Shanghai’s best winter milk teas

Shanghai’s best winter milk teas

Shanghai milk teas are the new winter hand warmers. They taste pretty good too

Milk teas are a great way to warm up during winter.

Although some refrain from indulging because these drinks are often served with sugar to feed the addictions of young locals, that’s remedied with a simple “不要糖” -- “no sugar." Problem solved.

Here are some of the tastiest and most addictive hot milky drinks in Shanghai.

Shanghai milk tea -- Brown rice milk tea

Brown rice milk tea

Chinese name: 玄米玉露奶茶
Store: Q-More
Price: RMB 9

Despite its modest, milky-looking color and smooth texture, Q-More’s Brown rice milk tea has a robust, roasted rice flavor. This drink is so hearty it’s like drinking the sanguine, gun-toting peasant off a Communist propaganda poster.

Shanghai milk tea -- Oatmeal with hazelnuts and walnuts




Oatmeal with hazelnuts and walnuts

Chinese name: 榛果核挑燕麦
Store: Coco
Price: RMB 8

Coco does an excellent pudding milk tea, with the cold custard pudding contrasting with the warm tea around it, but it’s their oatmeal with hazelnuts and walnuts that's most surprising. It’s as thick as a milky bowl of porridge, making it a go-to breakfast on the go. Just don’t expect an avalanche of nuts.

Shanghai milk tea -- Ginger milk



Ginger milk

Chinese name: 姜撞奶
Store: Tea Storm
Price: RMB 5

Tea Storm’s ginger milk may be the cold color of a dead man’s skin, but it has a warm, spicy finish. It’s hard to know how much real ginger survives processing and makes it into the drink but, according to TCM, the herb helps settle the stomach and protect against colds and the flu.

Shanghai milk tea -- Christmas cocoa



Christmas cocoa

Chinese name: 圣诞可可
Store: Comebuy
Price: RMB 8

Along with the likes of Jack Hut, Comebuy ranks among the second-tier milk tea stores.

The Taiwanese chain is a bit hit or miss, but their festive Christmas Cocoa scores a bull’s eye. The hot chocolate laced with brown sugar and caramel has a surprisingly deep chocolate-pudding flavor.

Shanghai milk tea -- Brandy milk tea



Brandy milk tea

Chinese name: 白兰地奶茶
Store: Coco
Price: RMB 7

You can warm your hands and also your liver on Coco’s brandy milk tea. Each drink contains a generous shot of 路易世家 “Lewis Family” brandy, which is 38 percent alcohol.

Thanks to the airtight packaging, if you keep sucking on the straw once the liquid’s gone you can inhale some crazy alcohol fumes.

Coco also sells coffee and hot chocolate with brandy shots.


Shanghai milk tea -- Grapefruit green tea with aloe

Grapefruit green tea with aloe

Chinese name: 葡萄柚芦荟绿茶
Store: Happy Lemon
Price: RMB 8

If you’re already a little ill, drinking milk can be a bad idea, as it thickens mucus and can aggravate sore throats. Instead try Happy Lemon’s grapefruit green tea with aloe.

This drink nicely juggles its sweetness with the sourness of the grapefruit and the bitterness of the tea. The finely chopped aloe chips in with its own faintly soapy flavor, which is much more interesting than those flavorless sago balls.


Shanghai milk tea -- Mandarin loganfruit and Chinese date tea

Mandarin logan fruit and Chinese date tea

Chinese name: 桂圆红枣茶
Store: Q-more
Price: RMB 9

This other milk-free option tastes strongly of dates and molasses, with an undercurrent of the logan fruit, or longan, that tastes indescribably red.

Under the lid, you’ll find both sliced dates and burst longans swimming in a cola-colored liquid, like mysterious animal organs in a Chinese soup. Still more tasty than the usual winter duck blood though.

Tasty as it is, this drink looks like it should be good for you and it is. Little brother to the lychee, the longan is believed to nourish the blood and eases nerves in Chinese medicine.

For other ways to stay warm this winter check out "Winter-proof yourself with TCM" and "A beginner's guide to congee."
Sam Gaskin is an arts and culture journalist based in Shanghai.
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