Scooped: Milk Tea Sherbet

Milk Tea Sherbet

"There are several best parts of having Max Falkowitz on the Serious Eats team full-time, but the ice cream he brings in... man, is that a perk. I went crazy over this milk tea sherbet, at the precise intersection of rich, creamy, and totally refreshing and tea-like. I ate a sizable fraction of the container; I'm sorry, officemates—when it comes to good ice cream, sometimes I'm just really selfish."—Carey Jones, Senior Managing Editor

[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

Max Falkowitz

I don't always drink milk tea, but when I do, I drink it iced.

That usually means a break for bubble tea in Chinatown, or more recently, milk tea with a flotilla of grass jelly that Robyn and I can't get enough of.

It's a type of milk tea I can get behind—so self-consciously removed from a cup of the black stuff that it's hardly the same beverage. I love the aching sweetness and the double whammy of cream and sugar syrup that gives the drink an almost melted ice cream flavor.

One particular over-sweetened milk tea tasted so much like melted ice cream that I had half a mind to spin it in my ice cream maker, until I realized that it'd be easy enough to make a batch from scratch. So I did, and it is easy, with all the deep, milky flavor of a properly made cup of milk tea.

In the U.S., this kind of scoop is called a sherbet (though internationally that word means a bajllion types of desserts). It has some dairy for richness, but it's more akin to sorbet in texture and flavor than to ice cream. My recipe has more fat than the typical sherbet (it actually exceeds the legal definition, but doesn't have enough fat to be called ice cream), which adds welcome richness and milky flavor that tastes just like a cup of milk tea.

The trick, if there is one, is to use good tea (no need for the ultra-fancy stuff, just go a few steps up from the bitter brown water called Lipton), and steep your tea syrup long enough to develop some deep flavor. Some bitterness is a plus here—the final product won't taste bitter, but it will have a more complex tea flavor instead of a one-note sweetness.