Why Is Milk Tea Such A Craze In The Philippines?

Look at the drink in their hands: if it isn’t coffee, it’s milk tea.

Most young and trendy people are suckers for the sweet treat and its indestructible pearls, all for a budget of P100 (somewhere around that amount, depending on how fancy you want your drink to be). That’s exactly what makes milk tea so appealing: though many forms of local milk tea consist of diluted milk, high sugar, and just a smidgeon of tea (sometimes powdered), you get a quick pick-me-up for barely anything.

There’s also rumors of health to be contended with; many believe that milk tea is a “healthy” alternative to juice drinks and frappuccinos. But how can something drowning in so much sugar be considered healthy? Those with an undeniable sweet tooth won’t notice: anything drowning in sugar must be a good thing.

I’ve also witnessed mob mentality in action. One person said to another, “What’s that long line for?” The other person replied, “I’m not sure, but you wanna try it out?” They then proceeded to queue at the newly-opened milk tea joint without even knowing what they were lining up for.

It’s a chain reaction: a group of friends sees other groups of friends lining up at a stall, so they line up, too; and eventually, more and more groups of people join them. There are lots of people lining up; therefore it must be good. But it’s all a matter of hype: there’s a craze in the air, and we feed off one another’s buying into the craze. Filipinos are all too ready and willing for the hype, always in search of something new and trendy, as advertised by their favorite social media influencers or celebrities.

But what about authentic milk tea from its very origin: Thailand, Hong Kong, or Japan? These types take a little longer to prepare, but they are infinitely more flavorful and complex. They are brewed, boiled, or steeped with endless variations of tea (i.e. black, assam, oolong, etc.) and topped off with a dash of milk. Here, the bitter taste of tea is apparent and offset ever so slightly by the milk’s creaminess.

In any case, the mob’s thirst for an Asian creation, is truly refreshing after centuries of chasing after the West.