In the last sweltering days of summer, just before the rainy season began, I met up with some friends at Greenhills’ Promenade Mall to go on a milk tea adventure.
A new milk tea place has just opened in the mall, another entrant into the already crowded milk tea category.
Also originating from milk tea’s motherland of Taiwan, Xing Fu Tang’s claim to fame is its brown sugar milk drink. Chewy boba pearls are cooked in brown sugar syrup prior to being placed in a cup which is then filled with milk tea. You will recognize this trendy drink by the “tiger stripes” along the sides of the cup.
Still, Xing Fu Tang has a lot more going for it than just brown sugar milk. The Greenhills store, for instance, has a wooden Chinese fortune chest. You open the drawer that matches the characters in the bamboo stick you selected from a bunch, then you can read your fortune. It’s a fun and novel way to pass the time, especially when lines get long.
Xing Fu Tang’s beverage offerings that our group sampled include:
Brown Sugar Boba Milk (Php120).
Mango Smoothie and Rabbit Panna Cotta (Php145).
Brown Sugar Boba and Herbal Jelly Milk (Php130).
Matcha Boba Milk (Php120).
Grapefruit Green Tea (Php120).
Soda and Handmade Jelly (Php120).
I find Xing Fu Tang’s approach to its drinks whimsically creative in presentation, taste and mouthfeel. The addition of a rabbit-shaped panna cota on top of the mango fruit drink, for instance, is a conversation piece in itself. The combination of the fizzy soda with the hand-made jelly spheres, on the other hand, made for an interesting drink.
I’d love to come back and try the other drinks soon!
When it opened its first branches in the metro a few months ago, Hui Lau Shan made waves as the go-to place for mango-based treats.
And why wouldn’t it?
Especially for dessert lovers, Hui Lau Shan’s imaginative creations featuring the Philippines’ unofficial national fruit are just the ticket to soothe their sweet tooth.
But why would a Hong Kong brand such a be so associated with our homegrown mangoes? Well, Hui Lau Shan shot to fame in its home country with its Mango Sago which made use of mangoes from Guimaras.
Now, with four branches already established in the metro and a new one opening soon, Hui Lau Shan has introduced another yummy innovation which rides on the cheesy drinks trend.
I’ve recently sampled one of these concoctions when I accompanied my fellow foodie friend Nina to Hui Lau Shan’s newly-opened Greenhills branch.
There, amidst the happy yellow decor and the upbeat crowd enjoying or waiting for their drinks and sweet snacks, I had my first taste of the Mango with Cheesy Milk (Php140).
Served with a smile in Hui Lau Shan’s signature sippy cup, the resto’s own recipe of cream, cheese and milk add a rich and creamy dimension to the mango-based beverage. It was a tasty and refreshing treat, one of the highlight of that sweltering-hot afternoon.
With such a yummy treat and more in its arsenal of flavors, Hui Lau Shan is sure to bring a Big Smile Everyday to dessert lovers.
In my future visits, I would love to try out another drink from the cheesy milk series that features my other favorite fruit: the Avocado with Cheesy Milk.
Many thanks to Nina of TakawTikim.net for sharing her GC!
This Hui Lau Shan branch is located at Second Floor, Promenade, Greenhills Shopping Center, San Juan.
Other branches are located at:
Mega Atrium, SM Megamall, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong
Ground Floor, The Block, SM North EDSA, Bago Bantay, Quezon City
Ground Floor, UP Town Center, Katipunan Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City
Check out my reviews of other dessert places in the metro:
We usually associate the strong and astringent whiskeys to Scotland where the traditions of brewing and distilling of this spirit were said to be first established. The name whiskey, in fact, was derived from the Gaelic word uisce.
However, the folks at Westland Distillery are advocating a new category of single malt whiskies: that which is home-grown in the Pacific Northwest. While still honoring the same core ingredients – barley and water, and the same time-tested equipment and processes, Westland Distillery produces outstanding whiskies that are defined by its environs: whiskies that are truly American.
It turns out that the Pacific Northwest’s area and climate are ideally suited to the production of single malt whiskey. For one thing, Washington State covers two of the world’s best barley-growing regions, and water from the Cascade Mountains provide the water.
During the fam’s visit to Washington State, Hubby and I were treated by my bro to a whiskey tasting event at Westland Distillery’s Cantilever Room, where we enjoyed the rustic atmosphere along with the distillery’s signature whiskies.
