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Tea cafes on UN heritage menu

Hong Kong's characteristic cha chan teng restaurants should be recognised as a piece of world heritage, according to almost 70 per cent of respondents to a poll.

They said the homely eateries, where locals flock to enjoy snacks like milk tea and toast, should be put on the United Nations World Heritage List along with China's ancient imperial palaces, the Great Barrier Reef and parts of the Rocky Mountains.

Three-quarters of respondents to the poll by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said they had patronised a cha chan teng in the past month and just over a third said they did so five times or more in a month.

Asked why, about 35 per cent said the restaurants were down-to-earth and the prices were reasonable, while 31 per cent said the locations were convenient and the meals were served quickly.

The most popular drink and food are milk tea and sandwiches, with a response rate of 42 per cent and 34 per cent respectively.

More than 80 per cent of 700 people interviewed by telephone this month said they would recommend the Hong Kong-style restaurants to tourists.

DAB legislator Choy So-yuk said the survey showed strong support for cha chan teng and the government should try to promote them internationally. 'Even many mainland tourists do not know cha chan teng,' she said. The mainland had its tea houses but they did not serve unique fare.

Ms Choy will move a motion in the Legislative Council next Wednesday to urge the government to include cha chan teng in the suggestions to the State Ministry of Culture and to apply for the inscription of it as 'intangible cultural heritage of humanity' with the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. The central government will send applications to Unesco every two years to apply for the World Heritage List.

The Home Affairs Bureau has commissioned a preliminary study on what to preserve to meet the requirements of a list to the UN Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Hong Kong's preliminary list includes herbal tea, lion dances, the Tai Hang fire dragon dance and the Cheung Chau Bun Festival.