Coffee milk tea is a lip-smacking Hong Kong fusion beverage that combines the refreshing taste of coffee with the creamy and mellow taste of milk tea. This delicious drink is a darling to many due to its rich, complex flavours and velvety texture.
While you might have heard much about modern coffee and tea mixed as dirty chai or chai lattes, this famous Hong Kong refreshment is traditionally called Yuenyeung. The best thing is that this modern meets classic recipe is easy to prepare at home.
We have put to the test different ingredients to achieve a harmonious blend when making this beverage. After numerous spills and sips, we have our best recipe yet.
You can emulate it with just a few homemade ingredients. There are also a few variations that you can try to satisfy your curious taste buds. So, here's how to make your own Yuenyeung with our simple recipe.
What Is in a Coffee Milk Tea?
Coffee milk tea is made of black tea, sugar and milk, and strong brewed coffee. Traditionally, this beverage is made by mixing Hong Kong milk tea and coffee at a 7:3 ratio to create a distinctive creamy texture with a mild bitterness and fruit-like aroma.
Combining these caffeinated drinks can also give around 215 mg of caffeine per serving. However, this amount varies depending on the type of tea and coffee you use.
Why Is It Also Called Yuenyang?
Coffee milk tea is also called Yuenyang (鴛鴦), yingyong or yuanyang, which translates to Mandarin Ducks, symbolising love in Chinese culture. In this context, the beautiful bond between distinctive-looking male and female ducks is closely similar to how two different drinks in Yuenyang can harmoniously blend.
Yuenyuang was first created back in 1952. The working people, especially manual labourers, drank coffee as a refreshment after doing their heavy work. At that time, pure tea was also too expensive for the commoners. Hence, Lin Muhe, the founder of Hong Kong-style café or caa caan teng, made an effort to recreate a milk tea and coffee recipe with affordable ingredients and sold the drinks at his restaurant.
Then, more citizens began to love this hybrid drink, and it rose to fame among the locals. Fast forward to 2010, the widespread use of this delicious drink made Starbucks Hong Kong and Macau release their frappuccino version of Yuenyeung.
What Does It Taste Like?
Yuenyeung tastes sweet with a creamy consistency. You can also taste the subtle bitterness from coffee and a hint of floral aroma from the milk tea. It is like a hybrid and less bitter version of a café latte that can be served hot or cold.
Coffee Milk Tea Ingredients
The ingredients you will need to make yuanyang are:
- Boba (optional)
When making coffee, be sure to use cold brew coffee or espresso. Cold brew coffee is more concentrated than hot brew coffee. It is also steeped longer, at least 12 hours to 1 day, to produce a less acidic brew with a robust earthy flavour and a thicker mouthfeel than its counterpart.
Cold Brew Coffee
You can use any coffee beans that suit your taste. However, we recommend using dark roasted beans with a more robust taste profile, roasty undernotes, and a rich smoky aftertaste.
To make a cold brew coffee, coarsely grind ¼ cup of whole coffee beans in a grinder. Then, transfer the coffee grounds to another container before pouring 1 cup of water over the grounds. Stir the mixture thoroughly and close the lid using a small plate.
Let everything steep for 12 hours or overnight at room temperature. After 12 hours, place a fine-mesh sieve or a strainer over an empty container. Then, put a cheesecloth on top of the strainer. Pour the ground mixture through the strainer.
Keep this beverage in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Espresso has a perfect mix of sweet, nutty, and bitter tastes with a thicker mouthfeel. It also contains less caffeine with a hint of caramel aromas. The best way to make a delicious shot of espresso is by using a countertop espresso machine.
To make this drink, grind ¼ cup of dark roasted beans into a fine ground. You can also transfer the beans into the espresso basket or portafilter if your machine has a built-in grinder.
Before brewing, give a thorough tamp to the fine grounds to ensure that these coffee milk tea ingredients are evenly compressed. By doing this, you can avoid inconsistent extraction that can lead to weak, thin, and acidic espresso.
Traditionally, coffee milk tea is made from 3 parts coffee to 7 parts of milk tea. However, the ideal ratio you need for our simple recipe is 1 cup of cold brew coffee for 1 cup of milk tea. If you opt for espresso, you need 3 shots or small cups for 1 cup of milk tea.
Another main component of this Cantonese drink is a loose black tea leaf. This type of leaf is typically used because it has a more nuanced taste, rich, earthy flavour, and intense malty aroma. To make this Hong Kong beverage, you need 2 tablespoons of loose leaf for 1 cup of water.
Alternatively, you can also use a mix of 3 tablespoons of Ceylon Orange Pekoe loose leaves, 1 bag of Lipton black tea bag and 1 Earl Grey tea bag to give your coffee milk tea a more robust citrusy, sweet, and flavourful astringency.