Before the whiskey tasting, we were given a tour of the production floor where we learned the science and artistry that goes into making a very American single malt whiskey.
Whiskey production starts with barley which form part of local farms’ crop rotation practices, thereby further enriching the soil. These grains are then malted (soaked in water to allow to germinate to release enzymes then quickly dried through a kiln or peat smoking) to achieve five malt flavors that Westland Distillery mixes together according to their ratios or recipes called grain bills: the Washington Pale Malt, the Munich Malt, the Extra Special Malt, the Pale Chocolate Malt and the Brown Malt. The Peated Malt factors into the Peated whiskey that the distillery produces.
With these many types of malted barley used in whiskey making, how can the distillery’s product still be considered single malt? As clarified during our tour, for a whiskey to be considered single malt, it just needs to be made of malted barley produced by a single distillery.
The grains are taken to the mill room for mashing wherein they are combined with water and allowed to ferment to produce wort, which contains sugars that will then be mixed yeast to produce alcohol. Westland Distillery uses Belgian yeast which adds a floral flavor to the brew.
In the still room, the brew is distilled first in the onion-shaped copper wash still, then in the spirit still to concentrate and isolate the alcohol.
The distillation process also cuts the brew into heads, hearts and tails. The heads are mostly made up of volatile alcohols which are disposed of as these should not be consumed. The hearts, on the other hand, contain most the rich flavors of what goes into the whiskey, while the tails contain the more bitter and musty portions which are also disposed of.
Distilled alcohol is actually clear: the amber color that we associate with whiskey comes from the charred oak barrels used where the alcohol is allowed to mature for a minimum of three years.
The aged whiskey is then blended with those from other barrels to create flavors and achieve consistency per variant.
After the tour, we proceeded to the tasting area where we were provided with glencairn glasses. These feature a tapered mouth and are designed specifically to allow the drinker to appreciate the complex flavors and aspects of fine whiskey.
Here, we sampled Westland Distillery’s signature flavors:
American Oak. Made use of the five-barley grain bill together with new American oak casks. It has a combination of cream and citrus smell and has a fruity and chocolatey taste. This has won the Chairman’s Trophy in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge.
Sherry Wood. Made use of the five-barley grain bill but, this time, with casks previously used to age sherry wine. It has a sweet maple-y smell and taste. It won as the Craft Whiskey of the Year in the SF World Spirits Competition.
Peated. Peated malts were combined with non-peated five-barley grain bill to produce a whiskey that calls back to older traditions. It has a nuttier smell and has a smokey flavor. It was awarded Whiskey of the Year by the American Distilling Institute.
Single Cask Release (Cask No. 2549). Made with pale malt barley matured in casks previously used for bourbon. It smells of pear and tea and has a fruitier taste.
The whiskey tasting was a fun learning and foodie experience for me. I’m not much of a drinker but now I can say that I have a greater appreciation for whiskey. Whiskey tasting tours are offered from Wednesdays to Saturdays at 12 noon and 4pm, depending on availability. You can schedule your visit using the distillery’s website.
Westland Distillery is located at 2931 First Avenue South, Suite B, Seattle, WA 98134, open Tuesdays to Thursdays from 12 noon to 7pm and Fridays to Saturdays from 11am to 8pm. For more information, call (206) 767-7250 or visit westlanddistillery.com.
Starbucks has long been synonymous with great coffee, but did you know that it has a great selection of teas as well?
Last weekend, together with fellow bloggers Jen of Sand Under My Feet and Francis G, as well as other tea lovers in the east of Manila area, I attended the Teavana TEA-volution Tea Tasting Seminar, a Tea 101 if you will, held at the Starbucks branch in SM East Ortigas. Our Starbucks Tea Master Jonas Velgado took us on guided tour through the history of teas, the tea-growing regions of the world and three flights of tea tasting.
Tea culture started in China in 2737 BC. Legend has it that Emperor Shen Nung, exhausted after walking in the countryside, decided to rest himself under a tree and boil himself some water to drink. A gust of wind shook some leaves from the tree (said to be a wild tea plant) into the boiling water, giving the liquid a goldish color and a pleasant taste which the emperor liked. Thus, began the pleasures of tea drinking which spread throughout the world.
