Food & Drink



Hong Kong Style Milk Tea



Hong Kong-style milk tea (Traditional Chinese: 港式奶茶; Simplified Chinese: 港式奶茶; Pinyin: gǎng sh́ nǎi chá; Cantonese: gong2 sik1 naai3 ca4) or dai-pai-dong milk tea (Traditional Chinese: 大排擋奶茶; Simplified Chinese: 大排挡奶茶; Pinyin: dà pái dàng nǎi chá; Cantonese: daai6 paai4 dong3 naai3 ca4) is a beverage originating from Hong Kong. It consists of black tea sweetened with evaporated milk, and is usually part of an afternoon meal in Hong Kong tea culture.

Although it originates from Hong Kong, it is now also frequently found outside of Hong Kong, including at restaurants serving Hong Kong-style western cuisine. The bubble tea (boba tea) is a similar-tasting drink from Taiwan that makes use of cold milk tea.


Hot milk tea in a "coffee cup" in a breakfast.

Hong Kong-style milk tea originates from British colonial rule over Hong Kong. The British practice of afternoon tea, where black tea with milk and sugar is served, became popular in Hong Kong. "Milk tea" is similar to the type of tea drunk in Britain, except that evaporated milk is used instead of ordinary milk. It is called "milk tea" (naai3 ca4) to distinguish it from Chinese "tea" (ca4). Chinese tea was and still is drunk unsweetened and without milk.

Hot milk tea in a cylindrical cup.

Hong Kong-style milk tea is made of a mix of several types of black tea (the proportion of which is usually a "commercial secret" for those famous milk tea sellers), evaporated milk, and sugar, the last of which is added by the customers themselves unless in the case of take-away. The common advertising catchphrase for milk tea in Hong Kong is "Ceylon black tea with Holland Black & White evaporated milk".

The key feature of Hong Kong-style milk tea is that a sackcloth bag is used to filter the tea leaves. The bag, reputed to make the tea smoother, gradually develops an intense brown color as a result of prolonged tea drenching. Compounded with the shape of the filter, it simply looks like a pantyhose. Therefore, Hong Kong-style milk tea is also known as "silk stocking milk tea" (Chinese: 絲襪奶茶; Pinyin: sī wà nǎi chá). This name is used in Hong Kong but appears less commonly in Mainland China and overseas communities.

A brand of milk tea entitled "silky smooth" (絲滑). Obviously the name is inspired by the term "silk stocking milk tea".


Milk tea is typically served as part of afternoon tea, but is served at breakfast or dinner as well. The beverage enjoys nearly the same ubiquitous status that coffee holds in western countries. While not offered by more traditional Cantonese restaurants or dim sum teahouses, milk tea is standard fare in Hong Kong-style western restaurants and cha chaan tengs, as well as Hong Kong's historic dai pai dongs, with a price between HKD$8– $12 (hot, one or two dollars is additionally charged for cold).

There had been debates over the authentic way of making milk tea, i.e. the sequence of adding each. Some people argue that milk should be added before pouring the tea, while some hold the opposite view. Most people do agree that both ways are authentic. In the past, however, milk tea were usually made in the tea-after-milk way. It is said that the cups may break when the tea (which can be as hot as 80- 90 degree Celsius) is poured. There is also a saying that the milk can be sterilized when the tea is added.

In Hong Kong, a cup of hot milk tea is usually either served in a ceramic cup (often referred to as a "coffee cup") or in a low cylindrical cup made of glass or plastic.

Cold Milk Tea

Cold milk tea and toast with butter and condensed milk (奶油多士/奶油多), a common breakfast or teatime choice in Hong Kong.

Today the cold milk tea is usually prepared with ice cubes. However, in the old days, when machines for producing ice cubes were not popular, the cold milk tea was made by filling the hot milk tea into a glass bottle and then cooling it in a refrigerator. Sometimes the milk tea were filled in Vitasoy or Coca-Cola bottles, and were sold by bottle. Today this type of "bottle milk tea" is rare in Hong Kong.

In the case of milk tea with ice cubes, the melting ice will dilute the content, thus affecting the taste of the drink; therefore, many people prefer the old way of preparing cold milk tea. Today some cha chaan tengs serve ice-less cold milk tea, made by pouring hot milk tea into plastic cup and then cooling it in a fridge, and use that as a selling point.

Most people would say that the first criteria of a good cup of milk tea is its "smoothness". To be more precise, a satisfying cup of milk tea is expected to be creamy and, to use the jargon of wine-tasting, full-bodied.

One of the indicators of a nice cup of milk tea (also of bubble tea) is the appearance of "掛杯" (Cantonese: gwa būi; lit. hanging cup). If the concentration of butterfat in the evaporated milk used is high enough, some white substance can be seen "hanging" on the internal surface of the cup, after a portion of the drink has been drunk. A sufficient concentration of butterfat is said to make the drink full-bodied.

Cha Chow

Cha chow (Chinese: 茶走; Pinyin: chá zǒu; lit. tea running or removing) is milk tea prepared with condensed milk, instead of evaporated milk and sugar. Its taste is, as can be expected, sweeter than ordinary milk tea.


Food & Drink :: Tea

History | Introduction | Tea Cultures | Hong Kong Style Milk Tea | Literature- "Tea Classics" | Varieties of Tea




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