(l to r) Tea Latte (Caramel Nut flavor), Hokkaido Milk tea with black bricks, Cranberry, Green Symphony, Glass Jelly Milk Tea with sinker
Tea. Way before the Brits became addicted to their cuppas, tea was a deeply-rooted Asian tradition, its relaxing fragrance and mind-clearing properties making it a favorite of wise teachers and holy men alike. Even in this modern age, tea's gift of serenity is something we could all use; thus Serenitea
Serenitea in BF Homes, along Aguirre, is a modern tea shop inspired by tea-consuming trends in Taiwan. Younger Taiwanese have made their influence felt in a profusion of flavors and combinations that the Herrera sisters thought would take off in Manila, especially as a healthier alternative to the coffee, milkshakes and smoothies offered in cafes. We got to sample several of Serenitea's drinks when we met Serenitea BF owner Jennifer Herrera.
One secret of their success, says Jennifer, is their tea espresso machine. A modified espresso machine, it allows them to make tea much faster than cafes using traditional steeping methods can, with no loss in flavor. With their machine Serenitea can turn out any number of hot brewed teas -- Oolong, Jasmine, you name it -- or concoct hot or cold tea-based drinks. As a sampler Jennifer brought out some of her most popular drinks: the Tea Latte, Milk Tea with Grass Jelly, Hokkaido Milk Tea with Black Bricks (coffee jelly), Cranberry Tea, and the citrusy Green Symphony. To accompany them, Jennifer also let us try the Pepper Tofu and crispy Chicken Chop.
I have to confess I was a bit ambivalent regarding some of the drinks. I like my tea the traditional way, steaming hot and pure -- without even sugar. Now here were, to my mind, tea-based versions of Starbucks' lattes. I was afraid I'd find them too sweet and milky. Sip. Hmm. Sip. Hmm. Hey! This is really refreshing! The Tea Latte has hints of toffee and caramel, but is far from being too sweet. The Milk Tea with Grass Jelly has hints of honey, and as I've always been a fan of Chinese grass jelly, I liked it. The milk tea I liked best was the Hokkaido Milk Tea, as I'm addicted to coffee jelly.
Cat and I liked the fruit-flavored teas the best. I'm most likely to visit Serenitea either after a heavy dinner out, or when I want to write elsewhere than at home, and for situations like those I prefer palate-cleansing fruit flavors. The Cranberry Tea has just the right balance of tart and sweet, and the Green Symphony, green tea with calamansi and lime jelly, has a surprise touch in the form of a cinnamony kiamoy floating in it.
Pepper Tofu and Taiwanese Chicken Chop
The sharp, very refreshing flavor of the Green Symphony also went excellently with the food, which Jennifer says is Taiwanese street fare. The Pepper Tofu is fried tofu sprinkled with Chinese spices, and topped with fried basil leaves; I liked the flavor contrast between the tofu and the basil. The Taiwanese Chicken Chop was very crunchy, and dangerously addictive; I can see myself ordering plate after plate if I were to stay here for any length of time. Which I very probably will the next time I have writer's block and need a dose of serenity.