Sunday, 28 February 2010

Typical Hong Kong Lai Cha Cafe

This is a typical Hong Kong old-style cafe. Anyone who knows Hong Kong will wax nostalgic! "A good lai cha," says the boss, "should be fragrant, tea flavoured and waat (an untranslatable term which means something like good mouth feel). This cafe is in Saiwan, a very typical working class neighbourhood, where foreigners don't go.

"My customers are regulars, I see them every day, we're like family", says the boss. "Lai Cha" is a Hong Kong invention created in 1904 when Liptons did a competition to promote sales of western tea in China. Impossible feat ? It worked ! Lai chai uses lots of Liptons tea (never Chinese tea) placed in a sieve and boiled in a coffee pot on a stove, so the brew is as thick as coffee. It caught on because people didn't drink coffee in those days.

Because lai cha is strong, it's always served with lots of evaporated milk, sometimes tinned milk, but never fresh cow milk, because cows don't do the tropics. In this place it's served in a tea cup. Most places serve in a glass tumbler. Note the customers in the clip drink it with a tumbler of Chinese tea handy to refresh the mouth as lai cha is almost like soup.

It's a great breakfast drink because the caffiene high and the sugar surge keep you buzzing all day.

The shop opens at 6 am and serves daan tarts, chicken buns and polow bow (pineapple buns, so called because the topping looks like pineapple, but no pineapple is used in making it). "When my customers say the lai cha's beautiful, it makes my heart burst with joy". That's is the mark of a happy man!


Unknown said...

OMG. That looks amazing. Where can you get good one's in London? I miss them so much!!

Doundou Tchil said...

Nice toxic yellow ! There are available at most dim sum restaurants, some better than others. There used to be a bakerty in Gerrard street but it closed.