Okinawa Milk Tea Is a Delight You Should Try Now!

Updated on: March 4, 2022
Author: Nick
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Okinawa Milk Tea

Okinawa milk tea is a unique and delicious beverage that everyone should try at least once.

What makes Okinawa milk tea so special? First, this milk tea is made with high-quality tea leaves and high quality fresh whole milk.

But most importantly...

It is sweetened with kokuto, a type of brown sugar exclusively from Okinawa. Some say kokuto sugar is the most delicious and healthiest type of sugar in the world.


Then keep on reading because in this guide, we'll dive deep into this delicious tea drink. We'll show you how to make it at home, and we'll answer any questions you may have!

Let's get started!

What is Okinawa Milk Tea?

Okinawa milk tea is made with loose leaf black tea, fresh whole milk and a special brown sugar from Okinawa called kokuto.

This tea may be simple at first, but this simplicity is typical in Japanese cuisine, where few ingredients make-up a dish, but emphasis is placed on seasonal, local high-quality ingredients.

In the case of the Okinawa milk tea, high quality black loose leaf is used. Robust full-bodied teas are preferred, such as Assam , Ceylon or English Breakfast teas.

There are different variations of this milk tea, it can be drunk hot, iced, or with bubble tea.

What Does Okinawa Milk Tea Taste Like?

Okinawa milk tea tastes sweet and has a creamy texture with a strong black tea flavor.

But what makes its taste so special is the Okinawa brown sugar, or kokuto.

Kokuto adds a whole different spin to milk tea given its complex flavor profile of molasses and mellow sweetness.

But doesn't regular brown sugar also have molasses flavors?

Well it does, but this is like saying that bancha (low grade green tea) and gyokuro (high grade green tea) taste tea!


One is clearly superior to the other!

To answer this question, let's dive a deep deeper into the world of kokuto sugar.

What is Kokuto and What Makes it So Special?

As we've noted, kokuto sugar is a special brown sugar from the Okinawa region. There are a few factors though that set it apart from regular brown sugar.

Kokuto - Special Roasted Brown Sugar
  • The geography of Okinawa: Okinawa prefecture is the southernmost prefecture in Japan and consists of over 160 islands (although the main island is called Okinawa). Okinawa features a humid subtropical climate, and its unique location allows for minerals to be carried into the fields by oceanic mist. These environmental conditions are perfect for sugar cane crops.

  • Regular brown sugar is simply refined white sugar with added molasses. Kokuto is not by a mile. Kokuto is made using traditional methods that have been passed down for more than 400 years. These techniques consist of slow cooking the cane juice from carefully selected one-and-a-half year old sugar canes. This process is done immediately upon harvest to prevent oxidation. If you want to learn more, read this article to learn how kokuto is made.

  • Kokuto prevents tooth decay and is high in iron, potassium and iron. It is also claimed it helps reduce cholesterol and stress. I was unable to find scientific studies backing this up, but I'm not surprised if these claims are true, given that Okinawa is home to more centenarians than anywhere else in the world, and this is attributed to their diet and lifestyle.

  • It's delicious! This is due to the environmental conditions where the sugar canes are grown, and also due to the traditional processing techniques used that do not add additives to the sugar. What you're getting is 100% natural goodness.

What is the Difference Between Hokkaido and Okinawa Milk Tea?

Hokkaido milk tea is indeed a different drink from Okinawa milk tea.

They are both made with black tea and they both use whole fresh milk, but Okinawa uses kokuto (from Okinawa) while Hokkaido uses regular brown sugar, caramel or honey.

Another key difference is that Hokkaido milk tea uses the famous and delicious Hokkaido milk.

Read our Hokkaido milk tea article to find out more!

What is the Difference Between Nagasaki and Okinawa Milk Tea?

The main difference is that Nagasaki milk tea uses green tea and honey whereas Okinawa milk tea uses black tea and Okinawa brown sugar.

How Do You Make Okinawa at Home?

Making Okinawa milk tea is simple, but here the challenge will be getting your hands one some Kokuto!

It can be ordered online, or you can use substitutes that should still result in a delicious drink!

Equipment and Ingredients

To make this delightful drink, you will need:

  • 2 tsp of black loose-left tea (preferably an Assam tea)

  • 12 oz of filtered or distilled water

  • Fresh whole milk

  • Okinawa brown sugar. You should try to order this online, you owe it to yourself! If not, as a substitute another minimally refined cane sugar such as muscovado, panela or rapadura (found in Latin American stores), jaggery or toasted sugar.

  • Teapot or tea strainer

  • Your favorite glass

Okinawa Milk Tea Recipe

  1. Boil the water.

  2. Pour the hot water into a teapot and add the tea leaves. Let them steep for 3-5 minutes. We recommend using a teapot or tea infuser.

    Don't have these? No problem, check our article on how to make loose leaf tea without a strainer!

  3. Once steeped, pour the tea into a glass while leaving some space for the milk. A good starting point is 1/3 milk and 2/3 tea.

  4. Add the kokuto or sugar substitute to your glass while the tea is still hot. With a spoon, crush and dissolve the kokuto by stirring.

  5. Add the milk and stir!Β 

  6. Enjoy!

Pro Tips to Elevate your Okinawa Milk Tea

As you can see, this is a very simple recipe but by following some practical tips you'll have better results!

