly translate this) has been rather absurd. Rather than crave for ramen and curry, I’ve been going through a period of vast starvation and moments of just staring at my leaky ceiling.

It’s all this not-a-typhoon-but-still-horrible-enough-to-qualify-as-Ondoy’s-mistress rain that has been pouring with a bladder with no end. Stranded at home with no intent of release, I shudder at the thought having nothing to write about except Skyflakes or Cookie Crisp.

I don’t suppose people would like to read about the magnificent water of Quezon City or how Timmy’s homemade boiled egg is just perfectly powdery either.

Perfect for the weather that’s seasoning us with floodwater, flu and damp walls.

So it’s best to stay within the monsoon theme and get warm, cozy and that liquid high. Sadly, I wish I were talking about the Hot and Sour Soup which has been discontinued by Knorr or Maggi (what a disappointment) but no, it’s best to make do with the only thing dry at home.

And so I’ll let you in on what I’ve been hoarding recently—aside from water and boiled egg—Tea. Well that must sound like old news, I would admit, but since I’ve been dunking teabags here and there, throughout the day, I like to think that I have resuscitated the tea connoisseur that was once drowned milk tea.

And I haven’t been hoarding the cheap kind, like that Nature’s Pride that claims to be green tea but tastes more like oolong, which isn’t that bad, just confusing. We also have the generic Lipton (Clear and Green) which I once adored for its wake-me-up power potential, but lately, has been dwindling in the caffeine aspect for no reason but economy. I’ve never come to appreciate that “Hirameki” Yellow Label Tea because I find its teeth-staining abilities rather off-putting.  But enough with the bashing.

My stash has consisted of Celestial Seasonings variants (top photo from old post), partly because I find their packaging lovely and partly because they have Blueberry Breeze. Yes, if any, blame the blueberry on this one. Of course, there are other companions: White Tea, Detox A.M. and Sleepytime Herbal. You can say that I’ve got all time periods covered.

My motto: Tea, all-day, everyday.

However, rather than bring your to a complete bore with a review on tea, I’ve decided to just list down 10 amazing facts (okay, not that amazing, just good-to-know and nice-to-hear which you’ll probably forget once the sun starts to shine again) that I enjoyed with my stash.

  1. Combining green tea with a fairly faint yet distinct flavor of blueberry, Blueberry Breeze makes it to my favorite tea of all time. It surely beats Lipton’s Green Tea Acai which immediately fades after the first steep. Not a good value for a well drinker, despite packing in that Acai greatness.

    Blueberry Breeze Nutrition Info

  2. White tea is an essential tea variant for me, which is a component of many of Celestial Seasonings’ offerings. I have only seen Twining’s as another brand offering such, but the packaging makes me think of my grandma’s kitchen, so forget it. I do not have time to bring out a ceramic kettle with matching cups just to commemorate tea time. By the time I do, I’d be half asleep, my hair catching on fire.
  3. White tea is sometimes combined with green tea for that instant perk-me-up-because when meetings start to create a mental pillow in my head, either it’s that or I douse myself in ice cold water, which wouldn’t be too civilized in a corporate environment.
  4. The tea packs a bitter punch when steeped longer than usual, beating espresso and vodka, in the health department. Plus, no HR rules violated here and my palpitations will be kept within normal limits.
  5. Flavored tea helps on those days when the tolerance for bitter is just way down the scale (like when you’re about to get sick or are just feeling angsty about the traffic). Rather than reaching for juice or fruity teas, it’s best to dunk a teabag and drown it to your heart’s content. Beware the temperature though. I have been a victim far too many times from my enthusiasm and do not care if blowing furiously on my cup purports bad manners or blows germs in the air. Either way, it’s for my protection.

    Ah yes, ingredients straight from Professor Snape’s Potions class!

  6. The Detox A.M. helps with the morning rush, in case there’s isn’t any.
  7. Sleepytime is the best boost for sleep for those who’ve had too much fun, too much food or just too much to think about before sleeping. When the sheep can’t help, the try counting tea leaves instead. That should put you out in a jiffy.
  8. The tea sleep enhancer works better than melatonin, sleeping pills, and cough syrup because its sole component is tea. Herbal and organic, you’ll know that when you wake up, there won’t be a zombie facing you in the mirror.

    Works better than a punch in the face. No black eye too!

