If someone were to ask me what the taste of Hong Kong would be, I’d close my eyes and say with a smile, “Milk tea.”
Not just any ordinary milk tea, mind you. The only milk tea worth having in Hong Kong is Hong Kong-style milk tea, where evaporated or condensed milk is used. This style of tea is also referred to as “silk stocking” or “pantyhose” milk tea as traditionally, silk stockings were used as filters for the tea leaves. Nowadays, a sackcloth bag is used. This filtering system purportedly makes the tea taste smoother.
Milk tea is ubiquitous in Hong Kong cafes (“cha chaan tengs”) and the mixture of tea leaves used are a closely guarded secret by each establishment that serves it. (It’s usually a mix of pu-erh and ceylon.) Served hot or cold, milk tea is delicious on any given day. In Hong Kong, milk tea holds the same status that coffee does in the West. Milk tea is frequently overlooked by foreigners or tour guides in favor of traditional Chinese tea or high teas. Oddly enough, I’m okay with that; it just means more milk tea for myself and the locals!
The recipe below is a cheat’s version of Hong Kong-style milk tea, as I definitely don’t have access to any closely guarded recipe blend of tea leaves. (I also don’t fancy wrangling with silk stockings over my stove top.) Taking that into account, this is as close as I can get to my beloved milk tea without actually going to Hong Kong and dining at a cha chaan teng.
Hong Kong-Style Milk Tea
- Two tea bags of a strong, plain black tea (e.g. Lipton black tea, English Breakfast, etc)
- Evaporated or condensed milk
- Ice (optional)
- Sugar (optional)
- Put the two tea bags in a mug. Add boiling water and let steep for two to three minutes.
- Remove tea bags. Add evaporated or condensed milk to taste. Stir and add sugar if needed.
- If serving iced milk tea, fill a glass with ice and pour the tea over the ice cubes.