Creative concoctions offer new way to enjoy tea

IN the basement food court of a shopping center in Shanghai, a row of ice drip coffee makers caught my attention recently. 
Zhu Jing / SHINE

Earl Grey tea-infused vodka tastes bubbly and refreshing.

Zhu Jing / SHINE

Earl Grey Tea-infused hot chocolate has a lovely hint of citrus.

IN the basement food court of a shopping center in Shanghai, a row of ice drip coffee makers caught my attention recently. What specifically captured my notice was that these devices were being used to make tea instead of coffee. The resulting beverage was unexpectedly smooth and light when mixed with sweetened, condensed milk.

Although winter is here, this unique cold tea making process attracted many other passers-by like myself. Takeaway teas are common in Shanghai and one can find a variety of different flavored drinks, both hot and cold, on offer all year round. But this particular tea maker added a unique twist on the traditional tea making process.

Taking a closer look at the leaves inside the devices, you could even name their variety — tieguanyin. This is very different from coffee grounds; where you can never tell their origins simply by looking at them. But as with both tea and coffee, there are many different ways to make these two popular drinks.

Most Chinese tea leaves are packed and prepared individually, similar to single origin coffee beans. However, there are many different creative blends of tea available these days, many of which incorporate floral, herbal and fruity flavors.

During winter, hot chocolate is always in high demand. You may be surprised to find that some chocolatiers now offer a selection of cocoa infused tea bags, with flavors such as ginger cocoa, peppermint cocoa and coconut cocoa, bringing a lighter type of indulgence to chocolate lovers. The innovative recipes of such teas use crushed roasted cocoa shells instead of tea leaves. The refreshing infusion drink may remind you of herbal tea.

You can actually try tea infused chocolate bars with ingredients ranging from Japanese Macha to Indian Chai. Alternatively, try tea-infused hot chocolate for an adventure. These treats are on offer in some cafés and are also easy to make at home. To play it safe, start with peppermint tea as the combined taste normally blends quite well, just like mint chocolate. Earl Grey tea can also be added to hot chocolate and is ideal for those who want a citrus note in their hot chocolate.

When it comes to Earl Grey, the versatile tea has also made its way into the cocktail scene, giving a lovely hint of citrus to delight your taste buds. But, this is not the only tea gaining popularity in mixology circles, where many drink artisans are now experimenting with all kinds of tea — for example, green tea, Olong, and even chamomile.

The flavor dimensions and complexities of tea give mixologists and the rest of us new taste avenues to explore. Even caffeine-free star Rooibos is now used in a variety of spirit recipes.

Although many mixologists cheat a bit by adding shots of tea-based syrup to save time, others still insist on taking the time to brew cups of tea to mix with their spirits. For drinkers, this means a jolt of both alcohol and caffeine to get your through the night.

But what if someone is intolerant to caffeine? Good question. There is also a way for such people to enjoy the rich aromas of good tea — perfume. Perfumes with tea notes have also gotten popular in recent years.

Sure, we can call them tea-infused fragrances. Along with green tea, other teas like white tea, black tea, Oolong, or Earl Grey are top ingredients for perfume blends as well.

“Refreshing” is a word that describes most tea-infused perfumes. A creative fragrance can also amaze you when it uses South African Rooibos tea in a velvety blend featuring figs, walnuts and musk. It sounds yummy enough to eat, doesn’t it?

However, the innovation doesn’t stop at eau de parfum. It’s also easy to find cologne with a note of other tea varieties, e.g. Oolong, Earl Grey.

Tea, rather than a typical drink, can become something wearable and a signature scent on a person. You can count this as an added benefit to being a tea lover.

Zhu Jing / SHINE

Ice drip coffee maker is used to brew tea. 

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