Hong Kong milk tea is also known as “pantyhose tea” or “silk stocking tea” because it is often brewed in a large tea sock that resembles pantyhose. It has a smooth, creamy texture thanks to the evaporated milk. Or, if you opt for sweetened, condensed milk that we call for here, it becomes beguilingly sweet and full-flavored. Use the whole can if you like as indicated, or just 1/4 to 1/2 cup instead if desired if you like a less sweet drink.
As the name says, milk tea originated in Hong Kong. Milk tea stems from British colonial rule over Hong Kong. The British tradition of afternoon tea, where black tea is served with milk and sugar, became popular in Hong Kong. Milk tea is similar, except it is made with evaporated or condensed milk instead of ordinary milk. It is called “milk tea” to distinguish it from “Chinese tea,” which is served plain. Outside of Hong Kong, it is referred to as Hong Kong-style milk tea.
Cha chow is milk tea prepared with condensed milk, instead of evaporated milk and sugar. Its taste is, as can be expected, sweeter than ordinary milk tea. Milk tea and coffee together is called yuan yang.
The taste and texture of Hong Kong-style milk tea might be influenced by the milk used. For example, some Hong Kong cafés prefer using a filled milk variant, meaning it is not purely evaporated milk (as with most retail brands) but a combination of skimmed milk and soybean oil.