In Hong Kong, Coffee And Tea Come Together In One Delectable Drink

Sometimes you want coffee, sometimes you want tea. And sometimes, you kind of want both. Anytime that particular craving hits, you can reach for Hong Kong's classic yuenyeung.

Atlas Obscura reports that yuenyeung is a creamy, frothy combination of Hong Kong-style milk tea with coffee. The South China Morning Post claims that the drink was invented by the traditional Hong Kong cha chaan teng (tea house) called Lan Fong Yuen. This name is the Cantonese word for the Mandarin duck which are (incorrectly) regarded in the popular imagination as a species that mates for life. Because yuenyeung is seen as a harmonious marriage of tea and coffee, it was named after the harmoniously coupling species of fowl.

It is also a unique example of Hong Kong's identity as a combination of East and West, per Saveur. According to National Geographic, Hong Kong came under British rule in 1842. By the time that yuenyeung was supposedly created, it was a well-known international nexus between the powers of the Western world and mainland China. It's only fitting then that one of its most popular drinks is a blend of cultures as well.

Yuenyeung takes a delicate balance

Atlas Obscura notes that a good cup of yuenyeung won't taste too much like either coffee or milk tea. Instead, it will be a frothy smooth mixture of bitter coffee, rich milk, and floral black tea. Artful Tea points out that Hong Kong-style milk tea is unique because it is most often made with evaporated milk or sweetened condensed tea. This gives it a lush edge over the classic British cuppa and further helps to balance the complexity of the yuenyeung.

Like brewing any cup of coffee or tea, there are plenty of mistakes that can be made depending on the preparation type. This can make finding the balance between the tea and coffee difficult, but The South China Morning Post recommends starting with a ratio of three parts coffee to seven parts tea and adjusting from there depending on personal tastes. Preferred sweeteners (whatever they might be) can also be added as well to suit different palettes. Just remember that the key to a good yuenyeung is a balance between all the different flavors and that nothing should be dominating the drink. To assemble the drink, Saveur recommends starting by brewing a pot of tea on the stovetop. Once the tea has finished steeping, add the milk and return it to the stove briefly to heat the mixture. Then simply stir in the coffee and serve.