5 years ago, saying you wanted a milk cap on your tea would have earned you strange looks in most tea shops. Now though, it seems like milk caps – and cheese caps for that matter – are here to stay. First appearing in Taiwanese tea shops in 2002 marketed as “tea with thick milk foam” or tea macchiatos, these milk caps graced black and green teas, and not much else. Not long after, flavoured milk caps entered the market with large tea shop chains leading the charge. Sometime in 2010, cheese caps started appearing at Taiwanese night market stalls, made from powdered cheese, whipping cream and milk. It was not until 2012 that cheese caps really caught on, thanks to a particular tea shop combining fresh New Zealand cream cheese with fruit-based teas. From that moment on, it has been a milk cap arms race, with each tea shop trying to outdo their competitors.
MORE THAN A TREND
So why have milk caps captured the public imagination the way they have? There are a few reasons, but chief among them is social media. There is no denying layered drinks have a unique beauty to them, just like a freshly pulled shot of espresso or a B-52 cocktail. Milk capped tea is no different. The creamy white layer adds a visual appeal that regular milk tea simply does not have. The other major factor is how milk caps taste. The inclusion of salt adds the perfect salty note to the overall sweetness of the tea, and even more so in the case of cream cheese caps.
CUSTOMISING THE CAP
When it comes to making your own milk caps, here is some advice: practice makes perfect. Unlike the pure milk foam found on lattes and cappuccinos, milk caps incorporate cream, milk, sugar and salt, giving them a stronger flavour and a thicker texture. Knowing when you have the right texture is something that comes with time, so be prepared to experiment. It is easy enough to incorporate other flavours into a milk cap: a little MONIN syrup can go a long way. Here are some recipes to get you started.