Okinawa milk tea is a type of milk tea that draws influence from the Okinawa region of Japan. Often compared to Hokkaido milk tea, Okinawa milk tea is a tasty blend of black tea, milk, and sweetener. Okinawa milk tea gets its unique taste from the Okinawa brown sugar that’s used to sweeten the tea.
What is Milk Tea?
Milk tea can refer to a variety of different teas and tea-based drinks from all over the world. At its most simple, milk tea usually means tea with milk in it - although how these tasty beverages are prepared can vary from country to country and region to region. Common types of milk tea include tea lattes, boba or bubble tea, Hong Kong milk tea, Hokkaido milk tea, Thai tea, and Masala Chai.
What is Okinawa Milk Tea?
Okinawa milk tea is similar to other types of milk tea in that it’s a combination of tea leaves, milk, and sweetener. This type of milk tea gets its name from Okinawa Prefecture in Japan. Okinawa milk tea can be enjoyed hot, or served iced on its own or with tapioca pearls.
Okinawa Brown Sugar: The Secret to Okinawa Milk Tea
Okinawa brown sugar is what makes Okinawa milk tea so special. Also referred to as kokuto, this type of brown sugar is unique to Okinawa, and is prepared using a distinctive method. While typical American brown sugar consists of refined white sugar and molasses, Okinawa brown sugar is created by cooking down pure sugarcane juice. This results in a rich, nuanced sugar with a high vitamin and mineral content and loads of flavor.
When making Okinawa milk tea at home, you might not have traditional Okinawa brown sugar on hand. You can purchase kokuto from a specialty food shop, or you can make your own toasted sugar to approximate the flavor of Okinawa brown sugar. You can also use regular brown sugar or molasses.
How to Prepare Okinawa Milk Tea
While Okinawa milk tea is typically made using a tea-based powder at cafes and boba shops, we think that using quality black loose leaf tea elevates the nuanced flavors of this unique milk tea. Okinawa milk tea is easy to make at home, and results in a sweet, satisfying tea that can be enjoyed hot or iced.
Okinawa Milk Tea Ingredients
- Loose leaf black tea: Okinawa milk tea traditionally has a black tea base. Hearty black teas like Assam, Irish Breakfast, and English Breakfast are all great choices.
- Milk: We recommend using whole milk for an extra creamy, rich drink. You can also use a plant-based milk of your choice.
- Sweetener: Okinawa milk tea is traditionally sweetened with Okinawa brown sugar. If you don’t have kokuto on hand, you can use toasted sugar, molasses, or regular brown sugar.
Okinawa Milk Tea Preparation Instructions
- Measure your leaves: Use approximately one teaspoon of tea leaves for every six ounces of water in your pot or cup. We recommend preparing loose leaf tea using a teapot, tea infuser, or tea filter. These methods allow the tea leaves to expand while steeping, which results in a more flavorful cup.
- Heat your water: Heat filtered water until it reaches a full boil (approximately 212 degrees.) You can heat your water with an electric kettle, stovetop kettle, or in a pot on the stove.
- Infuse your tea leaves: Pour hot water over your tea leaves and infuse for about three to five minutes. For a stronger cup of tea, remove the leaves closer to the five-minute mark.
- Sweeten your tea: You can use traditional Okinawa brown sugar, toasted sugar, molasses, or regular brown sugar to sweeten this tea.
- Add the milk: Add the milk to your tea. If you like, you can heat and froth the milk before you add it as you would in a traditional tea latte.
- Chill your tea (optional): If you want to enjoy Okinawa milk tea cold, you can refrigerate it, then serve it over ice. Tapioca pearls are also a popular addition!
Okinawa Milk Tea Caffeine Content
If you use a traditional black tea base to prepare Okinawa milk tea, your tea will be high in caffeine, containing about half as much as a cup of coffee. The caffeine content present in tea is influenced by several factors, including:
- Leaf size: Okinawa milk tea often uses broken tea leaves for a richer, stronger cup.
- Tea varietal: Okinawa milk tea is often made using robust Indian black teas like Assam and Irish Breakfast.
- Water temperature: We recommend preparing Okinawa milk tea with boiling water. The hotter the water, the higher the caffeine content in a given tea.
- Steep time: We recommend infusing the black tea used to prepare Okinawa milk tea for about three to five minutes. The longer you steep your tea leaves, the higher the caffeine will be.
What’s the Difference Between Okinawa Milk Tea and Hokkaido Milk Tea?
Okinawa milk tea and Hokkaido milk tea share many similarities. For one, they’re both from regions in Japan. They also have the same basic ingredients including black tea, milk, and sweetener. So what’s the difference? Each of these teas uses a distinctive local ingredient that makes them unique. Hokkaido milk tea traditionally uses rich, creamy milk from the Hokkaido region of Japan, while Okinawa milk tea traditionally uses complex, nuanced Okinawa brown sugar. While you can still prepare these teas using regular milk or regular brown sugar, they each draw their name and notable characteristics from these unique ingredients.
Other Types of Milk Tea
There are many types of milk tea from all over the world, from a classic British cuppa to other Asian milk teas like boba and Thai tea. Here are some other types of popular milk teas:
- Hokkaido milk tea: Hokkaido milk tea features high quality milk from the Hokkaido region of Japan.
- Hong Kong milk tea: Hong Kong milk tea is made with black tea and evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk.
- Boba: Boba, often also known as bubble tea or pearl milk tea, is a unique milky tea flavored with tapioca pearls.
- Thai tea: Thai tea is made from tea, milk, and sugar. It’s often served as an iced tea, and can be flavored with ingredients including lime, mint, orange blossoms, star anise, tamarind, and other spices.
- Tea lattes: Tea lattes are typically made using tea and steamed, frothed milk, and are similar to coffee-based lattes. Popular versions of tea lattes include matcha lattes, chai lattes, and London Fog lattes.
- Masala Chai: Masala Chai is a classic Indian twist on milk tea made from black tea, milk, honey, and a unique blend of spices.
- A classic British cuppa: Tea drinkers in the UK and Ireland typically take their tea with milk (and occasionally sweetener.) Traditional breakfast blends like Irish Breakfast and English Breakfast are often used for this type of milk tea.