Hmm fragrant pantyhose tea...

In Hong Kong's Golden Phoenix Cafe, Fatty Ming brews large pots of the city's famed milk tea, using "pantyhose" stuffed with tea leaves.

by: James Pomfret | 03 Jan 2008

"The tea is superb, smooth and fragrant," said one veteran tea brewer known as Fatty Ming, in describing Hong Kong's "Pantyhose" milk tea, a drink born in the east-west melting pot which reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

The drink, a Chinese take on English tea-drinking traditions, is brewed in a long cotton "sock" or filter resembling a beige pantyhose, rather than a female undergarment itself.

Over the decades, pantyhose milk tea has become a city-wide institution, craved daily by regular Hong Kongers as well as film stars and tycoons who flock to the city's best tea-diners.

The blend of Indian and Sri Lankan tea leaves, strained repeatedly over 10 to 20 minutes, makes it difficult to prepare oneself.

"You need experience to do this, not everyone can do it," said Fatty Ming, pouring the dark liquid into six large teacups.

Egalitarian haunts

While Paris has cafes and New York its diners, Hong Kong has its "cha chaan teng" or tea-diners, where pantyhose milk tea is served in often unpretentious and raucous surroundings.

"Every city has certain foods and drinks which reinforce its identity and Hong Kong is fortunate to have pantyhose milk tea," said Craig Au Yeung, a Hong Kong food writer.

Despite the global rise of coffee culture as propagated by the likes of Starbucks, Hong Kong's milk tea tradition and tea diners remain an integral part the throbbing city's urban fabric.

"It (coffee) hasn't really toppled pantyhose milk tea's reputation and stature as "big brother", said Au Yeung, the food writer.

"People won't forget about milk tea just because coffee is more popular, I don't think it'll die down. No way," he added.

Others say the gruff waiters and working-class ambience of pantyhose milk tea haunts are as important as the drink itself, and carry a quintessential Hong Kong vibe that other places lack.

- None


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