Making the best caramel tea at home can be super simple or slightly more complex. Either way, the result is a yummy tea treat. Seriously, who doesn't love the sweet, smooth taste of caramel?
But what is it, exactly? What we get from a coffeehouse or boba cafe looks different from what we steep from a packet of dried tea. Which is the real deal?
Well, they're both caramel tea, which is any tea imparting caramel flavor and aroma. The different styles allow us to enjoy that sweet flavor whether we're looking for a pick-me-up or wind-me-down, counting calories or splurging, in a hurry, or taking our time.
Best of all, we can make either one ourselves, at home.
Coffeehouse Caramel Milk Tea
First of all, is it caramel tea or caramel milk tea? Are they the same thing, or can we have caramel tea without the creamy white stuff?
If so, is it good?
In the coffeehouse world, it does seem that "caramel tea" automatically includes milk, and any tea served with milk is a milk tea. It might also automatically include boba. It might be called caramel milk tea, caramel bubble tea, caramel boba tea, or even caramel milk tea boba.
This black tea bevvy is a dessert-caliber treat made with caramel syrup and milk or cream. It can include a multitude of mouth-watering twists and toppings, along with a heaping helping of sugar and calories.
It is usually served chilled but is equally divine served hot, making a great winter tea, a decadent alternative to our normal soul- and bone-warming tea and hot cocoa.
Dry Caramel Tea, Loose-Leaf and Bagged
We can also buy dried caramel teas, loose-leaf or bagged, to brew at home ourselves. Somehow, tea blenders magically infuse the flavors and aromas of butter, sugar, cream, and vanilla—a.k.a. caramel—into tea leaves.
These teas, which may or may not start with black tea, often include unexpected ingredients like cinnamon, apple, ginger, cardamom, clove, orange peel, and calendula (Spicy Caramel Apple Cinnamon herbal tea). Okay, caramel apple isn't unexpected, but how about Chocolate Rosemary Caramel herbal tea? There is no "caramel" in those ingredients, but it's in the flavor!
It's magic, I tell you.
Caramel teas made solely from dried-leaf blends require no fussy syrup additions, milk, sweetener, or toppings to convey their caramel flavor. Some caffeine-free versions even include relaxing ingredients for a soothing caramel bedtime tonic, conducive to a good night's sleep.
Can we make coffeehouse-style caramel milk tea at home?
You betcha we can make coffeehouse-style caramel milk tea at home—and it's fun! Even better, with Plum Deluxe caramel blends, we can create some exotic concoctions to rival those of the best tea baristas.
Caramel milk tea = caramel syrup + milk + tea
Here is a quick, easy, basic, and fairly foolproof coffeehouse-style caramel milk tea recipe. From here, you can add and tweak to your heart's content, designing custom tea recipes of your own.
Simple Caramel Milk Tea Recipe
- 2 Tablespoons white sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup milk of choice
- 1 Tablespoon loose-leaf tea
Heat sugar in a pan over low heat until it starts to melt, then stir while it turns a rich amber brown.
Stir in water and heat for 2 - 3 minutes, dissolving any sugar that hardens.
Stir in milk and gently boil for 2 - 3 minutes.
Add tea and simmer 3 - 5 minutes.
Strain the tea as you pour it into a cup.
Top as desired with frothed milk, whipped cream, spices, etc.
Recipe Details, Notes, and Further Ideas
Step 1: How to caramelize sugar
Caramel is the product of heated sugar. That's it.
To caramelize sugar, gently heat it in a pan. It will liquefy. Then it will turn golden brown. Then it will burn.
Herein lies the hard part of making caramel tea at home. Don't let that sugar burn! All it takes is patience (don't turn the heat up), active attention, and stirring.
For today's sample, I am using plain white sugar, but I prefer the more robust flavor of raw and brown sugar. Technically, caramelized brown sugar is butterscotch, not caramel, but butterscotch milk tea sounds lovely too, don't you think?
Or try this
When I make caramel sauce and candy, I substitute honey for some of the sugar. It helps keep the finished caramel from crystallizing. We could use honey here, too.
Step 2: Add water to the amber liquid
Heads up if your water is cold! It will splatter and steam when it hits the pan. It will make a mess on the stovetop and could burn you. Pour slowly.
Cold water will also cause the caramelized sugar to harden. No worries. As the water warms, the sugar will re-melt and dissolve. Don't panic.
Or try this
Using water for the syrup will thin the milk and ultimately the tea. If you'd prefer a thicker, creamier tea, use milk instead.
Step 3: Add milk to the sweet caramel syrup
What kind of milk makes the best caramel milk tea? Any kind! Whatever milk you like best.
Full-fat milk makes a creamier tea than low-fat or skim, and half-and-half will be thicker still. Nut milk, oat milk, and soy milk all work, too, imparting their own subtle flavors for unique tea taste sensations. If you're using a tea blend, consider how your milk flavor will complement the tea ingredients.
