Light and creamy Oolong Milk Tea with brown sugar tapioca pearls. This milk tea is sweet and floral, with a hint of earthiness. Easy to make authentic recipe that’s perfect served both hot and cold!
China is world renowned for being the birthplace of tea over 5,000 years ago. Tea is usually consumed on a daily basis for both pleasure and medicinal purposed. From white, green, yellow, oolong, black and puerh tea, Chinese teas boast a variety of flavours.
Oolong milk tea is made using an Oolong base, then topped with fresh milk. The combination of light and floral flavour and milk creaminess pairs really well, making a unique milk tea.
What is Oolong Milk Tea?
Oolong Milk Tea is a sweet drink made with Oolong tea, milk and brown sugar tapioca pearls. Oolong Milk Tea gets its name from the tea that’s used to make it, which originates from China.
Oolong Bubble Tea has become increasingly popular across America and Europe due to its light and fragrant flavour. This type of milk tea can be either floral and light, or rich and earthy – depending on what type of Oolong tea is used in making it.
Oolong milk tea can be served both hot and cold, and I like to match it with the season. There’s nothing better than refreshing milk tea during the summer and a hot bubble tea during winter.
What does it taste like?
The flavour of Oolong Milk Tea depends a lot on the type of Oolong tea used as a base. Generally, most Oolong bubble teas are light and fragrant, with a hint of floral.
Oolong milk tea is sweet, as it’s made with brown sugar syrup. The sweetness can be adjusted to preference, but I recommend only adding a little syrup. Adding too much sweetness can take away from the lovely vibrant flavour of this milk tea.
Regardless of the choice of Oolong tea, this milk tea always contains milk. This gives the beverage a rich and creamy flavour, which goes really well with the tea.
Oolong Milk Tea vs Milk Tea
Milk Tea is an umbrella term that encompasses all types of teas that contain milk. Milk teas is mostly an interchangeable term with Bubble Tea - a Taiwanese drink that contains tapioca pearls. Bubble teas can be either Okinawa Milk Tea, Hokkaido Milk Tea, Taro Milk Tea, Oolong Milk Tea and so on.
Oolong Milk tea is a type of Milk Tea that’s made using Oolong Tea and milk.
Types of Oolong Tea
Also known as black dragon tea or wulong tea, Oolong Tea is a semi-oxidized Chinese Tea that sits between green and black tea. Some varieties of Oolong tea can be more floral and sweeter, whereas others can be richer and smokier.
The flavour of Oolong tea depends a lot on the oxidation process. Oxidation means how long tea is left to dry in the sun. As a point of reference, green tea is completely un-oxidized, whereas black tea is fully oxidized. Oolong Tea’s oxidation levels can be anywhere between 8% and 85%. This means that the flavour and richness can be either very sweet and floral at 8% or deep and smoky at 85%.
There are many different types of Oolong tea, ranging from light to dark. Here are some of my favourites, from light to dark flavours and intensities:
- Bao Zhong – one of the lightest types of Oolong Tea, with oxidation levels 8-18%. This type of tea is very fresh, floral with hints of jasmine.
- Ti Kuan Yin (Iron Goddess of Mercy) – has an oxidation level of 10-40%. This Oolong is fruity, with a berry-like flavour.
- Dong Ding (Frozen Summit) – oxidation levels at around 15-30%. This tea tastes toasty, with a subtle woody flavour.
- Alishan (High Mountain Oolong) – a medium oxidation level of around 30-40%. Alishan tea has a milky-sweet flavour with hints of apricot.
- Dancong (Phoenix Tea) – 30-40 % oxidation levels. Dancong tea has a gentle, sweet and creamy flavour.
- Dongfeng Meiren (Oriental Beauty) – 70% oxidation, approaching black tea. This tea is much deeper and richer in flavour. It’s reddish in colour, with sweet and honey flavour and no bitterness.