  9. Another perk of the tea is that it gets you to sleep, helps with the digestion process and relieves/relaxes the stomach. That’s like the combination of 3 different pills and a glass of water. But with tea, you’re guaranteed not to pee at 3am, unless you don’t care because you’re over 70.
  10. Lastly, there are other variants for perk-me-up, dozing off, half-and-half chill and K.O. that it’s best that you be your own judge. Tea isn’t that bad—bitter for many, digestion-altering for some—but on the whole, is a grand experience for anyone who just loves to drink. Just like water, but with benefits.

Don’t get swept by bottles and sugary finds, plain teabags are still the way to go, and you can squeeze them until the very last miniscule leaf and that’s economy for the Third World. Some may taste funny or curiously like flora and fauna, but waive these strange flavors for the ultimate benefit of health and wellness.

And weird weather has been strangely bipolar, I don’t need to invest in ramen or force-palpitate myself with coffee, tea’s got that “warmth” covered.

And best of all, being the Lazy Black Cat that I am, a few steps to the water dispenser and everything’s in the bag.

Kampai!

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Starbucks Hoji-what?

The local plebeians have found their drinking pleasure in the conveniently sprinkled milk tea joints all around Metro Manila. I for one am guilty of this menace, and have adopted the milk tea jargon of “no pearls”, “less ice” and my favorite, “zero sugar.”

The last spiel has earned me gawks and sneers that the cashier will certainly mark as the zaniest she has encountered in her front-office life, but if I had the time, I’d certainly have told her, better my decisive and time-saving action than the band of kids behind me dishing out statements that sound like “Ummm”, “Hmmm” and all other rhymes. It seems that it will take her forever to get them to order, unless they head for cover at the nearest McDonald’s. 

Yet again I digress from my feature photo. Starbucks Hojicha.

I have not been to Starbucks for a while, and curious about this Hojicha drink which has been flooding my dreams and consciousness, I’ve decided to finally confront this poster drink.

Resuming an upper class stance, I’ve decided to drop the hoi polloi Moonleaf mindset, put on my best English and go for “One Grande non fat Hojicha Frap with Earl Grey Jelly for J.Anne!” and since it was lunch, that chicken pesto on panini which looked quite enticing in that flat presentation.

The Hojicha came sans the cream, sugoi! But that was the best part out of this hoj-experience. If I were to rename this gloriously presented drink, it would be: 110% Sweet Earl Grey Frap, further sweetened by the Earl Grey Jelly. This is best partnered with something horribly bland and crisp, and I am glad I went for panini than the Oreo Cheesecake that was winking at me from the chiller.

In terms of the tea flavor, the Hojicha is certainly the supreme being that perhaps contains 10 teabags worth of tea which would please the Queen of England. 

Being used to mildly sweetened to bland drinks, the Hojicha certainly blasted my system to hyper-sugar mode—though I needed it at that time, reliving Tom Hanks in his The Terminal experience. Other than this outlier experience, I believe that should I have a tea fix, I would resume to my eternal favorite, the one drink that will never let me down, despite horrendous exams and long drives: Green Tea Frap without whipped cream.

 As for that chicken pesto panini, the actual name escapes my mind. Perhaps my subconscious decided to bury it in my mental oblivion since it wasn’t that spectacular to begin with. I’ve had other better tasting and worth recalling Starbucks sandwiches and this surely isn’t one of them. Filled with chicken, pesto and cheese, it was hmmm-kay but not dream-worthy.

 Especially when it’s something I can replicate at home. 

 But still, I am sure glad I didn’t go for that Oreo Cheesecake or the bathroom would’ve been my destination and not China. 

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Travel Series: Drink Up

Going by the title of “tourist” just recently spawned grand ideas that can even outdo the delusional’s mind. While there were too many to mention, I do remember concocting strange plans such as travel blog, buffet series and spring fling. Blimey, what was I thinking?

None of it was accomplished though, thanks to the lazy old me.

Going back to my old habits of being hungry and famished, thoughts that filled my head were always centered on food. However, to stir things up a bit and to at least pretend that I exerted some effort into cooking up something new, I’ve decided on a beverage oriented post.

Being a water person, this may not be as extensive as, say, a wine connoisseur’s blog, but still, these drinks quenched my thirst, made my day and deserve a special bulletin, so cheers!

