At 3 PM each day, lines begin to form outside of Hong Kong’s best milk tea street stalls, bakeries and diners. Bakers pull piping hot egg custard tarts from their outdoor ovens to accompany cups of thick and creamy, gutty milk tea. Afternoon tea is served!
In one of the world’s most diverse, intense and thriving cities, milk tea is at once a symbol of a fast paced city too busy to really slow down for tea time and a nod to its slower British roots and Chinese tea traditions. Hong Kong is full of contrasts like that. Milk tea cuts across classes and races to revive the pulse of the city (everyone has to stand in the same bakeries’ lines). It imparts a lasting taste in the memories of any traveler who has followed a local into a corner shop to take tea the way they do in the Pearl of the Orient.
If you get a chance to peek into the kitchen, you’ll see the art of milk tea, or “pantyhose tea” as it is sometimes called. It’s not a reverent tea tradition, but ceremonial in its own right. Tea strainers that resemble fishing nets or bug catchers are filled with black tea (usually Ceylon tea is used at the best places because of it’s flavor, body and strength). Boiling water is then poured through the tea back and forth between two metal stovetop kettles until it is strong enough to hold up to the evaporated and sometimes sweetened condensed milk that is added.
A good HK milk tea is smooth and creamy and leaves a layer of white foam on the side of the cup that lets you know that enough milk fat was used!
Recipe: Makes 3 cups
You will need:
2 cups water
4 Tablespoons Ceylon or Breakfast Tea
8 ounces evaporated milk
sweetened condensed milk or sugar to taste
In a saucepan, bring water and tea to a boil. Lower to medium and steep for 10 minutes, stirring every so often.
Strain tea, discard leaves and return tea to the saucepan.
Add evaporated milk and condensed milk or sugar and stir well. Serve hot.
For iced milk tea, refrigerate hot iced tea and serve over ice.