The choice of Oolong tea for this milk tea recipe is entirely up to personal preference. I like a lighter flavour, with subtle floral hints. Personally, I recommend going for Dancong or High Mountain Oolong tea.
- Oolong tea – I recommend using loose leaf tea for the most authentic flavour. See the section above for more details on how to choose the best Oolong tea for this recipe.
- Milk – whole milk, but semi-skimmed can also be used. I do not recommend skimmed milk for this recipe, as it will not yield a creamy and rich milk tea.
- Brown sugar – light brown sugar works best for this recipe. You can also use Japanese brown sugar, which has a lighter and softer flavour.
- Tapioca pearls – I like to use brown sugar tapioca pearls, but you can also use plain tapioca pearls.
Tools & Equipment used
When making Oolong Bubble Tea, there are a few tools and products you can use to make your life easier:
- Electric kettle – is a must when brewing tea. I recommend choosing an electric kettle that has a built-in thermometer. Alternatively, you can also use a kitchen thermometer.
- Teapot with infuser – not only are they pretty, but they also help in the preparation of tea. Furthermore, teapots are great for keeping tea hot for longer. I recommend using a ceramic teapot with infuser for best results.
- Measuring cup
- Measuring spoons
- Bubble tea straws – essential when making bubble tea. These straws are much wider, so they allow the tapioca pearls to pass through. I recommend getting some reusable glass bubble tea straws.
How to brew Oolong Tea
Brewing Oolong tea is very easy, but achieving the perfect flavour requires a bit more care. Here’s how to brew the perfect cup of Oolong tea:
- Boil filtered water to a temperature of between 185°F - 208°F (85-97°C).
- Place the tea into a teapot fitted with an infuser. Pour hot water over the tea leaves and let steep for a few seconds. Discard the water and keep the tea leaves.
- Pour hot water over the tea leaves again and let steep for 1 minute. If you prefer a lighter flavour tea, you can use the brewed tea at this stage.
- For a stronger flavour Oolong, drain the brewed tea into separate mugs (or drink it). Pour more hot water over the tea leaves, cover and brew for 1-2 minutes. Discard the tea leaves.
Pro tip 1: Oolong tea can be brewed for between 1-5 minutes. Brewing for longer will give the tea a stronger flavour.
Pro tip 2: Always rise the tea leaves with hot water before brewing the final drink (step 2).
How to make Oolong Milk Tea
Once the Oolong tea is brewed to your taste, you can use it immediately to make hot Oolong milk tea. For cold milk tea, let the tea cool down to room temperature before using.
Let’s begin preparing the oolong milk tea:
- Prepare the brown sugar syrup by cooking the water and sugar over medium-high heat until thickened.
- Cook the tapioca pearls as indicated on the pack. Drain and add them into the sugar syrup. Cover and set aside.
- Prepare the Oolong tea brew by rinsing the tea as indicated in the section above.
- Let the tea steep for 1-5 minutes. The longer you brew it, the stronger the flavour.
Note: you can skip making the brown sugar syrup and replace it with runny honey.
Once all the ingredients are ready, we can assemble the Oolong Bubble Tea:
- In a serving glass, place the tapioca pearls and sugar syrup. Adjust the level of sweetness by adding more or less sugar syrup.
- Pour Oolong tea over the tapioca pearls, about ¾ of the way to the brim.
- Top with milk all the way to the brim. Use hot milk with hot tea and cold milk with cold tea.
- Serve immediately with a bubble tea straw. For the cold milk tea, add 2-3 ice cubes.
Success Tips & Tricks
- High quality Oolong tea – flavour is given by the tea, so it’s important to use good tea leaves. See my notes on Types of Oolong Tea for more details.
- Adjust sweetness – you can have this Oolong Boba Tea with minimal sugar by leaving out the sugar syrup. Alternatively, add more syrup for a sweeter drink.
- Full fat milk – is highly recommended in this recipe. Whole milk makes a much creamier and smoother milk tea compared to skimmed or semi-skimmed.
