Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Hong Kong tea culture
The tea-drinking habits of Hong Kong residents derive from Chinese tea culture. After more than 150 years of British rule, however, they have changed somewhat to become unique in the world. This uniqueness is not only in terms of the tea itself, but also in terms of the underlying social and cultural values.
The History of Tea Houses in Hong Kong
The first tea house in Hong Kong was established at the end of the 19th century. At that time people bought tea leaves from tea houses so that they could serve tea to visiting guests. Tea would be brewed at the beginning of the day and would be served as guests arrived during the day. At night, the remaining tea would be poured away. They did this whether or not visitors actually arrived. This gave rise to the idiom "Tea is for pouring away."
In contemporary society, Hong Kong people buy tea at tea houses not only for serving their guests, but also for themselves.
The Packaging of Tea Leaves in Hong Kong
In the old times, when buying tea leaves at tea houses, the staff would take the tea leaves out of a large, foil container, weigh it and then pack it with papers and a plastic bag. This kind of packaging wasn't attractive and it would negatively affect the quality of the tea leaves as it would oxidise quickly, thereby losing its aroma.
The packaging of tea leaves has greatly improved since then. Now tea leaves are vacuum-packed in high density plastic packs with fancy packaging. Not only is the quality raised, but the market value of the tea is also increased.
The "Tea Pocket" Trend
Fast and convenient without losing the original taste, the tea pocket is changing the domestic habit of tea drinking in Hong Kong.
"Tea pockets", also known as tea bags, have in recent years been used in Chinese tea. Initially they could be found in the supermarket, but were not popular as they were not well-publicised and not very attractively packaged. As earlier with tea leaves, there has been an increase of well-packaged tea bags with any number of varieties of tea leave contained within. Most modern packages can be resealed so as to keep the tea dry. One of the brands has even made an inspiring design of the tea pocket that it gives the tea pocket a tetrahedral (pyramid-like) shape which allows more volume for larger sized tea leaves to expand and impart their flavor.
Special Habit of Tea Drinking in Hong Kong - "Morning Tea and Newspaper"
Hong Kong is a place with plenty of night life. In contrast, streets are almost empty from seven to eight in the morning. Most shops open at or after nine o'clock in the morning, where Chinese restaurants open at about six or even earlier (restaurants in the Western District open at about 4:00am). The working class of Hong Kong usually have breakfast in these Chinese restaurants in the early morning. They enjoy "一盅兩件" (Lit. One bowl with two pieces" ,meaning a cup of tea with two Dim Sums) and they read newspapers in the morning before they go to work. Many elderly people bring their caged birds to the restaurants and chat with others. They can spend a whole morning by doing this.
Special Hong Kong style Tea- "Milk Tea"
The Legendary 'Silk Sock'(lit. Pantyhose) Milk Tea'
"Milk Tea" is found widely in Hong Kong and is different from both Chinese and British Tea. It is an integral part of Hong Kong 'Tea Reaturants', pricing between HKD$9-$12 (Hot, one or two dollars more expensive for iced). It is made of strong black tea (mixed with other types of tea), evaporated milk, and sugar. One of the key characteristics of "Milk Tea" is that it uses a sackcloth bag to filter the tea leaves. The sackcloth gradually develops an intense brown colour as a result of prolonged tea drenching. Compounded with the shape of the filter, it simply looks like a pantyhose, so it is also known as "Silk Sock Milk Tea". The "silk sock" is reputed to make the tea smoother.
Hong Kong Style hot "Milk Tea" is always served in a wide china cup or glass, frequently being white. The wide cup makes you open your mouth wider and as a result a breath of air comes with the tea. This makes the Milk Tea taste even stronger.
Slang Expressions when ordering milk tea
"多/少甜" (Lit. More/Less sweet) - with more/less sugar
"多/少奶" (Lit. More/Less milk) - with more/less evaporated milk
"走甜" (Lit. Running away the sweetness) - without sugar
"飛沙走奶" (Lit. Flying the sand away and running the milk away) - Milk Tea without sugar and milk (Sounds amusing, but there exists)
Milk/Tea or Tea/Milk?
There had been debates over the authentic way of making milk tea i.e. the sequence of adding each. Some people argue that milk should be added before pouring the tea, while some hold the contrast view. Most people do agree that both ways are authetic. In the past, however, the majority of milk tea were made with milk, followed by addition of tea. This was probably due to the fragile cups may break when the tea(can be as hot as 80-90 degree celsius, depending on the "Tea Barista") is poured. There is also a saying that the milk can be sterilized when the tea is added.
Places for Enjoying Tea
In the past, people often enjoyed tea in old restaurants with a long history, also known as "neighbouring restaurants" (茶寮). This kind of restaurant was built with simple and cheap decoration. However, it was the place for the neighbors to meet as a morning routine. Especially for the elderly, their main entertainment was going to chat with their neighbors in the "old place". They read newspapers, discuss current issues, their family life, their good old days...to name but a few. As time passed by, a strong bond would form between the patrons and the restaurants. From now, we can still find this kind of restaurants in some old estates in Hong Kong. But if you want to experience this unique feature of Hong Kong, don't stay up late! Most of the restaurants in old estates close before the noon. Those popular and favourite dim sum would probably be sold-out before noon as well.
These traditional restaurants have phased out. This is because the elderly population has decreased in number, and the young generations hold a view that the old restaurants are unhygenic and noisy. They prefer to go to the big and new restaurants in the large plazas, despite the fact that the the prices are more expensive.
Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware
The Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware is a branch museum of Hong Kong Museum of Art, located centrally in Hong Kong Park. It is a place for collecting, studying and displaying tea ware and holding regular presentation or demonstration lectures to promote Chinese tea drinking culture. Many famous Yixing teapots are exhibited in the museum.
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