For me, wrapping my hands around a steamy tea latte is pure comfort and cheer. A proper latte delivers the ideal combination of flavorful and aromatic tea, creamy and frothy milk, and perhaps a touch of sweetness.
In the colder months, I seek out tea lattes at my favorite tea shops and cafes and sip them with friends or in the company of a good book. Across the city there are some really fantastic Portland Fogs (made with Earl Grey like a London Fog), chai lattes, matcha and hojicha lattes, and other creative and delicious latte options. But I sometimes prefer to make mine at home, where I can use my favorite teas, honey, spices and other ingredients to craft my ideal drink.
The formula: 1 heaping teaspoon of loose leaf tea + 1/2 to 2/3 mug of hot water + 1/4 cup milk of choice, frothed + sweetener, spices and aromatics (optional)
Choosing your tea: Select a flavorful tea. Adding milk not only dilutes your tea, it also mutes the flavor a bit. For a latte, you'll want to start with a tea that packs some punch to make sure that the tea flavor shines through. Black teas are a great choice, think: Earl Grey, Assam, chai, or vanilla black teas. If you're looking for herbal, a rooibos blend would be great.
My favorite teas for making a latte include: Tangled Up in Blue and Voila from T Project, Ambrosia, El Dorado Chai, and Earl Gold from Whispering Pines Tea Co., Blackberry Fig and French Breakfast from The Jasmine Pearl Tea Company, 02 Assam from Joseph Wesley Black Tea, and Burnt Sugar Puerh from Remedy Teas.
Customizing your latte: I like to sweeten my tea latte a bit. A really flavorful honey (like this one) is my go-to, but maple syrup, vanilla, lavender or other flavored simple syrups, cane sugar, and coconut sugar are all great options.
If you want to add another layer of flavor, try sprinkling cinnamon, baking spice or cardamom into your milk before frothing it to flavor the foam-- this is especially great with chai. Adding spices to your tea strainer along with the tea leaves is another great option.
I like to add a bit of dried lavender with Earl Grey; they complement each other well. Other options include: a cinnamon stick, a split open vanilla bean, anise seeds, a few peppercorns, cocoa nibs or star anise pods-- Assam is a great neutral canvas to try this with.
Special tools: You will need a milk frother (this one is my absolute favorite) and a tall glass or jar for frothing the milk (a 16 oz mason jar works really well). You'll also want a 10 - 12 oz mug, a tea strainer, and the means to heat water and warm milk.
Perfect Tea Latte
(Makes one ~12 oz latte)
1 heaping tsp loose leaf tea of choice
8 oz water
2 oz half and half, whole milk, or alternative milk of choice
1/2 - 1 tsp of honey or sweetener of choice, to taste (optional)
Other aromatics (optional)
Add the tea leaves (in a strainer) to your mug. Steep the tea in water that is slightly cooler than boiling (~200 - 205 F) for the amount of time specified on the tea package (or appx. 4 minutes). The water should fill the mug 1/2 - 2/3 of the way full. Once steeped, remove the tea leaves from the water. If you like your tea sweetened, stir honey or sweetener of choice into tea.
While the tea steeps, pour the milk into a tall glass or pint-sized (16 oz) mason jar. Warm the milk in the microwave on 50% power for appx. 40 seconds. You want to warm the milk through, but you don't want it to start to bubble. You can warm the milk in a small saucepan, if preferred. Froth the milk with an electric frother. When frothed, the milk should fill a 16oz jar about half way with finely foamed milk.
Top tea with frothed milk, using a spoon to get all the foam out, if needed. Sprinkle cinnamon or honey granules on top if you like.
- Add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of lavender to your tea strainer along with the tea leaves and steep together (great with Earl Grey).
- Sprinkle some cinnamon, ground cardamom, or baking spice into the warmed milk before frothing (great with chai).