In Hong Kong’s cafes and diner-like cha chaan tengs, an unusual drink stands out. For one thing, it’s called yuenyeung or yuanyang, which means “mandarin duck.” But rest assured that no duck makes its way into the creamy brown drink in your cup. Instead, the name is a poetic reference. Mandarin ducks are known to mate for life, and in yuenyeung, both coffee and milk tea mix in an unusual, yet harmonious, blend.
Hong Kong is famous for its milk tea, a blend of black tea and condensed or evaporated milk that’s served hot or iced. It’s unknown what intrepid caffeine-seeker first decided to add coffee to their tea. These days, the drink is made according to certain specifications: three parts black coffee to seven parts milk tea. When made correctly, neither the powerful coffee nor the fragrant tea should overwhelm the other. The end result should be sweet with bitter undertones. At Hong Kong’s annual Kam Cha milk tea competition, prizes are also given out to the best yuenyeung maker.
Yuenyeung is served hot or iced. Try it with breakfast or afternoon tea.