Tuesday, December 01, 2015


Fifty years ago Lipton in Japan, as a marketing campaign geared towards a demographic whose appreciation of English things was shaped by Beatrix Potter, crime novels, men in skirts, and the sheer exoticism of the British ruling classes as represented by the characters in P. G. Wodehouse's lighthearted upper-crustian romps, started adding the word "royal" to everything. Cakes, biscuits, candies. Including a tea beverage.
What could be more British than a spot of tea?
Especially with milk and sugar.

Meanwhile, severe Dutch protestants (Calvinists, also known as 'Dutch Reformed') had found a work-around for their prohibition on coffee, tea, and alcohol. Just add milk, and call the result "healthy". The result was "Reform koffie" (coffee made by pouring boiling milk over the grounds), and "Reform thee". In order to extract the full value and benefit, one actually simmered the forbidden ingredient in generous proportion with milk. Obviously this was good for you, as it was still milk, really, and not drunk for pleasure.
Severe Dutch Protestants never do anything for pleasure.
That bottle of gin? Digestive medicine.
Spirits and cream?

Reform thee is the same as what the Japanese now know as 'royal milk tea' (ロイヤルミルクティー "roiyaru mirukutī"), and very similar to Hong Kong style milk tea. Add green cardamom pods and it becomes chai.


Best method is to first boil a little water (about one cup) with a heaping tablespoonful of loose Assam tea leaves for a few minutes, then add one and a half cup milk, and slowly bring it back to a boil. Slow-simmer for about a minute longer (or till sufficiently reddish-dark), then pour through a strainer into porcelain cups. Should be enough for two.
The milk tempers the bitterness of strong tea.
And, if you're Dutch, is nourishment.

Add sugar to taste.

Just remember: the Japanese drink this for pleasure, unlike the sober-minded Dutch, who seriously drink it only for their health.

French colonials will add rum from Martinique.
Both pleasure AND nourishment!

Personally I think that the Japanese have the right idea.

NOTE: There are several bottled products also called 'Royal Milk Tea', but they should largely be avoided, as they are no more than weak low-quality tea with milk and sugar. And though Lipton invented the term, the concept ran away from them. Good milk tea is strong, not sugary.
Certainly not some pallid 'put-you-to-sleep' beverage.
The whole point of tea is to perk you up.

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