Cha Chan Teng, a Culinary Legacy

Cha Chan Teng (literally meaning tea restaurant in Cantonese) goes far beyond being a fast food choice for most Hong Kong people today; rather, it has become an indispensable part of the past living style with the richest local flavor, which is a collective memory planted deeply in Hong Konger's mind. Just like the city itself, where blending of different cultures gave birth to a hybrid one, Cha Chan Teng is also a “melting pot”, combining delicacies from around the world and transforming them into a local fusion.

Cha Chan Teng’s name gives of hint about the eatery’s characteristic of greeting a visitor: customers are provided a cup of black tea as soon as they are seated. The tea, however, refers to the inexpensive and insipid black tea, not the high-grade tea served in a traditional Chinese teahouse. People usually just use it to clean their tableware.  

The history of Cha Chan Teng dates back to early colonial times in Hong Kong. Local people was affected and learnt to adapt the western cultures and ways of life after hundreds of years of Western presence in the place. They picked up the European habit of “drinking coffee” and “drinking western style tea”. However, most of the western restaurants were owned by Europeans, which were to expensive for local Chinese to patronize. Therefore Cha Chan Teng came into being. People can enjoy both western food like coffee and French toast and traditional Cantonese-style noodles and rice under one roof. The prices are acceptable for most of the local people.

Each characteristic of Cha Chan Teng is a meaningful symbol of the whole society: It provides patrons efficient services to match Hong Kong people’s rapid rhythm of life. Most dishes are served immediately after order. Also, Cha Chan Teng features extremely casual and relaxed dining atmosphere, which is a perfect destination for most people to stay away from busyness and strain, and to have typical yet pleasant experience of home dining. Last but not least, numerous unique and innovative dishes have been continuously invented over the past century, from what we can see Hong Kone people’s creativity.

Cha Chan Teng serves a great variety of food. A typical menu consists of the following sections: Noodles, Pasta, Rice plates, Bread and cake, and Drinks. Among the most acclaiming favorites are Yun Yeung, a popular coffee-tea drink mix that is served either hot or cold (Yun Yeung originally refers to a kind of mandarin duck, which usually appear in couples, therefore become a symbol of conjugal love and is used to described a pair of things); Pineapple Bun with Butter (Bolo Yau) is another local savory. Unlike what its name suggests, there's no pineapple in this bun. Instead, it comes from the uneven, pineapple skin-like pattern that appears after its caramelized top is baked. This sweet pastry can be eaten plain, but usually it is ordered with a slice of butter in between.