When asked to name their favorite food from a Hong Kong local cafe, also known as a cha chaan teng, two of our Local insiders, Victor C. and Peggy L., both chose Yuanyang. Same drink, different perspective. It reminds us again that even if two people took you to the same place, you get two different stories. (Tip: Chinese terms can be found at the bottom of the post.)
Victor C. – He is a postgraduate student of sustainable tourism who has an interest in culture, history and geology. He loves all kinds of local Hong Kong food and can tell you about anything from faux shark fin soup to cart noodles and pineapple buns.
Instead of my favourite food in a local cafe, I am showing you my favorite drink, “Yuanyang” (coffee with milk tea), a drink that locals love to order at a cha chaan teng. The drink is on the list of intangible cultural heritages in Hong Kong as it is undoubtedly the best representative of the local culture, and you can only try it here in Hong Kong. With local tea from the East and coffee from the West, the mixture shows you the creativity of the locals and how different cultures can be perfectly mixed and matched in Hong Kong.
Just like a cup of milk tea, every cha chaan teng has their own secret recipe of a cup of perfect Yuanyang. What’s special about these recipes is that they usually have different formulas between mixing a cold and a hot Yuanyang. If you don’t like your drink to be too sweet, certainly you can order it with “Siutim” (less sugar) and vice versa. You would definitely have fun in the process of searching for “your cup of Yuanyang”!
In recent years, a new mixing method “Yang Zou” has been developed, and it is only available as a hot drink. What makes it so different from the traditional mixing of Yuanyang is the choice of milk. They replace the evaporated milk with condensed milk (which is sweet), so when you order “Yang Zou”, remember not to add sugar in it, otherwise it’ll taste terribly sweet!
Oh no! I’m craving for Yuanyang again! I’ll go grab one now! See you next time!
Peggy L. – She grew up in Hong Kong and loves to go backpacking to experience different cultures. When home in Hong Kong, she enjoys sharing how Hong Kong is a fusion of Chinese and Western cultures.
Yuanyang (鴛鴦), with the mix of toasty coffee aroma and distinctive milk tea scent, is considered to be on of the most quintessential drinks in cha chaan tengs.
Well, Hong Kong is always a good mix of everything.
Little do I know the story of this magical drink that embraces the fusion of East and West, which is the essence of Hong Kong cultures – but its name already has it all.
Yuanyang, based on its Chinese literal meaning – refers to mandarin ducks and how males and females differ in appearances but can always get along well with each other. Similarly, both Hong Kong-style milk tea and coffee have their exquisite flavors but blending 70% of the former with 30% of the latter would cause people to have a harmonious Yuanyang combination.
It is my dad’s all-time favorite beverage. As a kid, I was always curious as to how it would taste and why my dad was so into it. Once I tasted it, I was convinced – and there has been no way that I could ever skip having a sip of its bitter-sweetness in a cha chaan teng. Having it iced would give me a boost of needed energy in the warm weather, whereas having it hot would provide an added sense of coziness in chilly weather.
Here’s the best combination: I always have it along with platters of local food – macaroni soup with ham, scrambled eggs and a slice of buttered toast. My magic slogan goes like “Sheung Chaan (the mentioned food combination), Caau Daan (scrambled eggs), Yit Yeung (Hot Yuanyang), Ng Goi (Thank you)！”
Don’t forget to gobble them up with your friends – because a table filled with extra deliciousness looks exceptionally satisfying.
Editor’s Note: Victor refers to the drink as Jyun Jeong and Peggy refers to the drink as YinYeung. All instances have been changed to Yuanyang to align with more common references of the drink.
Cha Chaan Teng (茶餐廳) – local Hong Kong cafe
Yuanyang (鴛鴦) – coffee/milk tea drink
Yang Zou (鴦走) – sweetened coffee with condensed milk instead of evaporated milk
Siutim (少甜) – less sweet
Sheung Chaan (常餐) – regular meal, like a daily special
Caau Daan (炒蛋) – scrambled eggs
Yit Yeung (熱鴦) – hot coffee/milk tea drink
Ng Goi (唔該) – thank you
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