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 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 Unimart, uh-oh, Happy Lemon’s got one less reason to be happy.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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