Why milk tea can be good for you

Published September 10, 2020, 7:12 AM

by Zea Capistrano

Filipino scientists create milk tea to propagate probiotic and functional food

DAVAO CITY – When food science researchers delve into the food business, expect something really different.

Two former students of the University of the Philippines Mindanao, one a food technologist and the other a graduate of Social Science, have concocted a new milk tea that is sure to be the talk among milk tea fans. 

Kriza Faye Calumba, who previously published a study on probiotic beer using durian, says the idea of putting up “The Tea Culture” was fueled by her interest in the study of probiotics. “The probiotic beer was the product of my initially growing passion for probiotics. Since I returned to the Philippines from my Master’s study, my interest in this area has always been there,” Kriza tells the Manila Bulletin.

The Tea Culture store

Kriza finished her degree of Master of Science in Nutrition and Food Sciences at Louisiana State University in Louisiana in 2019. Her love for milk tea and interest in probiotics led her and Diocy Guilabtan, who graduated with a degree in Social Science, to venture into the business of milk tea. “The name ‘The Tea Culture PH’ targets two things: The Filipino culture manifesting increasing love for milk tea and the microbial culture involved, as the drink is made of yogurt produced using probiotic bacteria that proliferate in culture,” she explains.

Diocy Guilabtan and Kriza Faye Calumba co-own the Tea Culture shop

The Tea Culture sources probiotic yogurt from The Culture Spoon, which is lovingly prepared by a fellow food scientist, Mylene Arcena.  “Mylene received her Master’s degree in New Zealand at around the same time I was in the US. She worked in the research department when she came back and eventually ventured into starting her own yogurt brand. We decided to tap her expertise because we saw very high potential in her product. The Culture Spoon is the exclusive supplier of The Tea Culture PH yogurt, which we add to our milk tea drinks,” says Kriza.

Probiotics can help improve the immune system. “And boosting our immunity is what we need during a health crisis,” says Kriza. “With this initiative, we are also aiming to communicate food science to the general public by sharing about the benefits of probiotic food. We hope that this would elevate the appreciation of people for functional food in general.”

Kriza has known Diocy for a decade. “I am an assistant professor in food science, while Diocy previously worked at the Office of Extension and Community Service,” she says. “While our plans were halted by the pandemic, we had the opportunity to reassess our personal goals so we agreed to push through with this business endeavor.”

Apple cinnamon milk tea

While the pandemic caused the business sector with challenges, “business is doing great so far,” according to Kriza. The Tea Culture currently offers six yogurt milk tea flavors: signature yogurt pearl, apple cinnamon yogurt pearl, cacao yogurt pearl, mango yogurt, pineapple yogurt pearl, and banana yogurt pearl. Research and development efforts are ongoing.

“We are looking forward to introducing more drink and food varieties in the future. We are hoping that this product will encourage the Filipino consumers to explore healthier options,” says Kriza.