In a side trip to Taiwan,I felt obliged to take a sip of milk tea and pay homage to the East.

Casa Mila Cafe, Taoyuan Airport

Casa Mila Cafe, Taoyuan Airport

earl grey milk team casa mila taipei

While the concept of the Earl Grey Milk Tea is far from foreign for us Filipinos, this one was a bit on the “fastfood” side since I spied a teabag at the bottom of my cup. No brewing of tea leaves or sinkers of some sort. Just plain tea with milk and syrup to go with the sandwiches perhaps. Still, the flavor was excellent, straightforward, and something I can easily replicate at home, if the craving arises.

Boba Time, Puente Hills Mall

Boba Time, Puente Hills Mall

Mocha Green Tea Smoothie and Almond Milk Tea

Mocha Green Tea Smoothie and Almond Milk Tea

Moving on and finally reaching the West Coast, I learned that milk tea joints are not as popular in the US as they are in Asia. Whenever I said “milk tea” people just gave me a blank stare, but when I saw Boba Time at the mall, I had to exclaim, “So you do have milk tea in the States!” Still, people misunderstood my perfectly English statement and called it Boba Time. Just that. So whenever I referred to milk tea, I said Boba Time and then people smiled, as if it was the only Asian beverage place ever created.

Boba Time is a local mall favorite, among the youth perhaps since they don’t have the adjustable sugar level settings that adults love. For about $2 to $4 for a cup, it’s probably more expensive that the Philippine milk tea, but then again, I don’t trust my math.

When asked if I wanted “Boba” in my smoothie, the immediate answer was, “Of course!” I imagined the popping boba in the local joints and expected the US variety to be just as delectable. Lost in translation was the key to my disappointment as the hyped up boba turned out to just be the typical pearls. Oh well, at least the drink was superbly creamy and tea-lightful! (So good I bought it again, but this time no more boring boba.)

I saw Quickly at a nearby establishment. Yes, the Quickly we grew up with but with much better beverage pictures. While I didn’t have the time to try it, I once again screamed, “You have Quickly here!” Blank faces.

“It’s just like Boba Time!”

“Oh wow! Really?”

Nobody tried it though.

Boba Time, Puente Hills Mall

Boba Time, Puente Hills Mall

Acai Supercharger and Peach Perfection (Berry Fulfilling not in photo)

Acai Supercharger and Peach Perfection (Berry Fulfilling not in photo)

Who can forget Jamba Juice? Certainly not me, never mind if the menu is almost the same locally, except for some veggie juices, light smoothies, coffee, tea and frozen yogurt (available in tart, chocolate – which I didn’t get to try because my toenails were already turning blue – not a good sign).

I’d have thrown a tomato at them if the smoothies tasted way different from the Philippine counterpart, but no, they tasted just the same. Good to know that our Manila franchise maintains the consistency and quality of Jamba Juice, and the local blokes are a lot friendlier too. Except that in the US, they serve the beverages in styro cups in an effort to show their concern for Mother Earth. Oh and they take way longer to melt, which they can thank their geography for.

The Berry Fulfilling promises 1/3 the calorie content of the original smoothies with the same amount of fruit. A bit on the frothy side, they probably skipped the juice or yogurt. Next time though, I wouldn’t mind ingesting more calories for that creamier texture. Wait, what next time? Must be the jet lag talking.

Lastly, a trip to the grocery piqued my curiosity and finished off my spare change, as it became a quest to try out at least a vitamin water brand. I ended up with snacks for an army and these 2 drinks.

Vitamin Drinks from Target, with Ben and Jerry's stealing a pose

Vitamin Drinks from Target, with Ben and Jerry’s stealing a pose

While not really a vitamin water advocate, the vitamins and “other” mineral content are certainly legendary, to my satisfaction since I did run out of multivitamins. The flavors are much more grand sounding and always favor combos (like Acai strawberry or lemon blackberry – I’m making these up but they really do these fruity combos). Fuze also has L-Carnitine, so I packed it to Vegas in the hopes of helping with the diet that never was. It probably didn’t do much for its cause, but I did learn to save more the next time around, and never ever forget my vitamins again.

All in all, the drinks were superbly enjoyable and quite an adventure on their own. In the midst of a cold weather though, time is best spent dining on real solid food. Warm, crisp and crunchy.

