It was raining furiously one afternoon, the weather incessantly uncooperative with my footwear and clothing. With my feet drenched and umbrella taking a beating, my friend and I hurried ourselves to find solace in a little tea shop in San Juan.
A wise and timely choice of venue, as we got to warm ourselves up with different kinds of tea. Co-owner Juliet Herrera welcomed us with a smile, and eagerly prepared us different drinks to turn our blustery afternoon into a bright one.
Whether to calm the spirit or to jump-start conversations, Serenitea hits the mark in San Juan with its many hot and cold tea offerings that cater to your own brand of sweetness.
After settling ourselves down, Juliet asked us what kind of tea we would like to have. "A hot milk tea, please," I said, eager to warm myself up from the rainy weather. They start to prepare our teas with their special customized espresso machine (first of its kind here in Manila, I'm supposing), and asked how sweet we wanted our drinks to be. This is what's good about this tea place - you get your teas the way you like it. Whether you've got to tone it down with the sugar or need to answer to your sweet tooth's calling, they've got different levels of sweetness. And if you're not quite sure if you'd like it very sweet or not, you can have a taste test of the drink first.
Hot Milk Teas: Royal and Assam
The cardboard cups of Royal Milk Tea and Assam Milk Tea (P70/cup - S, P75/cup - M, P80/cup - L) are inconspicuous and forgettable, but the warm goodness that lies inside them shines through. Both look the same from the outside-in, so Serenitea just labels each cup by writing on it so you won't get confused. The Royal Milk Tea is fragrant, and we had 75% sugar with it, just like the Assam Milk Tea. According to Juliet, Serenitea is patterned after Taiwanese tea shops (where tea equals to water), and that they currently have 13 varieties of tea that can be commonly found in Taiwan.
Hokkaido Milk Tea and Black Dragon Milk Tea
After warming ourselves up with hot milk tea, it was time to sample the cold milk teas. For their cold counterpart, they give free (or optional) toppings, like pearls, pudding, crystals, black bricks (gelatin) or QQ. We had medium sizes of Hokkaido Milk Tea and Black Dragon Milk Tea (P75/cup - S, P80/cup - M, P85/cup - L), and I was an instant fan of the latter.
Hokkaido has interesting sweet caramel and coconut notes, which makes it an instant best-seller (we ordered it half-sugar), while Black Dragon, with full-sugar, played with my tastebuds with its brown rice flavor. Not too sweet, but definitely unique, Black Dragon is my personal recommendation.
A mix of coffee jelly and black pearls makes the Hazelnut Tea Latte (P85 - S, P90 - M, P95 - L)
a top pick of regulars in Serenitea. Sukis who live in the Greenhills and San Juan area even call up the store ahead to make sure that they have their drinks (and the pearls!) all ready and set when they arrive. If you like your milk teas cold and sweet, this tea latte is for you. Coffee lovers will also appreciate this drink, as the coffee jelly and hazelnut blend pleases the palate like a cold coffee cooler.
Hazelnut Tea Latte
Of course, they still serve the traditional Freshly Brewed Tea (P55 - S, P60 - M, P65 - L), they have around eight teas to choose from, and are priced reasonably. They also have special mixed teas, which are fruitier and more colorful in presentation. Cranberry Sensation (P70 - M, P75 - L) gets my vote, with its berry and tangy twists in every sip. If you want something different, try Green Tea Blast (P80), which has an orange kick to it, plus a mild beer flavor that makes the drink swishes around your mouth in a different way.
Green Tea Blast and Cranberry
By the way, additional servings of jelly and pearls cost only P5, but I have a feeling you may not need it since their original servings are generous to begin with. And if you feel you need something to nibble in between tea drinking, they also have some tasty -- very tasty -- snacks!
Juliet describes their snacks as good street food, popular pica-picas that are common in Taiwan that they decided to bring to the store, just like their teas. Their Pepper Sweet Corn (P50) and Pepper Tofu (P50) are spiced with a unique kind of flavoring that is also imported, making each bite a bit peppery, a bit salty, and highly addictive. The corn is slightly roasted and browned, the tofu chunky and chewy. What I give two thumbs up, however, is the snack that my best friend and I repeatedly order whenever we're at Serenitea: the Chicken Chop!
The Chicken Chop (P65) is generously spiced with the same special Taiwanese herbs and spices as the tofu and sweet corn, but what makes this little dish shine is also its crispness. Each bite sized piece is greaseless, and has a different coating of batter to make it crunchy. Nibble on the chicken and eat it with the crisp spiced basil that comes along with it. It's such a treat, you will want to have your own plate for yourself.
If you're looking for that little haven where you can hole up to have a breather from the busyness of routine, Serenitea may just be your sweet escape. Hot teas, cold teas, fruity teas or milky - have your tea time just the way you like it.
Serenitea delivers within the San Juan area for a minumum order of P200 (cold drinks only). Call 379-4166.