Monday, January 17, 2011
Ito En Tea's Tea Manhatten Milk Tea
Usually I don't take pictures of my garbage to illustrate a review. Generally, I take a picture of a full bottle of a beverage if it is a transparent container, and a picture of the drink poured into a glass if it is opaque. So, one may ponder why I'm using a picture of an empty bottle this time.
Actually, I'm guessing that if I hadn't mentioned it, very few of my readers would even have noticed that the bottle was empty, but there is a point to be made. Of course, I take the scenic route to any point because otherwise my reviews would be little more than short descriptions about taste, texture and smell, and there's really no fun in that. Let's just start by saying this bottle didn't actually come from anywhere that even resembled Manhatten despite the product's name.
I should mention that I had no intention of purchasing any of the Tea's Tea line of products nor reviewing them. There were two reasons for this decision and neither relates to the quality of Ito En's beverages. The primary reason is that I can make damn fine tea with a teabag, milk, and some sweetener for a fraction of the price and far less waste than buying bottled tea. The secondary reason is that my husband told me that Tea's Tea is a brand that is sold back home and I try not to knowingly review products that are essentially sold in the same form in the U.S.
It turned out that this type of milk tea, which is made with a combination of cow's milk and soy milk and is calorie-reduced, isn't marketed back home. However, that wasn't enough to get me to try it. The thing that convinced me to try it was the fact that you can't brew a cup of tea while you climb a mountain, and hot tea from a vending machine (which you can find on mountains in Japan, of course) makes a great hand warmer on a chilly day.
On December 28, my husband and I climbed Mt. Takao (aka, the mountain for sissies who can't climb) and that is where I secured this 275 ml. bottle (9.3 oz.) for the inflated price of 150 yen ($1.80). Note that the vending machine prices incrementally increase the higher you go up the mountain. They start around 150 yen for 500 ml. bottles at the bottom then climb to 170 ($2.03) then finally are 200 yen ($2.40) at the top. This makes no sense at all because it's not like a sherpa is hauling cases of drinks up the mountain and charges more to go all the way to the top. The same trucks are hauling them to each progressive spot. I know because they kept driving past us while we struggled up the steepest path to the top of the mountain.
The vending machine I got this from was about 2/3 of the way to the top and near an area studded with shrines. It could also be called "the part where you stop climbing super steep inclines and start climbing about 1000 steps to get to the top". This caught my eye mainly because it has a big "zero" on the front and that generally means no sugar. Indeed, this is made with the sweeteners Sucralose and Acesulfame K. The entire bottle is 49.5 calories, but that comes entirely from the milk and soy milk.
In addition to being pleasantly warm on chilly hands, this is also very tasty tea. It is well-balanced in terms of its sweeteness and milkiness with pleasantly floral tasting black tea. In fact, I was so impressed that I have considered buying it again despite my cheapness and desire not to drink PET bottles of beverages that can be made at home. This is damn fine tea, especially if you're stupid enough to pick the hardest trail the first time you climb a mountain at 46 years of age with a bum knee and want something hot, slightly creamy, and rich in quality tea flavors. And, yes, this was the very bottle I brought back down the mountain. I hung onto it for a few weeks just for this review. ;-)