Coming up next are desserts and salad – which should be more gratifying, the very reason why the word “diet” should never exist and why I live to eat. Ciao!

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Got Tea? Top 6 Milk Teas in Manila v.2

As I read my previous top milk tea list (Got Tea? Top 5 Milk Tea Joints in Metro Manila), circa September 2011, I cringe and apologize for showing inexperience and passing off this passé list as a work of a tea connoisseur. Evil dazes and big question marks met my shallow judgment, and I admit that Kozui made it to the list because I found its green tea-inspired theme so kawaii (“cute”)!

The superficiality and naiveté have got to end, and so I proudly bring out the 2011 Top 6 Milk Teas in Manila v2. No list is perfect, as no taste buds are alike, so treat it as a guide to this cat’s pet drinks to end 2011. Before you read on though, please not that I am disorganized, hate tapioca pearls, have a propensity to misquote prices and detest sugar, extra sweetness and creaminess—which my list will considerably reflect. Other than these flaws, tea is my next favorite drink to water, and so I wage war to those who screw up this life-changing brew.

Chatime Philippines Jenina Gonzales

1.       CHATIME  

Chatime remains as the undisputed milk tea provider as it combines price, flavor, variety and location. The customizable ice setting brings bias to my decision, being constantly allergic to ice-dominant drinks. Chatime’s got mousse, frap-like concoctions, milk teas, fruit teas and the add-ons that you’d expect from the typical milk tea fares—in large servings, so P100 already ensures one mighty burp. A loyal patron of the matcha mousse with pudding, I’d brave storms just to order this comfort drink. With an extensive offering that includes interesting and novel categories such as QQ Jelly and Oriental Pop Teas, I ought to live beside a branch. With newly opened branch in Unimartuh-oh, Happy Lemon’s got one less reason to be happy.

Serenitea Jenina Gonzales

2.     SERENITEA

Serenitea brews teas right in front of you, so as far as “organic” goes this has got to be the closest to Mother Nature’s green heart. With roasted rice and whatnot topping the drinks, there’s the feeling of natural goodness that every cup delivers. Going 0% sweetness wouldn’t be a problem because the tea’s flavor is strong, vibrant and soothing. Spying the Serenitea branch along Jupiter was awesome sight for the Makati dwellers and workers, who need a break from the sugar-infested drinks and syrupy fares of the central business district. Genmaicha Tea Latte makes my top list, and with pepper tofu, potato and chicken chops in the menu, not to mention Amaretto Tea Latte, there’s always a reason to find peace in Serenitea. 

Gong Cha Philippines J.Anne Gonzales

3.       GONG CHA 

Gong Cha collects lines for a living because every Gong Cha branch is perhaps never without a patron. Gong Cha offers milk teas, even “creams” up drinks for the non tea lover and offers fancy combinations (creative mixes) for the adventurous. Youngsters and yuppies may find delight in the ice cream and coffee offerings, so it has evolved into a tea-coffee place that can’t do without cream. Gong Cha’s tagline is probably: Location, location, location—and has effectively lived by this mantra. Properly situated, even in foodcourts, no one can ever “not” find Gong Cha. It finds you, and so popularity vote goes to this one.

Happy Lemon Philippines Jenina Gonzales

4.       HAPPY LEMON  

This will sound very immature but I have to say it still: Chris Tiu’s milk tea place. Chris Tiu + kawaii-sounding drink names in that signature smiley cup are enough to send giggly girls flocking to Happy Lemon. In Eastwood, Greenhills, etc. and soon in Trinoma, expect kids to arrive in hordes and sample the “rock salt and cheese” everyone’s talking about. The fancy names do live up to their expectations and produce fun and delightful drinks. I’ve found much love with my Matcha faves (matcha with adzuki bean and pudding and matcha with malt). From yakult to yogurt and lemon series, there’s a lot more reason to visit Happy Lemon than just basketball and boys.

 Cha Dao Philippines Jenina Gonzales

5.       CHA DAO 

Cha Dao is amazingly cheap, you can expect change for P100—and we’re talking Large with add-ons already! Assam and Wintermelon are crowd pleasers, but you can still expect the common favorites: Green tea, matcha, oolong, chocolate and classic. Why, they even have Kopiko – so very Pinoy!  Black sugar seems to be their not-so-secret ingredient, while the popping bobba as an add-on is sure to be a favorite (count me in). A locally established joint and based mainly in the Quezon City area, now there’s more reason to chill at home. Oh yeah, they deliver too!

