Hong Kong-style milk tea

Hong Kong-style milk tea
Hot milk tea in a glass
Chinese 港式奶茶
Cantonese Yale Góngsīk náaihchà
Literal meaning Hong Kong-style milk tea
Alternative Chinese name
Chinese 香港奶茶
Cantonese Yale Hēunggóng náaihchà
Literal meaning Hong Kong milk tea
Second alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 大排檔奶茶
Cantonese Yale Daaihpàaidong náaihchà
Literal meaning dai pai dong milk tea

Hong Kong-style milk tea is a tea drink made from black tea and milk (usually evaporated milk or condensed milk). It is usually part of lunch in Hong Kong tea culture. Although originating from Hong Kong, it is found overseas in restaurants serving Hong Kong cuisine and Hong Kong-style western cuisine. In the show Top Eat 100 aired on 4 February 2012, Hong Kong-style milk tea is ranked number 4 in Hong Kong cuisines. Hong Kongers consume a total of 900 million glasses/cups a year.


Hong Kong-style milk tea originates from British colonial rule over Hong Kong. The British practice of afternoon tea, where black tea is served with milk and sugar, grew popular in Hong Kong. Milk tea is similar, except with evaporated or condensed milk instead of ordinary milk.[1] It is called "milk tea" (Chinese: 奶茶; Cantonese Yale: náaihchà) to distinguish it from "Chinese tea" (Chinese: ; Cantonese Yale: chà), which is served plain. Outside of Hong Kong it is referred to as "Hong Kong-style milk tea".


"Silk stocking" milk tea
Making milk tea with a "silk stocking"
Traditional Chinese 絲襪奶茶
Cantonese Yale sī maht náaihchà
Literal meaning silk-stocking milk tea

Hong Kong-style milk tea is made of a mix of several types of black tea (the proportion of which is usually a "commercial secret" for some milk tea vendors,[2] often Pu Lei and a type of Ceylon tea), evaporated milk, and sugar, the last of which is added by the customers themselves unless in the case of take-away. A variety uses condensed milk instead of milk and sugar, giving the tea a richer feel.

To make the tea, water and tea (about 1 to 3 teaspoons of tea a cup, depending how strong the drinker likes) are brought to a boil then simmered for about 3–6 minutes. The tea is usually put in a sackcloth bag before the water is added to the pot to filter it out or if no bag available poured through a strainer. Many people also remove the pot from the heat once it boils for about 3 minutes, then bring the pot to a boil again. This process can be repeated several times, intensifying the caffeine/flavor.[3]

The key feature of Hong Kong-style milk tea is that a sackcloth bag is used to filter the tea leaves. However any other filter/strainer may be used to filter the tea.[4] Sackcloth bags are not completely necessary but generally preferred. The bag, reputed to make the tea smoother, gradually develops an intense brown colour as a result of prolonged tea drenching. Together with the shape of the filter, it resembles a silk stocking, giving Hong Kong-style milk tea the nickname of "pantyhose" or "silk stocking" milk tea (Chinese: 絲襪奶茶; Cantonese Yale: sī maht náaihchà). This nickname is used in Hong Kong but less so in mainland China and overseas communities.[5]

There is some debate over the most authentic way of making milk tea, i.e. the sequence of adding each ingredient. Some have argued that milk should be added before pouring the tea, while others hold the opposite view. Though, to most people, both methods are acceptable.[1]

Some restaurants may choose to use condensed milk, where sweetness is already mixed in and cannot be changed. This creates a creamier than normal milk tea, which is also a bit thicker in viscosity. Other restaurants may use evaporated milk and allow the consumers to mix in the sugar themselves.

Milk tea is a popular part of many Hong Kongers' daily lives, typically served as part of afternoon tea, but also at breakfast or dinner. It enjoys nearly the same ubiquitous status that coffee holds in the West. Whilst not offered by more traditional Cantonese restaurants or dim sum teahouses, milk tea is standard fare in Hong Kong-style western restaurants and cha chaan teng, as well as Hong Kong's historic dai pai dong, with a price between HKD$12-16 (hot, one or two dollars more for cold). A cup of hot milk tea is usually either served in a ceramic cup (often referred to as a "coffee cup" 咖啡杯) or a tall cylindrical plastic glass.

Criteria for quality milk tea

The first criterion of a good cup of milk tea is its "smoothness" (香滑); in other words, how creamy and full-bodied it is.

Another criterion for tasty milk tea (and also bubble tea) is some white frothy residue inside the lip of the cup after some of it has been drunk. This white froth means that the concentration of butterfat in the evaporated milk used is high enough.

There is also another way for locals to distinguish high quality by identifying hints of oil on top of the drink after it has been properly brewed. This is the oil remains from the extensive process through the roasting process.

The taste and texture of 'Hong Kong' style milk tea might be influenced by the milk used. For example, some Hong Kong cafés prefer using a filled milk variant, meaning it is not purely evaporated milk (as with most retail brands) but a combination of skimmed milk and soybean oil.


Today, iced milk tea is usually prepared with ice cubes. However, in the old days, when machines for producing ice cubes were not popular, the iced milk tea was made by filling the hot milk tea into a glass bottle and then cooling it in a fridge. Sometimes the milk tea were filled in Vitasoy or Coca-Cola bottles, and were sold by bottle. Today this type of "bottle milk tea" is rare in Hong Kong. Iced milk tea in cans or plastic bottles can be found in many of the convenience stores around Hong Kong such as 7-Eleven and Circle K.

In the case of milk tea with ice cubes, the melting ice will dilute the content, thus affecting the taste of the drink; therefore, many people prefer the old way of preparing iced milk tea. Today, some cha chaan tengs serve ice-less iced milk tea, made by pouring hot milk tea into a plastic cup and then cooling it in a fridge. Another way is to place the cup/bottle into a cold water bath, which is called "ice bath milk tea" (Chinese: 冰鎮奶茶; Cantonese Yale: Bīngjan náaihchà). Some restaurants simply use ice cubes made of frozen milk tea. All these methods are often used as selling points.

Cha jau
Traditional Chinese 茶走
Simplified Chinese 茶走
Literal meaning "tea without [evaporated milk]"

Cha jau (Chinese: 茶走) is milk tea prepared with condensed milk, instead of evaporated milk and sugar. Its taste is, as can be expected, sweeter than ordinary milk tea. In the old days,[6] Cha chow was mostly drunk by older people who had "congestion" in their throats.

Milk tea and coffee together is called Yuenyeung (Chinese: 鴛鴦; Cantonese Yale: Yūnyēung). Yeung jau is milk tea/coffee with condensed milk.

A variation on "silk stocking tea" is "silk stocking coffee".

See also


  1. 1 2 R. Wertz, Richard. "Hong Kong Style Milk Tea". CULTURAL HERITAGE OF CHINA. ibiblio. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  2. PeoplesProductionHK (9 November 2011). "《飲食男女—大廚秘技》第廿四回 奶茶 (Cantonese)". youtube.com. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  3. "Interview with tea restaurant". Taste of tea.Scent of leaves. Taste of tea.Scent of leaves. Retrieved 21 March 2013. |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  4. "Best milk teas in Hong Kong (Page 1)". CNN Go. 7 June 2011. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  5. CNN Go 40 Hong Kong foods we can't live without 13 July 2011. Retrieved 9 October 2011
  6. "茶走". 百度百科. Baidu. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
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