Corny But Tea-rrific

Summertime in the south means brutal heat, a profusion of sweet corn at every market, and endless streams of iced tea. Combine all three into one glass and you get Sweet Corn Milk Tea.

What Is Corn Milk?

Corn milk is nothing new, of course. A longtime staple in Vietnam, China, Indonesia, Guatemala, Brazil, and beyond, the uniquely sweet properties of fresh summer corn have frequently been leveraged in both refreshing and warming drinks, depending on the region. The original experience is a bit like cereal milk, predating processed cornflakes.

  • Guatemalan corn milk, known as atole de elote, is infused with a whole cinnamon stick and served hot.
  • Cachaça, a distilled spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice, plus sweetened condensed milk enter the picture for making the Brazilian version called batida de milho verde. Consider it a more tropical version of English milk punch.
  • Susu jagung, literally “corn and milk,” is a more recent trend emerging in Indonesia, often served more as a thick dessert soup.

What Is Milk Tea?

Boba tea shops have popularized the concept with the addition of tender tapioca pearls soaked in honey syrup, but in truth, any brewed tea with a splash of milk qualifies.

  • One of the bestselling drinks in Japan, Royal Milk Tea is made with a blend of Assam and Darjeeling tea leaves and milk.
  • Robust Ceylon or Pu-Erh is the base of Hong Kong milk tea, which is lightened with canned evaporated milk.
  • Brilliantly orange-colored Thai tea is intensely sweet and aromatic, flavored with various spices and enriched with a heavy pour of sweetened condensed milk.
  • Chai isn’t just a highly spiced brew, but the generic word for tea in India. It’s simply made by steeping black tea in milk and water, then sweetening with sugar, although it’s highly encouraged to avail oneself of the wide array of aromatic spices.

We could be here all day talking about various milk teas, so suffice to say, these are a few of the many different styles.

What Is Sweet Tea?

Finally, we have classic southern sweet tea. Brewed hot in large batches to ensure that every grain of sugar has fully dissolved, it must then be chilled and served ice-cold (by law, I believe) in comically oversized glasses. Pure black tea is classic, but lemon, raspberry, and peach are common, equally beloved variants.

Put That Together And You Get: Sweet Corn Milk Tea!

Somewhere along the way to heat stroke and an afternoon nap, sweet corn began to blur the lines into sweet tea, corn milk into milk tea, and before I could stop myself, the connection had been made.

Juicy golden kernels of fresh summer corn blend into a silky-smooth pourable cream. A touch of sugar (or your favorite sugar-free alternative), salt, and vanilla heightens the naturally rich, floral, and subtly savory flavors within. This would be a brilliant topper for oatmeal, poured over pound cake, or even blended with frozen bananas to make a sunny yellow smoothie.

I’d implore you to trust the process and go forward to the full tea experience. While you can use any leaves you prefer, I’d suggest a robust black variety, such as smoky Lapsang Souchong or astringent Pekoe for a bold, bracing, and invigorating contrast. Milk tea should be soothing, while ice tea is refreshing,balancing both elements in one tall glass.

Let’s make this the summer of corn milk, shall we? If oats can hit it big, why can’t corn, the third leading grain crop in the world, do the same?

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Bubbling Over Boba

Shooting through fat straws everywhere, the bubbles found in many refreshing iced drinks this year aren’t merely effervescent, but tangible spheres that you can chew. Known interchangeably as bubble tea, pearl tea, and boba tea, this Taiwanese import has even more flavors than names. Different varieties of tea are only the tip of the iceberg; additional fruit, milk, herb, and spice possibilities are endless. The unlikely textural contrast between milky liquid and toothsome tapioca makes for an irresistible treat, no matter the temperature outside.

Despite their proliferation, trips to Chinatown often end in disappointment. Most commercial offerings are prepared from powdered mixes with milk powder built in, with few options on tap. Luckily, it’s a snap to bypass all the questionable chemicals when you make your own boba-licious brew! Starting with more readily available clear tapioca pearls, the texture is slightly softer, but the experience is just as sweet and satisfying. Get ready for some serious refreshment; it will be hard to stop whipping up bubbling up once you start.

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Robust, deeply savory broth spiked with equally bold and nuanced spices are the defining characteristics of any successful bowl of pho. Rice noodles are an essential component, soaking in those carefully honed, painstakingly crafted layers of flavor, but never the stars of the show. It all comes down to the soup itself, sometimes simmered for hours, if not days, built upon generations of family secrets.

Celebrated across Vietnam and now the world at large, that same passion for the process sometimes gets lost in translation, especially when searching for a vegan option. Pho Chay, born of Buddhist traditions that take all forms of meat off the dinner table, is all too often a sad, watered-down tease. Plain vegetable broth is not an adequate substitution for this edible art, but if you don’t know any better, how can one possibly get the delicate seasoning right?

With as many recipes as there are cooks that make it, happily, there are no hard and fast rules for building a better broth. That’s why even a blatantly “inauthentic” rendition can still soothe those soulful soup cravings.

Inspired by the uniquely aromatic blend of cinnamon, clove, ginger and cardamom found in Stash Chai Spice Black Tea, Pho Chai is both a crafty play on words and a delicious departure from the norm. The blend of strong Assam, muscatel Darjeeling, and well-balanced Nilgiri found in every sachet add surprising umami flavor along with unexpected sweet Indian spices. Energetic notes of cardamom and ginger brighten this bowl, harmonizing beautifully with the fresh spray of herbs piled on top. Perhaps the concept is dubious on paper, but unquestionably compelling on the tongue.

You’ll want to stock up on this warm, spicy tea for more than just soup. Head over to and use the promo code BITTERSWEET-SC to get discount off your purchase, and don’t forget to follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for both sweet and savory tea inspiration.

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Smooth-Talker (With a Matcha Giveaway!)

Making the leap from blender to bowl, smoothies are no longer strictly liquid nourishment. Morning, noon, or night, it’s time to put away the straws and break out the spoons. Acai bowls paved the way for this natural evolution, but smoothie bowls are entirely unique creations, free from the constraints of the typical toppings or construction. Browse through Instagram for a few seconds, and you’ll see a full spectrum of colors, layers, textures, and sometimes even actual glitter fill your screen. These run the gamut from austere to more indulgent than chocolate custard, so as with most other edible art forms, the real struggle is finding a happy balance between the two.

Get Your Greens With Smoothie Bowls

For me, that means going green, but not in the predictable way. Kale, spinach, and collards alike are mainstays in my meals, but not in my blender. The green smoothie movement is one that i could never fully embrace, simply because I couldn’t rationalize adding ingredients that didn’t contribute positive flavors to the mix, but rather, unfavorable tastes that would need to be covered up or otherwise compensated for. Green is great, but when it comes to smoothies, matcha is always my favorite source.

Enthusiasts will agree that there’s no wrong way to enjoy this verdant powdered tea leaf, but many are missing out on matcha’s full flavor potential.

Different Grades of Matcha

Did you know that there are numerous different grades of the emerald superfood, which vary greatly in flavor and potency? Separated into three distinct categories, it may be difficult to suss out when it’s best to employ ceremonial matcha, culinary matcha, or any of the shades of green in between.

  • Contrary to my first naive assumption, it turns out that culinary matcha is not actually of lower quality, and in fact contributes a stronger tea flavor to baked goods, as it’s better suited to withstand the heat of the oven.
  • Ceremonial grades possess greater nuances, best to sip, savor, and carefully contemplate. Each one tells it’s own story, so carefully calibrated through every step of processing, that no two batches will taste precisely the same.

No matter how your brew or blend it up, green is always good when it means matcha!