Moonleaf J.Anne Gonzales

6.       MOONLEAF TEA HOUSE  

Flying to the moon may be a rare occurrence, but finding a P55 milk tea in Manila isn’t. Moonleaf’s got a pretty simplified menu scheme, 2 price segments (P45 and P55) for the drinks and add-ons—all offered in those XL cups (they’re really huge).  Wintermelon’s still on the list but so is my new favorite Oolong. Don’t be hasty in judging the giant coolers; they contain fabulous and tasty brews of various teas (like Jasmine and Black). Student’s choice award would probably go to Moonleaf as it bests others in terms of price, location (scattered in Diliman area, among other places) and taste (rich in flavor and caffeine). Note for the insomniac: Do not consume after 3pm or you’ll end up a zombie like I did! Note for the students: Now you can party, errrr, study all night!

That’s it for my Best 6 for 2011. I ended up with 6 because I couldn’t choose between Cha Dao and Moonleaf, so I included them both!

Many haters may distrust milk teas and deem them ‘’faddish drinks cloaked in Asian health myths” but since they contain mainly milk, tea, ice and some sweetener, can’t say they’re detrimental to our health either. With inexpensive choices available and unsweetened varieties part of the menus, the appeal is compelling and universal. At least they taste better than coffee (for me), supposedly harbor less calories than frozen yogurt and sit well with the budget friendly.

Milk teas are actually doing some kind of public service by getting the population to drink tea, disguised with fancy names and flavors—but tea nevertheless! That’s some kind of feat for a nation that discriminates vegans, hates anything that taste like leaves and thinks tea is “grandma’s drink.”

All rigth, tea time!

Previous Links:

Top 5 Milk Teas v.1: Got Tea? Top 5 Milk Tea Joints in Metro Manila

Chatime: It’s Cha Time! (Chatime @ SM North)

Happy Lemon: Promenade Picks: BonChon Chicken and Happy Lemon

Gong Cha: Going, Going, Gong Cha!

Cha Dao: Cha Dao To-Go

Moonleaf: Fly me to the Moonleaf Tea House

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Let’s Jamba! (Jamba Juice BGC)

Pacquiao will probably hate me, but chaos-free EDSA during his match vs Marquez was too tempting for a swift drive to Jamba Juice at Bonifacio Global City. The nation might scorn me for abandoning local pride in pursuit of fruit, but I can never ignore the whimsical reasoning of my stomach. That, and my sleepless nights over acai have got to end!

The JJ Balloon, a better navigator than Googlemaps

It was a dehydrating trek to the Jamba area (it’s across R.O.X. or follow the balloon) located in this pristine lot with sawdust still layering some seats. There was a country vibe to the facade, which served the fruity-Jamba image quite well, but of course inside was rather the opposite: vermillion and sweet chaos. Good thing the lines weren’t that long. Skipping the Pacquiao match had its perks – reduced queuing time, which I imagine could be a real nuisance once the hordes of hungry sports fanatics decide to celebrate with mangoes, steel-cut oats and berries.

The smoothies and other drinks were prepared on-the-spot, so the constant buzz of the blenders forms the background sound for those who chose to dine inside. Skipping the aircon and going for the outdoorsy feel was another option: peace, quiet, a lot of sunlight and as already mentioned, sawdust.

Still, I’d go for country over blender music.

The infamous photobooth (Oh wait, is that my foot?)

First timers would be delighted to see their drinks poured from a hodge podge of raw materials, blended and transformed into those colorful smoothies. For those who can’t get enough of photos and tagging themselves everywhere, there’s the live photobooth which directly sends the photos to your email. Good thing, people were still in the lazy Sunday mood, so cam-whoring was not part of their agenda or perhaps my foot was just in the way. (Sorry, it was a long drive!)

(L) Acai Supercharger and (R) Banana Berry

From reading the list of ingredients of the drinks, you could already tell how the smoothie would taste, in close approximation. When I got a sip of my Acai Supercharger, it tasted way better than I had imagined. I was expecting sour-fruity shake, but what I got was Fruit by the Foot yummy-fruity flavor that was not hampered by the soymilk’s queer taste. The consistency was thick not because of the ice but because the drink was jam-packed with fruit. The same went for the Banana Berry that had that candy kind of fruity taste that brings comfort drink and nutrition in one cup.

