Among tea drinkers, there’s a small but growing number of aficionados giving rise to the cult of milk oolong. Pre-Revolutionary Bostonians aside, tea drinkers seem an unlikely bunch to get jacked up about their beverage. So what about milk oolong tea inspires such adoration and (gasp!) passion? Poking around various tea blogs and forums uncovers that there is devotion and dispute brewing in this sedate world.

What is it?

As the name implies, milk oolong presents with tastes and aromas of dairy, with a creamy texture on the tongue. More specifically, the flavor recalls buttery sweetened condensed milk with definite caramel notes. As it is an oolong tea (more oxidized than green tea but not as much as black), it retains a somewhat fruity and floral character and contains about 25 percent of the caffeine found in a similarly sized cup of coffee. Milk oolong is grown only at higher elevations, in certain regions of Asia, and then only when a perfect storm of meteorological conditions occurs.

How do I use it?

As with any agricultural product, there are natural variations in quality and supply, which causes the price of milk oolong to be generally higher. Cheaper versions of milk oolong rely on artificial flavor for the milk essence, but lovers of the “true moo” generally disdain such shortcuts. Milk oolong is packaged mainly in loose-leaf form. To properly prepare a cuppa, pour 6 ounces of filtered boiling water over 1 teaspoon of dry leaves and steep for approximately 5 to 7 minutes. The intensity of naturally processed milk oolong allows for multiple infusions from the same leaves.

Milk Oolong Panna Cotta with Peach Topping

By Michael Miller, Kitchen Kulture

Creamy panna cotta laced with star anise showcases the flavor of the tea. Soft, sweet peaches; vibrant mint; and an unexpected pop from the rice wine vinegar are perfect complements.

Serves | 4 |

  • 3 sheets 200 bloom gelatin*
  • 2 cups ice water
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup + 1 Tbsp granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1 tsp milk oolong tea, sealed in a tea bag
  • 2 peaches
  • 2 Tbsp freshly chopped mint
  • 2 tsp rice wine vinegar

| Preparation | Bloom gelatin in ice water. In a large saucepan, combine cream, milk, ½ cup sugar and star anise. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add tea packet. Remove pan from heat and let tea steep uncovered for 15 minutes. Add gelatin and water mixture and stir until combined and fully dissolved. Pour evenly into four 1-cup serving dishes. (Coffee cups work well for this dish.) Refrigerate for 2 hours or until set. Just before serving, pit and cut peaches into 1-inch slices. Toss with remaining sugar, mint and rice wine vinegar. Top each panna cotta with peaches and serve.

* Sheet gelatin is available online from King Arthur Flour. Powdered gelatin may be substituted, using a conversion ratio of 7 grams of gelatin per 1 cup of liquid.


Stop by Straub's to pick up more delicious recipes featuring milk oolong. Visit for information on its four locations.