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Best milk teas in Hong Kong
At these classic eateries, tea, milk and sugar are expertly combined to make that signature Hong Kong drink we're all in love with
Milk tea is Hong Kong's undisputed king of drinks. Stemming from the British colonial practice of adding milk to black tea, the Hong Kong version is strained through a sackcloth to encourage smoothness.
Here are four of our favorite places for grabbing a bite with a cup of hot or cold milk tea.
Do you have a favorite milk tea joint? What makes it so special? Let everyone know in the comments box below.
"Gold tea" at Tai Fat
Milk tea expert Lai Wong Ming has been making the stuff for more than three decades and he reckons he has altered his recipe at least 30 times through the years.
"Hong Kong people strive for a perfect cup of milk tea like other people obsess about kopi luwak or Blue Mountain coffee," says Lai.
"We use a mixture of six types of Ceylon tea, four ounces of tea to a pot. Combined with Black and White brand milk, we can make eight cups of milk tea."
Master Lai can be found at Tai Fat Restaurant, owned by the Pang family. The eatery became famous in Hong Kong when it won the 2009 Hong Kong Milk Tea King competition. Its signature drink is known as "gold tea."
From humble beginnings, Tai Fat is now frequented by the likes of Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang.
"This cha chaan teng used to be a simple store," says Tai Fat heir Ryan Pang. "My grandfather opened it in a wooden shack in 1960. He met a Gurkha solder back then who sold him some tea leaves.
"Grandfather then added milk to the tea leaves and sold it from his store. That was the beginning of this restaurant."
The key to Tai Fat's milk tea is mildness. The tea here is slightly less strong than what you find elsewhere, making it an easy to drink crowd pleaser.
Tai Fat Restaurant 大發餐廳開心菜館. Shop 5, Beauty Court Shopping Centre, 4212-4213 Hung Shui Kiu section of Castle Peak Rd., Yuen Long, New Territories, +852 2443 5533.
The original: Lan Fong Yuen
In the 1950s, Hainanese coffee was in fashion. Lum Muk Ho learnt to make the coffee and applied the technique to milk tea, selling it in his dai pai dong Lan Fong Yuen.
After making milk tea for decades, Lum passed his skills onto his son Lam Chun Chung. But even Lam has retired his sackcloth sieve now as his hands suffer from arthritis.
"Our customers in the past were vendors from Central market," says Lam. "Those vegetable sellers and fish mongers and even coolies, they would pass by our stall and see my father 'pulling' the tea through a sackcloth strainer, pouring it repeatedly from one container to another.
"The sackcloth would become stained and resembled a flesh colored stocking, so they would come in and say 'Give me a glass of that silk stocking milk tea.'"
The nickname for the drink stuck.
At Lan Fong Yuen, a very fine sackcloth and a copper teapot is used to make milk tea. The tea and milk are strained through the cloth sieve eight times to produce its incomparable velvet texture.
Try tasting the milk tea without sugar first to enjoy the richness of the tea aromas. Add sugar later on if you need it.
Lan Fong Yuen. Shop 2, Gage Street, +852 2544 3895.
That community feeling at Bing Kee
Bing Kee's menu is succint. It lists a handful of instant noodles, rice vermicelli and sandwich options. The drink is always milk tea.
People flock here for it.
Diners from all walks of life crowd together at Bing Kee's few tables to munch on simple eats and linger over a fragrant cuppa. It doesn't matter if they drive a Benz or a concrete mixer, everyone loves the creamy tea here.
The dai pai dong has been around for 50 years and is run by the Fung brothers. They're used to nosy bloggers and journalists, greeting us with the line: "Take all the photos you want, but we're not doing interviews."
Each brother is in charge of one of the components of the dai pai dong -- making the noodles, making the milk tea and taking orders.
We love their milk tea with a heaping bowl of pork chops and instant noodles with a dash of homemade pickled chillies. The rich tea cuts right through the briny and spicy dish -- spot hitting.
Bing Kee tea stand. Ormsby Street, Tai Hang, +852 2577 3117.
Milk tea of longevity at Tak Yu
Some people think that silk stocking milk tea is really made from a silk stocking.
"That's really gross," says Tak Yu's Mrs. So. "Even if it were a brand new stocking, that would still be gross."
The matron opened this eatery when she was in her thirties. She's 88 years old now.
Her secret to longevity? Maybe its the yuan yang that she drinks -- a mixture of milk tea and coffee. Mrs. So likes hers with three spoonfuls of sugar.
So's sons take care of the business these days, but she still helps out when she can.
"It isn't the milk tea that makes me alert, it's work that makes me alert," she says.
"I have been drinking milk tea for 50 years, but I don't need it. I'm not addicted. If someone insists on serving it to me then I will drink it. If not, then I won't."
Tak Yu uses the popular Black and White brand of milk. The hot milk teas are served in simple plastic cups, but they retain their warmth for a long time.
Also read 40 Hong Kong foods we can't live without.
Tak Yu cha chaan teng. 17-18 Kwong Ming St., Wanchai, +852 2528 0713.