Japanese royal milk tea (ロイヤル・ミルクティー) is creamy, rich, and full-bodied in flavour, with a beautiful, lightly floral aroma. On a hot day, chilled royal milk tea is so delightfully refreshing. Drinking it steamy and hot is wonderful, as well. I will show you how to make both versions.
A pleasant surprise for visitors to Japan is discovering the amazing selection of drinks you can find in its many cafes and shops. Even the vending machines have a huge variety of high quality, tasty beverages. One of my favourites was always royal milk tea. My after school snack would often consist of melon bread and a cold glass of this tea.
What is royal milk tea?
Lipton brand created Royal milk tea in 1965, Japan, as part of their promotional series, "royal recipes." It was widely accepted in Japan; and now its popularity has spread around the globe.
It is made of a blend of black tea, milk, and sweetener. The strong tea and fresh milk combine to create a deliciously rich, creamy, and malty flavour, made a touch sweet with the addition of the sweetener. It is absolutely decadent.
This delicate, black tea beverage differs from regular tea because it is made by boiling tea leaves together with milk on a stovetop (similar to a chai tea but with less spices). Also, it has a higher percentage of milk than water, resulting in a well-balanced, creamier tea.
Best kind of tea leaves to use in royal milk tea
There are a few different kinds of black tea that can be used:
- Darjeeling (India) - light coloured with a floral aroma.
- Assam (India) - dark, bold, and malty.
- Ceylon Uva (Sri Lanka) - amber and full bodied.
My flavour standard is the delicious Kirin afternoon milk tea, an incredibly popular beverage in Japan. So I use a blend of 75% Darjeeling for the light colour and delicate floral scent, and 25% Assam for a bit of depth and robustness.
- Black tea leaves - I use a blend of darjeeling and assam. I recommend buying loose tea leaves as you are most likely going to get a better quality than you would from a tea bag. Therefore, your result will be more like the high quality royal milk tea served in cafes in Japan.
- Milk - 2% or whole milk is best. Or substitute with unsweetened oat milk for a dairy-free option.
- Gum syrup or honey - You can use the sweetener of your choice. However, try to use a neutral flavoured one so that you don't affect the flavour of the tea.
See the recipe card below for quantities.
First you have to open the tea leaves to extract the most flavour. Put the tea leaves into a small bowl and add just enough boiling water to evenly coat the them.
In the meantime, heat the milk and water in a small saucepan.
Just before the milk/water begins to boil, add in the moistened tea leaves and turn off the heat. Stir them with a spoon to mix them in.
Then cover the pot and let it sit for 4 minutes for hot tea, or 5 minutes for iced.
If you will drink the tea hot, prepare your teacups by filling them with hot water to warm them.
After the steeping is finished, give it another stir, then strain the milk tea into a bowl or measuring cup with a pour spout.
Sweeten it to your taste with the sweetener of your choice. In Japan they often use liquid sugar called gum syrup. You can use sugar if you'd like, but I used honey.
For hot - remove the hot water from the teacups and pour in your tea. It is ready to enjoy hot.
For iced - cool the bowl in the refrigerator before serving the tea in an ice-filled glass.
Milk - To make this recipe dairy-free, substitute the milk with unsweetened oat milk.
Gum syrup - In Japan, a liquid sugar called 'gum syrup' is usually used to sweeten royal milk tea. I used honey instead. You can substitute with the sweetener of your choice.
You could store Japanese royal milk tea in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two to three days, but it is best when enjoyed the same day as making it.
Yes, royal milk tea is made from black tea leaves that do contain caffeine.
Japanese royal milk tea is creamy, rich, and full-bodied in flavour, with a beautiful, lightly floral aroma. You can enjoy this famous Japanese tea both hot and iced.
Measurements for 2 servings (see note for 1 serving - not half)
1 ½ teaspoons (heaping) Darjeeling tea leaves
½ teaspoon (heaping) Assam tea leaves
300 ml milk
100 ml water
gum syrup (or honey), to taste
Measure the tea leaves into a very small bowl. Add in just enough boiling water to thoroughly cover the leaves. Let this sit to open up the leaves.
(Hot version: preheat tea cups by filling with hot water.)
Heat milk and water in a small pot over medium heat. Just before it begins to boil, add in the moistened tea leaves and turn off the heat. Stir with a spoon to mix.
Cover the pot and allow it to steep for 4 minutes if you will drink it hot, or 5 minutes if you will drink it iced.
Give it another stir, then strain the milk tea into a bowl or measuring cup that has an easy pour spout. Sweeten the tea to your taste preference.
Hot version: Empty hot water from tea cups and fill with prepared royal milk tea.
Cold version: Chill in fridge until cool enough to serve over ice.
Measurements for one serving: 1 ½ tsp (heaping) black tea leaves (75% Darjeeling, 25% Assam) - 150 ml milk - 75 ml water
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 110
- Sugar: 16.5 g
- Sodium: 133.5 mg
- Fat: 3.1 g
- Carbohydrates: 16.1 g
- Protein: 5.2 g
- Cholesterol: 12.5 mg
Keywords: Japanese tea, royal milk tea