The Tea Detective
Uncovering and Exploring the Facts About Tea
Hong Kong Style Milk Tea - A Carry-Over
of Britain's Early Rule
Hong Kong style milk tea is a hold over from British colonial times when they
ruled Hong Kong  growing out of the British practice of afternoon tea, served
with black tea, and a healthy (or unhealthy) dollop of milk and sugar.  This prac-
tice eventually grew to be popular with Hong Kong citizens.  Using evaporated
or condensed milk rather than regular milk, it was called "milk tea" to distinguish
it from
Chinese tea.
Hong Kong milk tea is made from a blend of
several different black teas, with the types
and amounts usually kept a company secret
by commercial tea vendors.  It's likely they
use OP (orange pekoe) or BOP (broken
orange pekoe), possibly a good
Ceylon,
and/or a blend of
Indian teas, maybe Assam
or
Nilgiri, all depending on the tastes of the
vendor.

Evaporated milk and sugar is then added,
with condensed milk sometimes used in place
of evaporated to give a richer flavor as well
as added sweetness.

To make a cup of milk tea, approximately one
to three teaspoons of tea (depending on the
desired strength) is placed in a sackcloth bag,
added to the water, and brought to a boil, simmering for three to six minutes.  Sometimes the
pot is removed from the heat once it's boiled for three minutes, then brought to a boil again.
                                   This boiling process can be repeated several times, intensifying both the
                                   flavor of the tea and increasing the amount of
caffeine.  The milk and
                                   sugar are then added to taste, to the
brewed tea.  (See the link left
                                   for pre-measured portions of milk tea from Lipton Asia)

                                   The sackcloth bag used to filter the tea leaves is a key feature of
                                   Hong Kong style milk tea, however, any strainer or filter can be used.
                                   Sackcloth bags are preferred because they supposedly make the tea
                                   smoother.  The bag will gradually darken in color from the continual
                                   tea boiling and soaking.

                                   Milk tea is also referred to as "pantyhose milk tea" or "silk stocking
milk tea," nicknamed for the shape and color of the filter and sackcloth, that resembles a
woman's silk stocking.

As with everything, there are debates over
the proper sequence when making milk tea.
Some argue the milk should be added first,
before pouring the tea, others say the opp-
osite is right, first pour the tea, then add the
milk.  Either way is probably fine.

        There are several criteria with which a
        good, quality cup of milk tea is judged
        by, the first being its smoothness, how
        creamy and full-bodied it is. The second
        point for creating a proper cup of milk
        tea is its froth. Just as in
Bubble tea,
        after taking the first drink there
        should remain a ring of white froth just
        inside the lip of the cup.  This means it
        has the proper concentration of butterfat in the evaporated milk.

        The flavor and texture of Hong Kong style milk tea can be influenced by the type of milk
        used. Some Hong Kong cafes use a filled milk variant that's not pure evaporated milk but
        rather a combination of skim milk and soybean oil.

                                           There are several other variations of milk tea available, one of
                                           which is iced milk tea.  Years ago, before ice machines were
                                           prevalent, the milk tea was prepared, then poured into glass
                                           bottles, often times using recycled Vitasoy or Coca-Cola glass
                                           bottles, then refrigerated, and sold by the bottle.

                                           Today iced milk tea is available
ready-to-drink (RTD), in cans or
                                           plastic bottles, and can be found in many Hong Kong convenience
                                           stores, including 7-Eleven and Circle K.

        Another variation of milk tea is cha chow, which uses cond-
        densed milk, rather than evaporated milk and sugar.  The con-
        densed milk adds extra sweetness to the drink.  Milk tea and
        coffee is another variety, called yuan yang (yin yang). There is
        also a different take on silk stocking tea, called silk stocking
        coffee, using coffee as the base rather than tea.

                                           Another variety of milk tea that is similar to the Hong Kong style is
                                           boba milk tea.  This is a milk tea with tapioca added, also called
                                           pearl milk tea.  This is sometimes confused with bubble tea with
                                           pearls, which is a
Taiwanese concoction that's shaken or whipped
                                           to acquire the frothy foam or "bubbles," along with large, chewy
                                           tapioca pearls added.

                                           To make your own cup of milk tea you just need your favorite type
                                           of black tea (a bold, brisk BOP (broken orange pekoe works best),
                                           or Lipton black
tea bags work fine, too, evaporated milk and sweet-
                                           ener, or sweetened condensed milk which is already sweetened.
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Brew a strong cup of tea (use 3+ tsps), then add milk.  It's better to start with one teaspoon of milk at a time until
it's the flavor and consistency you like.  To get the froth bubbles you need only whisk the tea-milk a little until
bubbles form.  
Enjoy.
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