With that voluminous serving of fruit, it’s natural to expect a lot of sugar and calories in one drink. I suppose that’s why they say it’s equivalent to a meal or a great refresher after a work-out. Whoever said Jamba Juice is a dieter’s dream still must be dreaming because with that much fruit and milk in one cup, you can’t expect to just fly away with zero calories. Same goes for diabetics who ought to check out the labels before indulging in a fruit fiesta.

Jambajuice.com is rather keen on posting the nutritional content of the drinks and food served at Jamba Juice, to which I’m grateful for. Here’s some trivia on our drinks plus what’s listed in my next visit’s to-try list:

The Acai Supercharger (16oz) is blended with acai juice, blueberries, strawberries, soymilk, raspberry sherbet, and antioxidant powerboost (equivalent to 2 fruit servings). A cup contains 260 calories, 46g sugar and 930% of the day’s Vitamin C requirement.

The Banana Berry (16oz) is blended with bananas, blueberries, apple-strawberry juice, raspberry sherbet and frozen yogurt (equivalent to 2.5 fruit servings). A cup contains 270 calories, 57g sugar and 3g fiber.

The Steel-cut Oatmeal variants are very promising buys in the future because they are all under the 300 calorie level, sport at least 5g of fiber and a maximum of 25g of sugar. With bananas, apple cinnamon and blueberry & blackberry as available toppings, this is going to be another tough decision.

If in the mood for granola (but with soymilk, so very PETA-friendly), the Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits would be very, very tempting for breakfast or snacks. Available in Mango Peach, Berry and Chunky StrawberryI can only wish that Jamba Juice will soon be blending in Quezon City! But wait, the 16oz parfait contains at least 550 calories and 55g sugar, so make sure you’re super hungry when you indulge in this granola cup!

With pretzels and California flatbreads, there really ought to be a next time. I haven’t even started with the breakfast snacks, the boosts and shots and my all-time favorite matcha!

Blending Soon in... QC? I wish.

Here’s to a new alternative to milk teas and fraps!

My grandmother might call it a  fruitshake shop wrapped in organic sophistication, but then, our blender’s broken so someone ought to make my smoothie.

Seriously though, Jamba Juice ought to blend soon somewhere up North. If you’re having trouble finding a spot, you can always use our house!

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Saint’s Alp Teahouse

If you’re going to make saintly references to teahouses, you might as well serve drinks that are so heavenly, people would squeal, “Holy cow, I love it!” in delight. Saint’s Alp Teahouse at 2F Regis Center, Katipunan didn’t get us close to squealing, isn’t situated on a snowy hilltop or is even close to one and is far from heavenly as far as taste goes. We might as well call it Mortal’s Alp, though this particular mortal will think twice before coming back.

So to answer a potential question: No, I don’t suppose Saints congregate and have tea at this place. I surely didn’t see one when I went there. They’re afraid that if they do linger, they’d choke on the tapioca pearls and become mortals again.

(L) Green Tea with Milk and (R) Oreo Milk Tea

The Green Tea with Milk (Regular P105) came with tapioca pearls voluminous enough to clog my esophagus. The milk tea’s sweetness was on the median side, but tasted more like jasmine. I sprinkled a bit of Matcha powder on top, with the hope of bringing out more green tea flavor, but it turned to jelly the moment it hit the liquid. I ended up having messy green residue that wouldn’t stick to the straw and tapioca pearls that I wished the Saints had never invented. The Oreo (Black) Milk Tea (Regular P115) obviously tasted like oreo, barely the tea. The pearls have a way of hogging the spotlight from the oreo bits, which is a really a nuisance especially for the oreo lover. And I admit, the place doesn’t offer pudding, the only add-on I recognize, so my bias is sure to reach the heavens.

Saint’s Alp veers away from the common milk tea trend by 1) Offering unusual add-ons such as agar and wheat germ, but not my favorite pudding, 2) Having no customizable sugar/ice settings, 3) Serving drinks in real glasses (making me Mother Earth’s killer having opted for a plastic cup), and 4) Displaying an extensive selection that includes breakfast, salad, toast, rice, milkshakes in its vast menu with font not-made-to-be-read by the near-sighted.

