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Unique cha chaan teng drinks you'll only find in Hong Kong

Do you know your yin yeung from your ham ling chut?

Written by
Time Out Hong Kong

Unless you're a local, or a Canto culture and lingo pro, stepping foot in a cha chaan teng can be somewhat intimidating, especially in eateries where there is a huge selection of local delicacies and drinks. And we often settle for the no-brainers like Hong Kong-style milk tea or iced lemon tea, which is totally fine if that's what you're after. But sometimes a little change is in order. So here it is, Hong Kong beverages that have been around for decades and are unique to the city’s food and drink culture. Keep scrolling to see what they are, and get sipping today!

RECOMMENDED: For more local finds, check out the best street food in Hong Kong or head to a local bakery and pick up a pastry or two.

Unless you're a local, or a Canto lingo pro, stepping foot in a cha chaan teng can be intimidating for some. , it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the wide selection of local delicacies and drinks, so we often settle for no-brainer options like a good ol’ cup of Hong Kong-style milk tea or iced lemon tea. So much so that we end up forgetting about the plethora of local beverages that have been around for decades and are unique to the city’s food culture. Read on to learn more about them! By Andrea Wong RECOMMENDED: If coffee is the only beverage for you, pay a visit to some of the best cafes and coffee shops in Kowloon and New Territories.

Tea/coffee with condensed milk

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We love a hot cup of Hong Kong-style milk tea, but one too many spoonfuls of sugar will result in a sweet cup of mess and a pool of undissolved sugar when you reach the bottom. So most people would order for a cha jau (茶走) or feh jau (啡走). The word ‘jau’ (走) means to leave out, so instead of adding in the sugar, the cha chaan teng will serve your cha (tea) or feh (coffee) with condensed milk as a sweetener. The condensed milk adds a soft and sweet milkier taste to the beverage.

Where: Try the feh jau at Tai Wo Tang Cafe which uses condensed milk as the bottom layer followed by espresso topped with milk foam.

Yin yeung

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Are you a tea lover or a coffee fanatic? Or maybe you're both? Yin yeung (鴛鴦) is a mixture of black coffee, HK-style milk tea, and evaporated milk. This beverage lightens the strong flavours of the coffee – which some are not too fond of – while still giving a decent amount of caffeine to kickstart your day. There’s also a decaf alternative for kids made with Ovaltine and Horlicks! Alongside Hong Kong-style milk tea, yin yeung is also on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Hong Kong, so it’s no surprise that it is available in most, if not all, cha chaan tengs in the city. It's also great with ice as a cool-down drink during Hong Kong's hot summers. 

Where: You can try this combo drink in most cha chaan tengs including Lan Fong Yuen in Central who claim to have created it back in 1952


Salty limes with 7up

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Though anything salty with a soft drink seems like a bad idea, this drink is actually not as disgusting as you think and it's great for when you have a sore throat thanks to the preserved salted limes in it. Salty limes with 7up, or ham ling chut (鹹檸七), is served on ice and does everything a drink with your meal is supposed to; quench your thirst and cut right through all the rich dishes you might be indulging in.

Where: Try a ham ling chut at Kam Wah Cafe and enjoy one of their famed pineapple buns while you're at it. Perfection!


Back in the day when chocolate was seen as a luxury, cha chaan tengs used to make chocolate beverages from cocoa powder, hence cocoa or 'guk gu' (唂咕), as it was comparatively more affordable than chocolate powder. While bitter, the cocoa drink was enough to satiate patrons’ choco cravings when mixed with water and a little bit of sugar. Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to find this drink as chocolate mixes are readily available at affordable prices.

Where: You can get cocoa at everybody's favourite Australia Dairy Company, or if a fan of dark chocolate, definitely give this a try at places like Gwong Wing Bing Sutt or Hon Fat Noodle Shop.


Black cow

The black cow (黑牛) is essentially an ice cream float made with Coke topped with chocolate ice cream, but Hong Kong cha chaan tengs have made it their own by introducing more flavours and colours into the mix. There’s the white cow (Sprite or 7-Up with vanilla ice cream), the yellow cow (cream soda with mango ice cream), and even the red cow (Ribena with strawberry ice cream or pomegranate juice with cherry ice cream).

Where: You can find the black cow drink and other coloured ‘cows’ available at Hearts Dessert.

Hot Coke with lemon and ginger

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We know it sounds weird, but hear us out. Hot Coke with lemon and ginger (檸樂煲薑) originated from China and was used as a home remedy for the common cold and sore throat. Cha chaan tengs first began to serve the drink for those with lower income as the medical system used to be less developed and not as widely available as it is today. It is said that the heat and burning sensation from ginger can relieve sore throats, whilst the hot fumes and aroma can clear up a blocked nose. The caffeine from Coke can stimulate the digestive system (and acts as a sweetener), and the lemon can add on extra vitamin C. Obviously, it's not a magic potion, but it provides short-term relief.

Where: If you're in need of an extra boost of energy, head to Mon Kee Cafe and give it a try!


Raw egg in hot water

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Directly translated to 'a monk jumping into the ocean', Raw egg in hot water (和尚跳海) only has two ingredients – raw egg and boiling water. The name came from the idea that a shiny, round egg yolk held resemblances to a monk's head, thus when the egg is cracked into the water, it is depicted as a monk jumping into the ocean (or in this case, boiling water). Back in the day, this drink was made popular by those with lower income to satisfy their daily nutrients on a budget. A raw egg mixed with hot water (sometimes with a bit of sugar) doesn't sound the most appetising or flavourful, but it's definitely an OG drink on cha chaan teng or bing sutt menus.

Where: Due to food safety reasons, only a handful of cha chaan tengs and bing sutts such as Wah Nam Bing Sutt still serve this concoction.

Where to find some local, and rather quirky, bites!

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