The milky way: a galaxy of flavours
Nana Chan brews cups of tea outside the Limehouse restaurant in Wan Chai. She makes Indian chai, Chinese tea sweetened with red dates and honey, and hojicha - Japanese roasted green tea. They're all milk teas which Chan will be serving at her Teakha tea shop, which she hopes to open in June.
For now, she has the Teakha 'pop-up' shop most Saturday afternoons.
'Many countries have a milk tea tradition. In England they serve tea with milk but it's often just a tea bag that sits in the teapot for a while and you add the milk yourself.
'In India you have chai, which is made with masala spice. In Hong Kong milk tea is served at the cha chaan teng [tea cafe], made with evaporated milk. In Singapore and Malaysia they use condensed milk.' The chai is made with Assam tea leaves; the Chinese version is made with Chinese black tea; and the Japanese style uses roasted green tea. Chan tasted a version of this at Starbucks in Japan. The flavour is mild, but the subtle toasted scent and flavour comes through, even with the milk.
Adding milk to quality teas might be frowned upon by purists, but Chan says it's a matter of taste. 'It's the same reason some people have milk with their coffee. Drinking milk with tea is easier to accept for some people - like having milk chocolate instead of dark.'
Hong Kong has its own culture of milk tea - strong, intensely caffeinated and milky, it's sweetened by the drinker.
'The cha chaan teng use their own blends, but they add evaporated milk because it's cheaper and lasts longer.
'Milk tea is different according to how it's experienced and where it's consumed,' she says. 'In Thailand and Taiwan it's a street snack; in Hong Kong it's served in a cha chaan teng; in India it's served at roadside stalls. It's almost everywhere, and it's blended into everyone's life.'
For information on the time and location of Chan's next pop-up shop, check out the Teakha fan page on Facebook, or go to her website at www.withnana.com