I love tea recipes that are flexible.
Today, I'm using half-and-half, but I'm partial to almond and coconut milks.
Step 4: Add loose-leaf tea and simmer
Black tea is the standard for caramel milk tea. It works with the caramel syrup and is a blank slate that welcomes additions.
But we're at Plum Deluxe. We know the secret of hand-crafted-with-love tea blends with thoughtfully sourced natural flavors, and we have an affinity for variety and adventure. So pick a tea, any tea, and steep it in your caramel-sweetened milk. I'm using Italian Wedding Cake Blend dessert tea, a black tea blend.
I recommend a tablespoon of loose-leaf tea in the recipe, which is more than most recipes suggest, but less than I actually use. I like strong tea. Start with the tablespoon and see what you think.
Steps 5 & 6 & 7: Strain, add toppings, and enjoy
Yeah, you know how to do this.
Toppings might include frothed milk, whipped cream, more caramel syrup, chocolate shavings, coconut bits, and more.
If you want it chilled, let your caramel tea cool, refrigerate it, and/or add ice.
Or try this
Freeze a homemade caramel tea concentrate in cubes and add these to cooled caramel-sweetened milk. Skip steps 4 & 5.
Caramel Boba Tea (or Caramel Bubble Tea)
If you enjoy chewing your caramel tea, by all means, add some boba. If you've never made bubble tea, Cindy will show you how.
You can buy ready-made tapioca pearls or make your own. (That's a topic for a different post.) Follow the boba prep instructions, which will be something like "boil the pearls until they float."
Add cooked boba to your syrup, and they'll soak up some of the sweetness and flavor.
Salted Caramel Milk Tea
Can we up our game to make salted caramel milk tea? Oh, yes we can!
Salt adds a nice contrast to the sweetness of caramel. Add a pinch of sea salt after straining your caramel milk tea.
And if we're going to start adding things . . .
Caramel Milk Tea Additions
Add some butter and/or cream to your caramel syrup for richness.
A dash of pure vanilla extract just before straining the tea is heavenly.
Depending on the tea you choose, maybe chocolate shavings or cocoa nibs, or spice up your caramel tea with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, anise—whatever spices you love, or more of those that are in the tea blend you use.
Choose a fruity tea in step 4 and add fresh fruit.
Go nuts, literally and figuratively.
Go Ready-made, Tea Drinker
Okay, okay. It's easy to get carried away dressing up your caramel tea.
If the thought of making your own caramel syrup makes you want to pull your hair out (stay tuned for more on this topic), grab a jar of your favorite ready-made caramel sauce, heat it with some milk, then blend your caramel milk with a cup of strong black tea. Or a black tea blend. Or just about any other tea.
Delicious Super-easy Caramel Tea, Sans Milk
No time, no milk, no interest? No problem!
Remember, we have delicious, sugar-free, easy-as-boiling-water options for everyday caramel tea decadence.
Caramel Teas at Plum Deluxe
Let's take a closer look at the caramel offerings here at Plum Deluxe. It's no surprise that the leader of dessert teas has an impressive selection caramel treats with glorious flavors already packed in.
Caramel Almond black tea, Caramel Snickerdoodle herbal dessert tea, Caramel Brittle puerh taste like what their names suggest: cookies and confections. But that sweet cooked-sugar flavor is also in blends that don't bear the "caramel" name, like Italian Wedding Cake dessert blend tea and Soul Warmer herbal tea
The Plum Deluxe blenders also meld caramel with yerba maté chai, fruits, flowers, herbs, spices, chocolate. You gotta see it—and taste it—to believe it.
The No-Fuss Caramel Tea Option
Forget melting sugar. Forget counting calories. Put the kettle on, relax, and let Plum Deluxe take care of the sweet caramel flavor. Every tea in the Plum Deluxe caramel collection stands alone, delivering delicious flavor, hot or cold, without sweetener or milk.
You'll find caramel flavors in black tea, oolong, puerh, and herbal tea, so you can wake up with a brisk cuppa or unwind with a warm soothing caramel bedtime tea for a refreshing sleep.
I couldn't choose a favorite amongst these teas if you threatened to pluck every hair from my body one by one, or, worse, if you threatened to take away all my tea.
And now, as promised and alluded to . . .
Other Uses for Caramel
Fellow tea drinker, now that we're comfortable and confident making caramel syrup, we can put this skill to good use beyond making tea.
Sugaring: A Hair-removal Technique
For instance, boiling two tablespoons of water + two tablespoons of lemon juice + one cup of sugar makes a gooey (and probably delicious) caramel that removes hair like wax. It's called "sugaring" and is an ancient Egyptian technique still used today by DIYers and spas. Caramel depilatory is more gentle on the skin than waxing, and it cleans up with water.
Just be sure to note which caramel is for tea and which is for waxing.