Okinawa Milk Tea: How to Make It at Home

Learn how to make Okinawa milk tea from scratch

Rich, delicately sweet and with the caramel-like taste of Okinawa’s original brown sugar (kokuto).
If you love this drink, you’ll be very happy to know how easy it is to make it at home; if you haven’t tried yet, you are for a real treat!

What is Okinawa milk tea?

Okinawa milk tea is a tasty milk tea beverage that uses kokuto (a dark, unrefined sugar original to Okinawa) to sweeten it.
Kokuto gives the tea a lovely depth of flavor, that reminds of molasses but more delicate.

Okinawa milk tea is a beloved flavor in boba tea shops, where it’s usually served cold and often with tapioca pearls.

But despite its name, Okinawa milk tea isn’t actually a typical beverage in Okinawa, an island located south of mainland Japan (which happens to be a blue zone because it has one of highest life expectancy rates of the world).
Okinawa milk tea just takes its name and inspiration from the island’s unique brown sugar.

How does Okinawan milk tea taste like?

Okinawa milk tea is a mildly sweet beverage that combines the creaminess of milk with the freshness of black tea and the complex and mellow sweetness of kokuto sugar. Okinawa milk tea is rich, yet not cloying, and the kokuto sugar gives it an unique and lovely malty flavor.

What is in an Okinawa milk tea?

Many boba stores use a premix powder to make their Okinawa milk tea, but the base ingredients to make it from scratch are black tea, milk and kokuto sugar:

  • BLACK TEA – Most kinds of black tea, like Ceylon or Assam, go well like to make Okinawa milk tea. You can use loose leaf black tea or black tea bags.
  • MILK – Feel free to use whole milk, low-fat milk or even non-dairy milk like almond milk.
  • KOKUTO SUGAR – If you don’t have kokuto (which isn’t so easy to find), you may replace it for molasses, brown sugar or even coconut sugar.

What is kokuto? Can you make Okinawa milk tea without it?

The key ingredient in Okinawa milk tea is kokuto, a dark brown sugar original from Okinawa.

Kokuto is an unrefined natural product made by slowly cooking freshly pressed pure sugarcane juice.
It’s this ingredient that gives Okinawa milk tea its unique flavor.

Kokuto has a rich and nuanced flavor that may resemble of molasses flavor.
On the nutritional perspective, it’s also appreciated for its mineral content; it’s high in iron and it also contains calcium and potassium.

Kokuto is slightly less sweet than sugar and has a complexity that differs from the taste of plain brown sugar.
However, if you can’t find it, the most similar replacements are regular brown sugar, coconut sugar or molasses.

Where to buy kokuto: I got mine in an online shop where I live (Germany), but you may also find it here or here.

How to make Okinawa milk tea from scratch

ingredients

  • Black tea leaves or tea bags
  • Kokuto (or dark brown sugar)
  • Milk
  • (Optionally) Tapioca pearls

How to make Okinawa milk tea

  1. Prepare the tea

    Steep the black tea for about three minutes in freshly boiled water.
    You may use loose leaf tea or tea bags.Steeping black tea for Okinawa milk tea

  2. Sweeten

    Once the tea liquor is ready, remove the tea without squeezing it, to avoid unwanted bitterness.
    Then add the kokuto sugar.Adding Kokuto to black tea

  3. Serve

    Set the tea aside to let it cool down.
    Add milk to the tea before serving.
    You can serve Okinawa milk tea hot or cold, with or without tapioca pearls.Adding milk to Okinawa milk tea

FAQs

Does Okinawa milk tea have caffeine?

Yes, Okinawa milk tea is made with black tea, which usually has around 50 mg caffeine per cup.
The amount of caffeine in your Okinawan milk tea will depend on how much tea it has in it, usually ranging between 30-50 mg caffeine per serving (16 oz.).
If you want to reduce the caffeine content of your Okinawa milk tea to a minimum, try cold brewing the tea or use decaf tea.

What is the difference between Okinawa milk tea and Hokkaido milk tea?

Okinawa milk tea and Hokkaido milk tea are both milk tea types with the name of Japanese regions.
Both also have in common that they aren’t actually original beverages from its name givers Okinawa and Hokkaido, but rather an invention from tea shops drawing inspiration from these regions.
The main differences between Okinawa milk tea and Hokkaido milk tea are two:
1- Okinawa milk tea uses kokuto (unrefined dark brown sugar from Okinawa) -Hokkaido milk tea uses regular sugar.
2- The tea in Okinawa milk tea is just steeped in hot water – Hokkaido milk is prepared by simmering the tea in milk (in a similar way as masala chai).
Simmering the tea in cooking milk gives Hokkaido milk tea a more pronounced creaminess.

Homemade Okinawa milk tea
5 from 1 vote

Okinawa milk tea recipe

How to make this delicious, mellow sweet tea milk from scratch
Print Recipe
Prep Time:5 mins
Resting time:1 hr

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Bring water to a boil and steep the tea in it for 3-5 minutes
  • Once the tea liquor is ready, remove the tea (don’t squeeze it to avoid bitterness) and add the Kokuto sugar
    Adding Kokuto to black tea
  • If you want the drink cold, let the tea cool down.
    Add the milk before serving.
    If wanted, add ice cubes* and/or cooked tapioca pearls.
    Adding milk to Okinawa milk tea

Notes

*If you want to cool down the tea by adding ice cubes, make the tea a little more concentrated by using more tea (not by making the steeping time longer).

Nutrition

Calories: 100kcal
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American, Japanese, Taiwanese
Keyword: black tea, milk tea
Servings: 1 Serving
Calories: 100kcal

Summary

Okinawa milk tea is a mildly sweet, tasty beverage.
This milk tea variation was created inspired by Kokuto, an unrefined black sugar original to Okinawa, a Japanese island famous for the longevity of its habitants.
While the taste or authentic kokuto isn’t really replaceable, you may get a similar result with brown sugar, coconut sugar or molasses.

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I had never heard of Okinawa milk tea, but as a Japanese person, I’ve often heard how healthy and special kokuto is.
    It’s incredible how much I can learn about tea in this blog!

    1. Yes, I had also heard of Okinawan Kokuto, whereas I didn’t know there is a tea name for that. But why not? As you can imagine by reading the ingredients, it’s delicious!

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