- Perfectly brewed tea – Oolong tea needs to be rinsed at least once, then brewed between 1-5 minutes. See my notes on How to brew Oolong Tea for more details.
- Bubble tea straws – are highly recommended for this Oolong Bubble Tea. Tapioca pearls are usually quite large and cannot pass through regular straws. I recommend using glass bubble tea straws.
- Serve fresh – for the best flavour I recommend drinking this milk tea as soon as it’s prepared. Soaking tapioca pearls in liquid for longer than 1-2 hours will make them too soggy and unpleasant.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, Oolong milk tea contains caffeine because it’s made using Oolong tea. This type of tea contains a similar amount of caffeine to green tea. Nevertheless, this milk tea contains much less caffeine than a cup of coffee.
Oolong Bubble Tea is typically a sweet drink. The level of sweetness in this recipe can be adjusted by adding more brown sugar syrup. For a sugar free drink, leave out the sugar syrup entirely.
This Oolong Milk Tea recipe is not vegan, because it contains dairy. However, you can make this recipe vegan by substituting the milk with a plant-based alternative.
Oolong Tea is generally considered to be very healthy and is said to improve brain activity, reduce stress and anxiety. Oolong Milk Tea is slightly healthier than most bubble teas, as it does not have a lot of sugar. To make it even healthier, reduce the amount of sugar syrup.
Oolong Milk Tea can only be made with Oolong tea. Although you can use a different type of tea (black or green), the drink will be a different type of milk tea, not Oolong Milk Tea.
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Oolong Milk Tea Recipe
Brown Sugar Syrup
- ½ cup brown sugar (100 grams)
- ¼ cup water (60 ml)
- ¾ cup tapioca pearls (100 grams)
- 3 cups water (700 ml)
- 3 teaspoons Oolong tea, loose leaf
- 2 cups water, filtered (450 ml)
- 1 cups whole milk (240 ml)
- 4 cups water, divided, for rinsing the tea (900 ml)
Brown Sugar Syrup
- Place the sugar and water into a saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until boiling.
- Reduce heat to medium, then cook until the syrup looks sticky and thicker in consistency, around 4-5 minutes.
- Cook tapioca pearls as indicated on the package.
- Once cooked, drain and add them into the hot sugar syrup. Toss around to coat in syrup and cook on low heat for 2-3 minutes.
- Boil a large kettle of filtered water to a temperature of 185°F-208°F (85°C-97°C). Use a kitchen thermometer to check the temperature of the water if needed.
- Place the tea leaves into a teapot fitted with an infuser and pour ⅓ of the water (2 cups) over the tea. Let steep for 5-10 seconds, then discard the water.
- Pour half of the remaining water (2 cups) over the tea leaves. Cover and steep for 45 seconds to 1 minute. For a lighter tea flavour, use the brewed tea now.
- For a stronger flavour, drain the water once more (don't throw it away, drink it). Pour the remaining 2 cups of water over the tea and let steep for up to 3-4 minutes. Discard the tea leaves once time is up.
- Use the tea immediately for hot milk tea. For cold milk tea, let the tea cool down to room temperature.
Assembling the Oolong Milk Tea
- Place 1-2 tablespoons of cooked tapioca pearls into two large glasses. Add sugar syrup as desired for favourite level of sweetness.
- Pour tea over the tapioca, about ¾ of the way to the brim.
- Slowly pour milk over the tea, divided between the two glasses. Use hot milk for a hot milk tea. Use cold milk for an iced bubble tea and add ice cubes.
- Enjoy immediately or within 1 hour.
- Sugar syrup can be replaced with runny honey.
- Sweetness can be adjusted according to personal preference.
- Nutritional value is estimative and is calculated per serving (this recipe makes 2 large servings) with tapioca pearls and 1 tablespoon of sugar syrup.
- Use boba pearls immediately after cooking them.