I have never been a huge tea fan and especially tea with milk added. So when I moved to Hong Kong and saw they had milk tea on the menu I was very surprised. I didn't want to try it either because I really did not like tea with milk in my home country. I'm used to a weak blend of milk and tea with a bitter taste.
However, when I was out with my friend for dinner one day he asked why I didn't try the milk tea. I said it's because I don't like it, and he explained to me that the milk tea in Hong Kong was something totally different. So I ordered milk tea, and havent regretted trying it for a minute. It blew my mind how different the taste was. It was rich, sweet (not bitter) and just super tasty. Since then I have been drinking milk tea when eating out in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong milk tea was invented during the British colonial times. Some say that the British milk tea was too weak in flavour for the locals and then the locals made their own Hong Kong milk tea, which was more rich in flavour and smoother texture. It's also said that there was little fresh milk in Hong Kong during that time, so evaporated milk was the best solution. Others say that the Hong Kong style milk tea was the tea for the working class, but has become a drink that everyone enjoys. The tea has also become a symbol of the mix of cultures in Hong Kong, with the mix of British influence, Hong Kong brewing technique and tea mix from Sri Lanka.
In Hong Kong milk tea is serious business. There is an annual tea brewing competition to find the best brewer and there are several different big distributors of tea blends. One of the biggest distributors is Kam Cha, which has developed an AI robot that makes milk tea. Not only is milk tea a part of Hong Kong culture, it is a part of Hong Kong's intangible heritage list, and everyday life (HK consumes about 2,5 million cups per day) of Hong Kongers.
There are many different ways of serving the milk tea, it can be hot or cold and when ordering the iced version different restaurants have different styles. Normally the ice is added to the drink, but some also serve the ice around the cup to make the cup cold and not to add extra water to the tea. Other restaurants will also serve the milk tea cooled from the fridge without ice. There is a discussion about where the drink was invented but we like to believe it originated in Hong Kong at the Lan Fong Yuen.
Different ways of serving milk tea - Milktealogy
Because I was not a huge tea drinker before I moved to Hong Kong, I would rather drink coffee. So I had another revolution when going to the Hong Kong restaurants, Yuenyeung. The magical mix of milk coffee and milk tea. It's the best of both worlds and only found in Hong Kong.
Milk tea has definitely become a drink I can't go long without. Every time I have friends or family visiting Hong Kong, I suggest they try milk tea. They are all very sceptical but finally they love it. I especially remember one of my friends trying it for the first time. Her face was indescribable and was lighting up in shock and excitement. This just explains how special the milk tea in Hong Kong is.
How much do you love milk tea?
There are many places to go to in Hong Kong for a good cup of milk tea, here are some favourites.
Lan Fong Yuen
Australia Dairy Farm
Hoi On Cafe
Cafe De Jargor
and traditional cha chaan tengs!
Links to learn more!
Picture 1: Pulling the tea
Picture 2: Different ways of serving milk tea - Milktealogy