On a Saturday afternoon, the place was half full with a reasonable turnover of wi-fi seeking and chatty youngsters, who seemed to love their pearls as much as their highlights and gadgets. Good for them. With other milk tea places closer to home and at the malls – cheaper and provide a more delightful experience – I don’t suppose I’ll be climbing this Alp again soon. Unless you call it something more relatable and appropriate, like Mortal’s Mountain or Cat’s Alp.

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Fly me to the Moonleaf Tea House

For those highly prone to get lost in those long-sounding Filipino adjectives of Teacher’s Village, welcome to the club! Maginhawa, Magiting, Mapagkawanggawa, Mabait.. My God! Pronouncing them is difficult enough, but to remember the intersections and landmarks is pure madness, a crisis for the geographically challenged. I propose adding easy-to-remember street names such as Matakaw or Mataba. They have better appeal too, especially for restaurants, but I digress.

Moonleaf Tea House was the reason for this navigation challenge. Described as along Maginhawa St., Teacher’s Village – that alone was vague, since Maginhawa is kind of a long winding road, which hosts denizens of other milk tea joints. Spotting Mini Stop at an intersection, we turned left (that was Magiting St.) and found the green Moonleaf logo at the right side, beside Fancy Cakes. Basically it ought to be called Moonleaf along Magiting, but probably Maginhawa has scored a higher popularity score at the polls, making it a more desirable address name. It doesn’t matter though because WE FOUND IT! Tea time!

The popular choice for the day: Oolong Milk Tea! No one wanted to try the Jasmine or Black tea so Oolong it was. Oolong Milk Tea (P70) with Pudding or Pearls (+P10) was available in one size, but it was huge and not even a well could complain at the height of this cup. I suppose to-go was the trend at this place, having just a few seats that served as its waiting area. Brewing time was fast though and it was more like, checking my watch than waiting, texting and counting the change in my pocket.

The ordered Oolong Milk Tea came with less sugar, giving emphasis to the Oolong Tea. Oolong happens to be my second favorite tea, next to green tea which wasn’t available in their menu. Nevertheless, the flavor was strong (translation: deliciously intense) yet properly complemented by the smooth and sweet taste of the milk. The overall blend bursts with flavor and tea-delight. The pudding is slightly soft – not sure if it’s Moonleaf’s version to mimic the consistency of “taho.” Maybe next time, I would try the Aloe Vera add-on (P15). The drink on its own though, is sweetly addictive, appealing and greatly filling. Nothing watered down or boringly bland going on in their gigantic tea coolers.

I’m this close to mastering the map to Magiting, unless Moonleaf decides to land on the malls on its next sighting. Now that would really make me maligaya and masuwerte, but I don’t suppose mahirap would make it to the list!

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Cha Dao To-Go

Cha Dao Tea Place along Maginhawa St. was seen as the only destination to ward off the potential mad November heat stroke. But no, we couldn’t go there because it was All Saints Day and we had to, well, do the more holy things required by law to make this holiday appear more official.

The only solution to deal with the summer madness: Cha Dao to-go! Brilliant idea.

I watched in fascination as 11 cups of milk tea were delivered, gulped in various degrees of thirst and delirium, and all finished in a matter of minutes, with matching burps and sighs. The assortment was colorful too: from chocolate to assam to the classic milk tea with extra, extra pearls.

I had the Matcha with pudding, less sugar. It came with less ice too, after having been in transit for a few minutes, which I pretty much preferred since too cold a drink would be an invitation for a sore throat with this kind of weather. The matcha flavor was rather diluted by a combination of water, milk and perhaps the ice that had melted. The tea flavor was not as rich as other milk teas, but I spotted a hint of jasmine in the green tea that made it more “fruity” on the side. The egg pudding was all right – sweet and smooth.

It might be safe to say that Cha Dao boasts of quantity over flavor, which might seem appealing to those more into the milk portion of milk teas, the tea novices and those who just like to go for that sweet milky drink. Without the egg pudding, this would’ve been a lighter drink and in that sense, a refreshing treat and life saver for those suffering in this unforgiving -ber month heat wave. Best of all, it’s cheap and with branches scattered in the QC territory (Katipunan and Teacher’s Villagewhat joy). I guess it’s cheers to Cha Dao!

*Do forgive the crappy photo. Dehydration prodded me to take pictures in haste.

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