Fuelling Hong Kong folk’s appetite for stocking milk tea
separate the mixture into smaller bowls, to be served as individual servings.) 5. Pour the egg and tofu mixture into
the casserole dish. Add sesame oil. 6. Gently stir to combine and distribute the ingredients throughout the mixture. 7. Place the dish in a steamer to steam
for 20 minutes. 8. When done, remove from steamer. 9. Drizzle a little light soy sauce onto the surface and sprinkle some chopped spring onions on top if you like. 10. Serve immediately with plain rice. SOME cities are fuelled by coffee. In Hong Kong, it’s milk tea – a potent nostalgiainfused caffeine hit – that keeps things running, with fierce competition to brew the best in town.
There are thousands of restaurants offering the full gamut of both local and international cuisines, but it is the city’s no-frills diner-style cafes, some of them decades old, which remain perennial favourites with locals and still do a roaring trade.
Known in Cantonese as ‘cha chaan tengs’ or tea restaurants, they serve up cheap local favourites – from fried egg sandwiches and buttery French toast to noodle soups and macaroni.
The standard accompaniment is a milk tea, or lai cha – a tangy, deep-tan brew made from blends of black tea strained repeatedly for strength, then mixed with condensed or evaporated milk.
The city gulps down around 2.5 million cups a day.
At family-run tea shop Lan Fong Yuen on a hilly market street in Hong Kong’s Central district, business shows no sign of slowing after 60 years.
Owner Lam Chun-chung says the no-fuss nature of Hong Kong’s tea restaurants plays a big role in their popularity in a fast-paced city.
“People are always in a rush. Having a quick bite with milk tea is fast and convenient,” says Lam, who adds that his cafe has much more character than the growing number of sterile coffee shops.
Customers sit around shared wooden tables, many stopping for just 10 minutes to grab a quick breakfast or mid-morning boost.
A tea master juggles steaming pots on an electric stove, straining the hot brews through long cloth sieves – a key utensil for any serious Hong Kong lai cha joint.
The sock-like strainer has lent Hong Kong milk tea one of its nicknames – stocking milk tea. At this cafe, tea is strained seven times to intensify the flavour.
Hong Kong’s Association of Coffee and Tea says it is also building a global fanbase.
The Hong Kong-style milk tea has flowed freely through the city’s arteries for more than half a century, according to association chairman Simon Wong.
He tells how it was first served on Hong Kong’s docks to sailors and labourers, an earthy adaptation of the admittedly weaker version made with fresh milk by the colonial British who governed at that time.
“Hong Kong people wanted something with more punch. So we invented this type of brewing,” Wong says.
The strength of the tea and the canned milk made it value for money.
Wong’s father – a tea trader – was a proponent of the new concoction, setting up one of the first cha chaan tengs in Hong Kong, which still exists today.
Mainland China has now also developed a taste for Hong Kong-style milk tea, and immigrant communities across the world are introducing it to new countries, says Wong. – AFP-Relaxnews
Tea shops like Lan Fong Yuen (left) have been serving milk tea strained several times through a ‘stocking’ (above) for years.