Okinawa Milk Tea: recipe and fun facts

by Mama Loves A Drink

All you need to know about Okinawa milk tea and step-by-step Okinawa milk tea recipe to prepare at home this delicious tea drink from Japan.

Okinawa milk tea is a delicious tea-based drink from the region of Okinawa, Southern Japan.

Made with black tea, milk and brown sugar, Okinawa milk tea has a sweet, rich and smooth flavor and a distinct golden appearance.

Due to the presence of milk, it is often confused or even just associated with Hokkaido milk tea, a milky tea from Japans’ extreme north. However, Okinawa milk tea has its own flavour and personality.

Okinawa milk tea recipe: pin this to make it later!

Cup of milky tea with brown sugar stick on the side

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What is Okinawa milk tea made of?

Okinawa milk tea is made with black tea (loose leaves or tea bags), milk and, traditionally, brown sugar from Okinawa, the star ingredient of this drink.

Okinawa brown sugar comes from sugar canes growing on the Okinawa island and has a distinctly deep and rich flavor.

Traditional wisdom says that the brown sugar of this region owes its particular taste to the type of soil used for growing the canes, rich in minerals thanks to the proximity of the warm ocean, peculiar to this region.

What is the best tea to make Okinawa milk tea?

Okinawa milk tea is made with black tea.

Black tea varieties that work well are Assam tea, English Breakfast tea and even Earl Grey tea, which blends surprisingly well with milk.

Does Okinawa milk tea contain caffeine?

Okinawa milk tea is made with black tea and it is, therefore, a caffeinated drink. It is a good morning tea but it also goes well as an accompaniment to pastries and cake.

What is the difference between Hokkaido and Okinawa milk tea?

Hokkaido milk tea and Okinawa milk tea are both milky teas with a black tea base originally from Japan but they are made with ingredients and local excellencies that make them stand out from one another.

Hokkaido milk tea is made with Hokkaido milk, which is fatty and creamy milk from Hokkaido.

Okinawa milk tea owes its peculiar flavor to the use of local Okinawa sugar, unique to the Okinawa island.

The distance between Hokkaido and Okinawa is over 3,000 km (1800 miles), a distance similar to that between New York City (NY) and Santa Fe (NM)!

How to make Okinawa milk tea: recipe

To make Okinawa milk tea you need:

  • One tea bag per person
  • One pot of boiling water
  • Milk, to taste
  • Brown sugar (Okinawa brown sugar or whatever raw brown sugar type you can get hold of at home)

Bring your water to a boil, using a suitable container.

Once it reaches boiling point, pour a small amount into a teapot and swirl it around gently, to warm it up, then discard.

Put the water back on the hob and add your tea: let it simmer for a couple of minutes, paying attention to keep the water below its boiling point.

After two minutes, remove the tea bags, add your sweetener and then the milk. Move it to the teapot and serve hot.

Should you prefer to serve it cold, leave the pot to naturally cool down and, once safe, move to the fridge until your guests arrive.

How to serve Okinawa milk tea

Whether you have Japanese ingredients or you have to substitute with easier-to-find alternatives, we love to serve Okinawa milk tea in a Japanese-style tea set and stay close to the origins of this drink.

Some very cute ones are available on Amazon and are an easy and beautiful option to spruce up your teatime!

How to make Okinawa Bubble Tea: Okinawa boba

Okinawa milk tea works very well as a boba tea too.

To make Okinawa bubble tea, all you need to do is add a handful of cooked boba balls to your tea and tweak its presentation.

Okinawa boba tea on wooden tray

To prepare Okinawa boba tea, we recommend you:

Follow the recipe above to prepare your tea base

While your water gets to a boil, pour water into a pot and bring that to a boil too. Add a handful of boba balls and let them cook until tender and chewy.

The exact cooking time varies depending o the boba balls you have: follow cooking instructions on their packaging.

Once ready, drain the water and rinse the balls under cold running water to stop the cooking process.

Assemble your drink in a tall glass adding the tapioca balls first, then your tea and a straw.

Okinawa Milk Tea: recipe

Cup of Okinawa milk tea with brown sugar stick

Okinawa milk teas is a delicious drink from southern Japan. Made with black tea, milk and brown sugar, it has a rich and warming taste that makes it perfect in the morning but also as accompaniment to pastries and cakes.

Cook Time 3 minutes
Total Time 3 minutes


  • One tea bag per person (Assam tea, English breakfast tea, earl grey tea all work well)
  • One pot of boiling water
  • Milk, to taste
  • Brown sugar (Okinawa brown sugar or whatever raw brown sugar type you can get hold of at home)


  1. Bring a pot of water to the boil. When ready, pour a small amount into a teapot, then swirl to make the inside of the pot warm up. Then discard.
  2. Return water to the hobs and add the tea: let it simmer for up to 3 minutes (less if you want a lighter taste) making sure the water stays just below boiling point.
  3. Add sugar and milk to taste, pour into the teapot and serve hot.

Want to discover more about teas? From medicinal favourites for mamas to those perfect gifts for the tea-lover you’ll find all our favourite tea topics over here.

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