Despite the honest resemblance, this deceptive cup is actually a creamy, tea-infused milk jelly. It might seem slightly off-putting, I know, to read “milk tea” and “jelly” in the same sentence, let alone envision them as cohorts in the company of dessert. But despite any reservations I may have had previously about adding gelatin to such a familiar thing as brewed tea, it was only for lack of acquaintance with such a confection, because the little cup I had for an afternoon pick-me-up completely exceeded my expectations and tickled my senses in a most pleasant, beguiling way. It certainly looked and smelled like a cup of sweet milk tea, yet when I dipped my spoon in, the surface broke with surprising resistance, like scooping sorbet. It was like having the most intensely flavorful tea pudding–I could taste the sweet bergamot, actually bite into the richness of the milk and cream.
I first came across such a dessert in the repetoire of Japanese sweets, where jellies are often served with fresh fruit, sweet rice dumplings, or even scoops of ice cream. On its own, I don’t know that gelatin will ever have a fighting chance as a stand-alone treat for me, but in its incarnation as milk jelly, it allowed me the unique pleasure of enjoying a fragrant tea with the added feeling of indulgence any cold-cream treat usually invokes (and with hardly any pangs of conscience!).
And happily, the day’s epicurean enjoyments didn’t end after the last spoonful. After a late-morning outing to the supermarket, I passed, like always, the colorful and fragrant flower shop down the street. When the elderly lady of the shop stood up from her trimmings to smile and wave enthusiastically, I waved back and stepped inside to admire her beautiful bundles of flowers–pink roses, deep purple tulips, bulbous hydrangeas, and countless other varieties I’d never seen before. With spring and the cherished cherry blossoms so late to arrive this year, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to bring a little atmosphere to my little second-floor apartment, and I came home with a paper-wrapped packet of sakura clippings, the branches dotted with pink buds just ready to unfold.
The next morning, the day already dazzling at half past seven, I shuffled into the kitchen to start my water for a cup of darjeeling, and the most delightful april fool’s of all: spring come early in my kitchen! Cherry blossoms at last :)
Earl Grey Milk Tea Jelly
note: there are endless possibilities as far as flavorings go–try any loose leaf tea of your liking! i know i will be trying variations with jasmine, green, and chamomile teas
1 heaping Tbs Earl Grey (or any other tea) tea leaves
100 ml water (3.4 fl oz)
1 1/2 Tbs sugar
125 ml milk (4.2 fl oz)
25 ml (.8 fl oz)
5 grams unflavored gelatin packet (.2 oz) (usually in powder form)
In a small pot, stir water, tea leaves, and sugar over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Turn off heat, and let steep for 3-4 minutes. While brew is still hot, pour mixture into another bowl, over a strainer to collect the loose tea leaves. Add the gelatin and whisk to incorporate. Stir in milk and cream. Pour mixture into two tea cups, or three small ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.