Hong Kongers crave for iconic pantyhose tea

Hong Kong, Dec 28 | Updated: Dec 29 2007, 06:13am hrs
Amid wisps of steam and the aroma of freshly-baked egg tarts, the tea masters at Hong Kongs Golden Phoenix Cafe brew large pots of the citys famed milk tea, using pantyhose stuffed with tea leaves.

The tea is superb, smooth and fragrant, said one veteran tea brewer known as Fatty Ming, in describing Hong Kongs 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 citys best tea-diners. The tea is strong and if its well-brewed, you feel a great comfort, said Brenda Lo, a self-confessed milk tea addict.

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.

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.

At the famed Lan Fong Yuen tea-diner in the Central financial district, where pantyhose milk tea was supposedly invented in the 1950s, it isnt unusual to see a whole cross-section of Hong Kong society mingling happily over a milk tea and a snack.

Hong Kongs leader Donald Tsang recently said, I like nothing more than popping into a cha chaan teng (for a cup of milk tea). Hong Kong-born Hollywood star Chow Yun-fat is also known to drop by in his flip-flops for a hit of the steaming brew.