Top photo credit: Hong Kong Tourism Board
Tea restaurants, also known as “cha chaan tengs”, are famous for their affordable menus, and for providing a wide variety of Western-infused Hong Kong-style foods. These casual hangouts were integrated into the city during the 80s when many westerners migrated here. The daily rituals of milk tea and French toast slowly caught on, and these tea restaurants have taken over Hong Kong ever since.
Here Are the Top 5 Must-Order Items:
Hong Kong has its own “style” of milk tea. It’s like their own version of the latte. The different types of teas that are mixed into the brew are definitely a trade secret, but no matter whether it's served hot or cold, the tea produces a strong distinctive flavour, and it tastes so good. The superstar of this concoction is actually the evaporated milk. Almost always poured into some sort of filter cloth to ensure pure smoothness, the marriage of milk and tea in Hong Kong makes everybody happy and awake in our city.
Photo credit: Waterfalls and Caribous
Lemon Iced Tea
Lemon, tea and sugar. It sounds really simple but this is totally different from a regular iced tea with lemon. The tea itself is a lot stronger than other teas and the sugar and fresh sliced lemon even out the entire mixture, making it one of the most refreshing drinks from Hong Kong. No one can resist a Hong Kong-style lemon iced tea.
Photo credit: The Hong Kong Cookery
Spam and Egg Ramen:
This is the PB & J sandwich to every kid in Hong Kong. Every tea restaurant in town does it differently. Some places might specialise in their beef broth, while others, their scrambled eggs. Regardless of the practice, this is a daily consumption for many locals, and they can eat it all day, everyday. It sounds wild, but for some odd “mama’s homemade” nostalgic reason, locals cannot say no to a spam and egg ramen. Try it sometime!
Photo credit: Whatshieats
Think French toast is a plain and normal breakfast egg bread? Tea restaurants in Hong Kong have reinvented the definition of French toast. First, it’s a necessity to have the bread double stacked with a good layer of peanut butter in between, or dipped in egg with a secret crispy ingredient. Then it's fried until it’s golden perfection. It's served with a thin (or thick) slice of butter, combined with maple syrup. It is served pretty much all day, and often times, as dessert too.
Photo credit: The Food Gallery
Fried Chicken Leg
This one’s very simple. There is no glaze, no sauce, no funny business, just a plain, deep-fried chicken leg. Don't underestimate them because these little drumsticks are usually the greatest late night food in town. They are always served with generous amounts of French fries and the juicy chicken legs are typically devoured within minutes.
There are many places that reign in different parts of Hong Kong. One may find their favourite spot in Tai Po while another might enjoy a local hangout in Wan Chai that's been in operation for more than 50 years. The best way to discover the perfect cha chaan teng is by simply asking locals about their favourite spots, and then by giving those suggestions a try.
Toast Box (to be categorised as a true tea restaurant, it actually really should be locally and independently owned, and there are literally tons amazing ones in every corner in Hong Kong. But...just to give some examples of where one may find these items, Toast Box does offer 4/5 items listed above, and basically when in doubt, you can't really go wrong with Tsui Wah)