Though I can’t always pencil in a trip to Hong Kong to visit family, I can always make yuanyang coffee (sometimes spelled yuenyeung coffee). Served either iced or hot, this popular Hong Kong drink never fails to transport me back to the sweltering, subtropical Hong Kong streets lined with fragrant food stalls and Hong Kong-style cafes.
Are you curious yet? Keep reading to learn more about yuenyeung coffee and how to make this coffee milk tea recipe.
What You’ll Need
- For the Milk Tea
- 16 oz. water
- 4 tablespoons black Ceylon tea
- 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
- A saucepan
- Fine mesh sieve
- For the Yuanyang Coffee
- 16 oz. fresh-brewed, strong coffee
- 16 oz. milk tea
- Coffee ice cubes
- 32-ounce pitcher
- 2 sturdy 16-ounce glasses or mugs
How to Make Yuanyang Coffee
In Hong Kong, summers are miserably hot and humid. Ice-cold coffee milk tea drinks are one of few respites from the summertime temperatures (1). And one of the best places to take shelter from the heat and humidity is the local Hong Kong-style cafes, cha chaan tengs.
Beginning in the late 40s, these cha chaan tengs served as a place where Western foods—like milk teas and cakes—became available to the average working-class Hong Konger. “Western” staples, like black tea and coffee, were synonymous with wealth, status, and middle-class success. And this is reflected on their menus, where you’ll often find local favorites like black Tie coffee, caphe sua da, and yuenyeung coffee.
Not in Hong Kong? Don’t worry. Following this recipe, Yuenyeung coffee milk tea is an easy coffee drink to make at home. Like Qishr Yemeni ginger coffee, it can be a little addicting, so be prepared to make extra servings if you’re planning to have guests for dinner.
1. Brew Your Ceylon Tea
In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to nearly a boil over medium heat. Then, measure in 4 tablespoons of black Ceylon tea. Stir gently, and let it simmer for 3-4 minutes, depending on how strong you like your tea.
Pro Tip: While loose black tea leaves are always best, feel free to use a Ceylon tea bag if that’s all you have on hand. If you’re making yuenyeung coffee with black Ceylon tea bags, feel free to brew 16 ounces of Ceylon tea in your microwave.
2. Strain Your Tea and Add in Sweetened Condensed Milk
Once three minutes have elapsed, carefully strain your hot black Ceylon tea through a fine mesh sieve into a 32-ounce heat-safe pitcher. Add one 14-ounce can of sweetened milk and stir thoroughly to combine.
3. Simmer Your Yuanyang Milk Tea
Once the black tea and sweetened condensed milk are combined, pour the tea mixture back into the saucepan and simmer everything for three more minutes.
Pro Tip: While yuenyeung coffee is traditionally served as a one-to-one mixture of milk tea and strong coffee, feel free to add any spices—like cinnamon—during this step.
4. Brew Your Coffee
As your milk tea simmers, brew 16 ounces of strong coffee using any method you prefer. For the best flavor, grind your coffee beans just before brewing.
Pro tip: While a great pour-over coffee could work here, Home Grounds suggests a strong French press, Aeropress, or Moka pot coffee. These brew methods tend to be bolder and stand up well to the rich, creamy milk tea.
5. Assemble Your Yuanyang Coffee
Remove your Hong Kong-style tea from the stove and let it cool for a minute while you transfer the brewed coffee to the 32-ounce pitcher. Carefully pour in the milk tea, and stir to combine.
If you prefer your yuenyeung coffee hot, pour a serving from the pitcher into your favorite mug and enjoy. Otherwise, allow the yuenyeung coffee to reach room temperature, and then place it in the fridge to cool for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
6. Serve and Enjoy
To serve it as a cold drink, chill your 16-ounce glasses first. To do this, wet paper towels, wring out all excess water, wrap the towel tightly around each glass, and chill in the freezer until frosted.
Remove your pre-chilled glasses from the freezer and place a half-cup of ice cubes into each. Then, pour the chilled yuenyeung coffee from the pitcher into each glass, garnishing this iced version with whipped cream and chocolate sauce if desired.
Pro Tip: Coffee ice cubes are an excellent way to keep your iced coffee-based drinks cool without diluting the flavor. To make them, brew strong coffee using any method you prefer. Then, let it reach room temperature before pouring it into an icecube tray and freezing.
Yuanyang coffee is a simple but versatile coffee-based drink that can be served hot or cold. To bring a piece of the authentic cha chaan teng experience into your home, enjoy your yuenyeung coffee with fresh-baked buns or a hearty bowl of Cantonese noodle soup.
Have you tried yuenyeung coffee? Or have you been to a Hong Kong-style cha chaan teng? We’d love to hear more about your experience in the comments below or in our Home Grounds Facebook group.
Can you use instant coffee to make Yuanyang coffee?
Yes, you can use instant coffee to make this creamy Yuanyang coffee drink. Add 4 teaspoons of coffee powder to 16 ounces of hot water in step 4. For the best yuenyeung Hong Kong-style tea, use a high-quality coffee powder.
What if you can’t find sweetened condensed milk?
If you can’t find sweetened condensed milk, then you can make a substitute using evaporated milk and brown sugar or honey. Combine both in a separate bowl to adjust the sweetness before adding the mixture to the black Ceylon tea.
Can you add boba pearls?
Yes, you can add boba pearls. Place tapioca pearls into a simple syrup and simmer until they are slightly chewy. These chewy tapioca pearls add another dimension to this popular Hong Kong drink. Adding coffee jelly is another fun way to play with the drink’s texture.
Can you make variations of yuanyang coffee?
Yes, you can make variations of yuanyang coffee. Feel free to experiment with different tea bags, single-origin coffees, and garnishes — like hazelnut, vanilla, or chocolate sauces.
- Boland, Rory. (2017). The Weather and Climate in Hong Kong. TripSavvy. https://www.tripsavvy.com/hong-kong-weather-season-by-season-4135011