Introduction to Hong Kong Tea

The inspiration for this article came when my parents visited Hong Kong for several weeks to visit family and have a holiday.  When I spoke with them to see how they were getting on, my mum said to me she couldn’t wait to get to Australia to see me.  A smile graced my face until she finished the sentence off with “so she could have a proper cup of tea”.  😮

Ceylon Tea (Photo source: The English Tea Store)
Ceylon Tea (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Different parts of the world are renowned for their different types of tea.  Japan is renowned for its green tea, India for its masala chai, Australia for its Billy Tea.  Hong Kong is renowned for Hong Kong tea which is a beverage consisting of black tea (typically Ceylon tea) with evaporated milk or condensed milk. Sugar may also be added in addition to the sweetened milk.  In Cantonese it is known as “lai cha” (the literal English translation is “milk tea”) to distinguish it from Chinese Tea which doesn’t require milk.

To make Hong Kong Style Milk Tea:

  • Place 3 or 4 tablespoons of Ceylon Tea (Pu’erh has also been known to be used for Hong Kong Tea) to about 5 cups of water in a saucepan.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and add a small can of condensed milk.
  • Bring the saucepan to a boil again.

This process of boiling and simmering can be repeated several times which is said to help intensify the flavour of the tea. The intensity of the tea is said to be of a similar intensity of a Vietnamese or Thai coffee which are also made with condensed milk (except that Hong Kong Tea is a hot beverage whereas the Vietnamese and Thai coffees are typically iced).

After the tea is made, a sackcloth bag is used to filter the tea leaves. It is said that the use of this sackcloth makes the tea smoother, which develops the flavour even further. Given the shape of the filter, which resembles a silk stocking, Hong Kong-style milk tea has been given the affectionate name of “silk stocking” milk tea.  (Don’t worry – no ladies gave up their pantyhose to make this brew).

Similar to the British way of making a cuppa the age old debate of whether to add milk before or after the tea extends to the Hong Kong style of making tea, too.  Whilst the debate goes on, what tea drinkers do agree is that the hallmark to a good milk tea is how smooth the tea is and how creamy and full bodied it is.

The strength and sweetness of Hong Kong Tea is not everyone’s cup of tea but I do think it is a beverage you might want to treat yourself to from time to time.

See also:
Tea Traditions — Australia

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8 thoughts on “Introduction to Hong Kong Tea

      1. A.C. Cargill

        May King, you need to contact Bam separately from this blog. I’m not sure how your comments are getting approved here. Everything is supposed to be moderated. No biggee, I just need to approve all comments. Thanks.

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