There is a wide variety of teas, each with its own flavor and characteristics, influenced by the region in which they are grown. China, for example, produces black, oolong and white tea. Japan, on the other hand, is known for matcha and green tea. India, also made a name for itself for black tea.
The processing of tea leaves which come from the same plant called Camellia Sinensis is what determines the teas’ strength of flavor and the leaves’ exposure to the elements – or oxidation – determines their classification into white, green, oolong or black tea.
White tea is the lightest and most delicate variety, made of the youngest and freshet leaves which are simply plucked and dried with no time for oxydation. White tea is usually characterized by its fragrant and sweet notes.
Leaves heated before being rolled and dried result to green tea. While there is little oxidation, the added processing brings out more natural flavors and lightly toasted notes.
Bruising or tearing the leaves add partial oxidation into the processing, resulting to a fuller body and richer color. Thus, oolong tea, commonly served in Chinese restaurants, is characterized by a floral aroma and a smooth finish.
Lastly, rolling and giving the tea leaves plenty of time to oxidize before being fired, give the black tea, more popular in Western countries, a bold, complex and strong flavor.
After the brief history and geography lesson, we were treated to three sets of tea tastings, from the base teas to exciting beverage innovations, all available at Starbucks outlets.
First Flight: Full- Leaf Brewed Teas
Starbucks’ Teavana line boasts of the youngest and freshest whole tea leaves grown from the most fertile regions. These are available in sachets in Starbucks stores so that tea lovers have the option to enjoy them in-store or wherever they are. Steeping time is usually at five minutes using eight fluid ounces of boiling water, but, of course, tea drinkers are welcome to experiment what works best for their taste. Enjoy these hot or ice-shaken.
English Breakfast. This robust handcrafted blend of Assam, Sri Lankan Ceylon and Chinese black tea. This will taste great with or without sugar and milk (but I would prefer it with sugar and milk!)
Chamomile. This caffeine-free herbal infusion uses chamomile sourced from Croatia, giving the blend soft and soothing floral tones.
Emperor’s Clouds and Mist. Both leaves and buds of the tea plant grown amd harvested from Chine’s Huangshan Mountain 3,500 feet above sea level are used to create this rich-bodied and sweet-flavored green tea.
Second Flight: Tea Lattes
Tea proves to be a very versatile beverage. Case in point: adding steamed milk to a strong-flavored tea gives you a frothy tea latte. Enjoy these in hot or iced formats.
Chai Tea Latte. Black tea is infused with cinnamon, clove and other warming spices, then combined with steamed milk, and topped with foam, resulting to a creamy balance of sweet and spicy.
Green Tea Latte. Matcha is lightly sweetened and served with milk, giving you a milky yet herby aroma in a thick, yet smooth and creamy deep-green blend.
English Breakfast Tea Latte. Steamed milk is added to English Breakfast black tea, lightly sweetened with cane sugar, resulting to a light mouthfeel but rich taste.
Third Flight: Featured Tea Lattes
From time to time, Starbucks introduces limited-edition beverages, fresh takes on their classic tea drinks, to match the season and infuse their beverages with the unexpected. These are also available hot or iced.
Oat Green Tea Latte. Green tea and oats are blended then topped with colorful granola, making a cheery and festive drink.
Peach Black Tea Latte. Subtle fruitiness characterize this blend of peach flavors and earthy black tea, my favorite among the drinks.
Chestnut Black Tea Latte. Finely ground black tea blended with steamed milk and chestnut sauce is lightly sprinkled with chestnut and strawberry bites, resulting to a creamy textured drink with a slightly dry nutty aftertaste.
Starbucks’ TEA-volution Tea-tasting Seminar is one of Starbucks’ laudable initiatives in expanding the Filipino palate. I can hardly wait to discover what other beverage innovations Starbucks has up its sleeve.
Kudos and thanks to Jonas and the Starbucks SM East Ortigas crew for their warm welcome and kind accommodation during this delightfully educational event! The seminar was well-organized and facilitated, with Starbucks SM East Ortigas store serving as a comfortable venue for the attendees.
Disclosure: The TEA-volution Tea-tasting Seminar held in this Starbucks branch is a free event open to the public that simply requires pre-registration. The beverages mentioned here were served to enable us to sample the brews and were not paid for by attendees, including myself.