Last year I decided to start learning about Japann, Japanese culture and their language. In my research I found that one of the best methods is total immersion in the language/culture you are aspiring to learn. Essentially this would mean traveling to Japan and living there in order to become fluent and really understand them. Someday maybe that will be an option but for now the best I can do is to bring little pieces of Japanese culture into my life.

To do this I started looking for ways in which I could add some Japanese products to my life and start learning a bit here and there. Sadly most of the avenues I found involved purchasing the items from Japanese stores and having them ship what I want to me. This was not very feasible as the cost of shipping the products was often more than the cost of the product itself and thus unless I was making a very large purchase it simply was not a valid option.

However, in November I discovered a place in Arlington Heights, Il called Mitsuwa Marketplace. In many ways it was an answer to prayers that I never made. Mitsuwa is very simple a Japanese grocery store containing a lot of the items that most Japanese would expect to find at their local markets. It has pretty much everything from Japanese vegetables and meats, to soy sauces, curries, spices, various rice and tons of products that you just can’t get anywhere else.

The store also has other shops connected to it including a bakery (Pastry House Hippo), book store (Books Sanseido), liquor, small eelectronics, household goods (haven’t paid much attention to these yet), and also several small restaurants as part of a food court. In essence Mitsuwa is a small Japanese mall with a lot of good stuff. And these other stores are great for what they have but I’ll get into those more in another post.

Ideally, what the store does is bring a little bit of Japan to those Japanese which have immigrated to the US and might miss something from their homeland. I know of a few people that make frequent trips here just to stock up on specific goods that they can’t get anywhere else or that simply do not work as well for them as products that are designed for them. The good news is that since they want these products and Mitsuwa is willing to bring these products over for their consumption then I get a chance to try a lot of different things and in the process expand my knowledge of both the Japanese language and a little about their culture.

Yesterday I stopped by on my way out town for a little trip. Ostensibly the visit was to pick up some of the breads from Pastry House Hippo (I am going to write some posts about Pastry House later on as their breads are simply wonderful and I they are worth writing about), but I also grabbed a couple drinks. One of these was Milk Tea.

This is something that I have heard about several times in the past and really didn’t care one way or the other if I would ever try it. But seeing as was taking a trip why not start it off with something different?

Milk Tea is exactly that, a blend of teas with milk, and some sugar. Now I am a pretty big tea drinker. I typically have at least two pots of tea per day. One in the early morning with breakfast and another in the evening as I close out my day. My tea is usually drank with just a little sugar in it as I have yet to find a tea that I feel is enhanced by adding milk.

So while I wanted to be a little adventurous it was with some hesitancy that I bought the milk tea. The drink was about what I expected. The tea is a blend of assam and green that I found to be alright but nothing really special. The milk in it was marginal and as the label shows that it is simply a condensed milk powder. That in an of itself is no big deal. What got to me though was that the first ingredient in this drink is sugar. 18g of sugar per serving to be exact and since there are 2 servings in this bottle that means there was a whopping 36g of sugar in that drink. It’s a good thing I’m slow at drinking and it took me nearly six hours to finish that bottle because that is a lot more sugar in my tea than even I like.

From what I have been told Milk Tea is supposedly a drink for those that are not accustomed to drinking tea at its best and I think I can see why. It’s a bit weak, it has way too much sugar and the milk itself may act to cover some of the real tastes of the tea.

I will not say that the drink is bad because I’m sure it has its supporters and those that truly enoy it. But sadly I cannot be one of them. Milk tea may be a decent product out of Japan and I have plans to translate that label in order to better understand what other labels at the market may say but for me I will not be buying another bottle of milk tea.

My next cup will be my usual earl grey, loose leaf, with just a little sugar, and at a proper 195 degrees as it rests in my cast-iron tea pot.

Until next time my friends, be well.

~Daniel

Edit: After I wrote the above post it was suggested that the problem was likely that it was a powdered milk. So due to this I may give milk tea another chance and will see how it plays out with some real milk in good hot tea.  But first does anyone have any suggestions for tea that would be the most suitable for adding milk? Further, should the milk be warm or cool?

Thanks all.

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