  • We cannot emphasize enough the importance of using quality ingredients. In a pinch, you could use tea bags but your milk tea won't be as delicious. Tea bags leave little room for the leaves to expand, and oftentimes contain dust and fannings (leftover tea after high grade tea has been gathered).

  • We recommend 1 tsp of tea for every 6 oz of water.

  • Use organic grass-fed whole milk. The quality of the milk is important too. For example, the highlight of the Hokkaido milk tea is the quality of the milk.

  • Oat milk is a good substitute if you would like to avoid dairy.

  • If you're not so much into strong tea flavors try a more subtle tea like a Darjeeling.

  • If you're lucky enough to live in Japan or near a Japanese produce store, use hokkaido milk and kokuto. I have not tried this but I'm sure it would be a mind-blowing experience.

  • You can find Okinawa milk tea powder, but in our opinion this is a contradiction. Okinawa milk tea is about fresh and local quality ingredients.

What Are Some Variations of the Okinawa Milk Tea?

There are a few variations of Okinawa milk tea, some with different types of tea and others have added ingredients.

Iced Okinawa Milk Tea

Perfect to quench your thirst or cool you down on a hot summer day. Simply let the tea cool down after you prepare it, and add some ice cubes!

Okinawa Oolong Milk Tea

You shall prepare your milk with Assam black tea! 

Kidding, as far as we are aware there is no such thing as the drinking tea police. 

Use oolong tea if you're bothered by strong tea flavors. Just make sure you don't steep the leaves in boiling water. Aim for 185 to 195 degrees.

Okinawa Pearl Milk Tea

This is the boba (or bubble tea) variation of this milk tea. 

Simply add brown sugar tapioca pearls to add texture to your tea. You can even try different types of boba pearls or add some boba toppings to your tea, but don't add too many! Let the tea flavors shine through.

For better results, make your own boba from scratch. You can follow our recipe (previous link).

But if you want to be hardcore, use kokuto when making your boba balls and syrup. That would make it a true Okinawa pearl milk tea.

Serve in a reusable boba cup for a better and more responsible bubble tea experience.

Vegan Okinawa Milk Tea

Substitute the whole milk with oat milk or your favorite plant based milk. You can even make a vegan bubble tea version!

Is Okinawa Milk Tea Healthy?

This is a tough question to answer as Okinawa milk tea can be made with different ingredients.

For example, many people don't have access to Okinawa brown sugar, and instead use highly refined white sugar with added molasses.

Also, some boba shops sell "Okinawa milk tea" prepared using the powder form, which in turn can contain additives and preservatives.

However, if you use quality organic and grass-fed whole milk, and Okinawa brown sugar (kokuto), then Okinawa milk tea can be a healthy drink option.

Okinawa cuisine features kokuto in many of their dishes, yet, people in Okinawa are amongst the healthiest in the world.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much caffeine is in Okinawa milk tea?

There is no specific answer to this question as the amount of caffeine in Okinawa milk tea depends on the type of tea, how much is used, and how long it is steeped for. 

However, most black teas contain approximately 50 mg of caffeine per cup. If you're using 2 tsp you're looking at potentially 100 mg of caffeine.

For reference, a cup of regular coffee can have somewhere between 95 to 200 mg of caffeine (again, this depends on many factors).

Can I make Okinawa milk tea with regular sugar?

In our opinion, no. The Kokuto is what makes Okinawa milk tea stand out. Otherwise, it would be a regular milk tea or regular brown sugar milk tea. So try to find minimally refined sugars as a substitute.

What are some substitutes for Okinawa brown sugar (kokuto)?

If you don't have access to Okinawa brown sugar, there are a few substitutes that can be used. 

Aim for minimally refined brown sugars. You could use muscovado sugar, molasses,  panela (found in Latin American Shops) or roasted brown sugar. However, these sugars will not give your milk tea the same flavor as Okinawa brown sugar (kokuto).

What is Royal Milk Tea?

Royal milk tea is another name for Japanese milk tea. It is usually made of strong loose leaf black teas such as Assam, and it contains whole milk and sugar. 

So Hokkaido and Okinawa milk teas are royal milk teas.

What other types of milk tea are there?

The world of milk teas is huge! Try thai tea or masala chai for a very different experience. Bubble teas are technically milk teas, so you have hundreds of possibilities such as honeydew milk tea, taro milk tea or jasmine milk tea!

Black tea for Okinawa Milk Tea

Bottom Line

Okinawa milk tea is a delicious drink that highlights Okinawa brown sugar and quality black tea leaves. This milk tea has different variations, the most popular ones being the iced and boba versions.

It's perfect for any time of day, and can be enjoyed by people of all ages (well, almost, don’t feed caffeine to your little ones).

Okinawa milk tea is healthy if you use quality ingredients, and has no negative side effects as long as you drink it with moderation!

The only thing left to do now is to order yourself some kokuto and try it for yourself! Tea drinkers should try this at least once!

You will be hooked!

Nick loves coffee... Actually, he NEEDS coffee! So, he has dedicated his time to learning all he can about this magical bean. He can make a mean latte, is obsessed with flat whites, and is always up for a cup of java!

This article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not meant to replace professional medical advice, treatment or diagnosis. Do not consume any type of coffee, tea or herbal infusion if you are allergic to it. The information in this article is not intended to treat serious medical conditions. Please seek professional medical advice before using home remedies.



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