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#852Basics: 8 popular types of Hong Kong milk tea

By Maggie Lau 13 November 2018 | Last Updated 9 October 2019

Header image courtesy of Thanida Siritan (via Shutterstock)

Originally published by Sam the Local. Last updated by Gigi Wong.

Hong Kong is well known for its milk tea, which originated during the city’s British colonial days. With approximately 900 million glasses consumed each year, it’s clear that Hongkongers love a good cuppa. But with each outlet whipping up its own secret recipe, knowing where to find the crème de la crème of Hong Kong milk tea (港式奶茶; gong2 sik1 naai5 caa4) can be a challenge. Luckily, we have done the rounds to help avid tea drinkers find the perfect cup.

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Photo credit: Thanida Siritan (via Shutterstock)

A brief history

Milk tea has become a ubiquitous part of Hong Kong culture. Sweetened or unsweetened, hot or cold, Hongkongers drink it in the summer and winter with their breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner. Hong Kong milk tea is commonly made with a combination of black tea leaves and is known for its smooth texture and depth of flavour.

It is often referred to as “pantyhose milk tea” because the tea is poured through sackcloth filter bag (generally a white bag with many small holes) several times, which eventually becomes dyed brown and looks like pantyhose. With time, however, the famous drink has evolved into many different varieties, and here are some of the best ones around.

Photo credit: @kingofseeker (via Instagram)

With evaporated milk (奶茶)

This is the most common type of milk tea found in Hong Kong. Using a combination of tea leaves, evaporated milk (shops mostly use the Black & White brand because it leads to smoother milk tea), and then some sugar, which you can add in yourself. In some cases, however, the sugar is already added for you. Simple yet satisfying, this is a Hong Kong favourite served the classic way. 

Perfect for: Those who like their drinks served hot and not too sweet.

Where you can find this: Australia Dairy Company, 47–49 Parkes Street, Jordan | (+852) 2730 1356

Photo credit: @sheunyin (via Instagram)

With condensed milk (茶走)

This variety has the tea, of course, but the evaporated milk and sugar are taken away and replaced with condensed milk, giving it a creamy touch and well-rounded sweetness. In these servings, you can normally see the condensed milk sitting at the bottom of the cup. Don’t forget to mix it all up to make sure the flavour is balanced before indulging.

Perfect for: Those who enjoy hot drinks, and want their tea pre-sweetened with a smoother texture.

Where you can find this: For Kee Restaurant, 200 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan | (+852) 2546 8947

Photo credit: @sallysallyy (via Instagram)

In a metallic cup (凍奶茶)

If you fancy something colder in Hong Kong’s scorching heat, you can ask for a cup of cold milk tea, which is basically the same thing, but served with ice. You can request to have less ice or less sugar in it, according to your taste. Capital Café in Wan Chai is rumoured to use Hokkaido milk for its tea, and they serve delicious scrambled eggs and condensed milk on toast to go with it, too! 

Perfect for: Those who want a cold cup of this Hong Kong classic.

Where you can find this: Capital Café, Shop B1, G/F, Kwong Sang Hong Building, 6 Heard Street, Wan Chai | (+852) 2666 7666

Keep scrolling for the rest of the guide 👇

Photo credit: @quxiaoququ (via Instagram)

In a bottle (樽仔凍奶茶)

Traditionally, when ice was less accessible, milk tea was poured into empty soda bottles, such as Coca-Cola bottles, and then placed in the refrigerator to cool down. Some restaurants still use glass bottles to store milk tea, while others, such as Mrs Tang Café, now use plastic bottles for that old-school nostalgia. 

Perfect for: Those who want a unique spin on their drink and a taste of the good old days.

Where you can find this: Mrs Tang Café, locations across Hong Kong

Photo credit: @sinec1985 (via Instagram)

In a bowl of ice (冰鎮奶茶)

There are some cafés in Hong Kong who know how to take milk teas to the next level. Tai Hing, for one, takes into consideration the fact that some customers might not want their cold drink to be diluted by ice cubes. In this case, they take the cup or bottle and put it in a bowl of ice to keep the milk tea cold. Ingenious! 

Perfect for: Those who want the drink cold, but don’t want it watered down.

Where you can find this: Tai Hing, locations across Hong Kong

Photo credit: Ztore

In a carton (盒裝奶茶)

Given Hongkongers’ affinity for milk tea and juice boxes, combining the two was a no-brainer. Manufacturers “bottled” the drink into cartons as a way to sync up with the metropolitans’ busy way of life, so that they can indulge whenever and wherever desired. As the name suggests, milk tea is poured into empty cartons, to be drunk instantly or after refrigeration. A standout is certainly Vita’s Hong Kong-style milk tea. Made in Hong Kong with premium Ceylon tea leaves and evaporated milk, it delivers an authentic taste that blends the taste of the tea and the smoothness of the milk.

Perfect for: Those who want quick access to the authentic taste of this Hong Kong favourite.

Where you can find this: Available in supermarkets and convenience stores, such as 7-Eleven, ParknShop, and Wellcome.

Keep scrolling for the rest of the guide 👇

Photo credit: HKTVmall

In a can (罐裝奶茶)

In making the famous drink even more accessible, canned milk tea has emerged. Renowned for their pioneering cold milk tea served in a bowl of ice, Tai Hing has also launched a canned version of the Hong Kong beverage. Made from a blend of five Sri Lankan teas, it is rich in flavour and ready to be consumed after refrigeration. 

Perfect for: Those who enjoy their drinks cold and convenient.

Where can you find this: Available in supermarkets and convenience stores, such as 7-Eleven and ParknShop.

Photo credit: On The Eastern Journey

In instant form (即溶奶茶)

Instant milk tea is created for the convenience of customers. All you have to do is place a teabag in your cup, pour hot water over it, and wait for three to five minutes before pouring in a dash of milk. A few simple steps lead to a cup of freshly-brewed milk tea. Lipton, for instance, offers spin-offs of the classic drink that include original, extra flavourful, and golden smoothness flavours. Local Hong Kong brand Dai Pai Dong, on the other hand, serves up a distinctively aromatic and smooth drink that is made using the finest ingredients in the form of their signature instant three-in-one milk tea mix.

Perfect for: Those who enjoy hot drinks at home or in the office.

Where you can find this: Available in supermarkets and convenience stores, such as 7-Eleven, ParknShop, and Wellcome.

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Maggie Lau

Sam the Local

Sam the Local is a platform for people to discover cultural aspects of a city that are core to its identity, providing unique experiences through vetted locals. Its online portal connects you with people in Hong Kong who will customise your itinerary and take you and your group on unique trips with access to word-of-mouth knowledge. Visit their website here.