Hong Kong milk tea is also known as “pantyhose tea” or “silk stocking tea” because it is often brewed in a large tea sock that resembles pantyhose. It has a smooth, creamy texture thanks to the evaporated milk (or, if you opt for sweetened, condensed milk, it becomes beguilingly sweet and full-flavored).
As the name says, milk tea originated in Hong Kong. Milk tea stems from British colonial rule over Hong Kong. The British tradition of afternoon tea, where black tea is served with milk and sugar, became popular in Hong Kong. Milk tea is similar, except it is made with evaporated or condensed milk instead of ordinary milk. It is called "milk tea" to distinguish it from "Chinese tea", which is served plain. Outside of Hong Kong, it is referred to as Hong Kong-style milk tea.
One variation is iced milk tea. Iced milk tea in cans or plastic bottles can be found in many of the convenience stores around Hong Kong such as 7-Eleven and Circle K.
Cha chow 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. Milk tea and coffee together is called yuan yang .
Really good milk tea is very smooth (creamy and full-bodied). Tasty milk tea also has some white frothy residue inside the lip of the cup after some of it has been drunk. This white froth means that the concentration of butterfat in the evaporated milk used is high enough.
The taste and texture of 'Hong Kong' style milk tea might be influenced by the milk used. For example, some Hong Kong cafés prefer using a filled milk variant, meaning it is not purely evaporated milk (as with most retail brands) but a combination of skimmed milk and soybean oil.
- Combine water and tea leaves in a small saucepan over medium heat.
- Bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes.
- Remove from heat. Stir in sweetened, condensed milk. Return to heat.
- Return to a boil. Simmer for 3 more minutes.
- Strain and serve hot or (optional) chill and serve over ice. Small glasses are ideal.