The main difference between the loose black leaf and teabag is that the former produces a distinctive blackish-brown solution with less bitterness and a bold malty aroma. In contrast, teabags have a bitter, dark brown mixture with a mild fruity scent.
Using cow’s milk will give Yuenyeung a thicker consistency and a mellow mouthfeel. The fat content also makes your beverage taste creamy and velvety. When making this beverage, use 1 cup of cow's milk.
If you like the traditional taste of the Hong-Kong style milk tea, use ¾ cups of condensed milk. Condensed milk is generally sweetened and creamier than regular milk. Hence, adding this will provide an extra velvety consistency when making this boba drink. However, we recommend omitting the sweetener if you decide to use condensed milk.
Another healthier substitute that you can use is vegan milk. While you are free to choose your favourite vegan milk, we recommend you use 1½ cups of almond or soy milk that has a similar creamish texture to the cow's milk. In addition, the nutty taste from these plant-based alternatives doesn't easily drown when you mix them with other ingredients.
To balance the bitterness of coffee and tea, consider adding 3 tablespoons of premade brown sugar syrup. Brown sugar syrup will give this Hong Kong boba drink a sweet caramel or toffee-like aftertaste. Its brownish amber colour also adds depth to the final colour of this beverage.
If you love making everything from scratch, you can make your own syrup at home using our brown sugar syrup recipe.
If you like it sweeter, you can swap brown sugar syrup with sweetened condensed milk. However, this replacement contains high sugar and should be used sparingly. Hence, you only need 1 to 2 tablespoons of this alternative to sweeten your Cantonese drink.
For a little twist of gummy bites, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of homemade boba pearls or instant tapioca pearls to your coffee milk tea. We also use this versatile bubble tea topping in taro milk tea for an added richness and chewy aftertaste.
This ingredient is optional, and you can remove it if you prefer an authentic Hong Kong-style beverage.
Using Milk Tea Powder
If brewing the loose leaf feels like a lot of work, you can use a good milk tea powder to make this Hong Kong boba drink.
If you do decide to use a Hong Kong Milk Tea powder, here's what you need to know. While the powdered version is much quicker to use, it has a weaker taste, less caffeine, and a slightly thin consistency than its brewed counterpart.
You can also get a lumpy drink if you don't stir the powder thoroughly. Furthermore, this instant powder contains artificial flavourings and preservatives with less nutritional value than its brewed counterpart.
To enjoy a full-bodied Yuenyeung that offers a more assertive flavour profile and fresher earthy aroma, it is always better to brew the tea and add the milk.
How to Make Coffee Milk Tea at Home
To make coffee milk tea at home, you need to cold brew the coffee beans 12 hours or 1 day earlier before using. First, coarsely grind ¼ cup of dark roasted beans in a grinder. Then, transfer the grind into a container and add 1 cup of water.
Stir the mixture and close the lid with a small plate. Then, let everything sit overnight. The next day, strain the blend using a fine-mesh sieve over an empty container. Place a cheesecloth on the strainer and pour the mixture into the container. Then, set it aside to cool.
Alternatively, you can skip this long brewing process by using espresso. To make a delicious shot of espresso, you need a countertop espresso machine. First, finely grind ¼ cup of dark roasted beans or transfer the whole beans into a built-in grinder in the machine. Then, transfer the fine grounds into the portafilter. With a tamper, press and tamp the grounds until they are evenly compressed.
Next, place and lock the portafilter into the machine. Then, pull the shot and let the machine brew the coffee. To get 3 shots of concentrated brew with a frothy crema, set a shot time between 25 to 35 seconds. Once you get a deep golden espresso with a thick crema and a strong roasty aroma, set it aside to cool.
Making Milk Tea
To make the Hong Kong-style milk tea, put 2 tablespoons of loose black tea leaves in a silk stocking. Place the filled stocking in a cooking pot and pour 1 cup of boiling water. Let everything steep for 10 minutes.
Then, transfer the silk stocking into an empty kettle. Hold the cooking pot at chest level and pour the hot tea through the stocking. Repeat this pouring process 4 times until you get a concentrated blackish-brown drink. Then, steep everything again for 5 minutes.
In the meantime, mix 1 cup of water with 3 tablespoons of boba pearls in a saucepan. Cook this ingredient over medium heat for 5 minutes until it floats. Then, strain the boba and transfer it into a drinking glass.
Next, pull the stocking out of the kettle and add 1 cup of cow's milk. Stir everything until you get a light brown creamy mixture. Then, pour this drink into the boba glass until it fills the bottom half.
Combining Coffee and Milk Tea
Fill the top half of the glass with coffee. Lastly, add 3 tablespoons of brown sugar syrup into the mix and stir everything thoroughly. If you like it chilled, consider adding some ice cubes before serving.
Yuenyeung is best served and enjoyed immediately. You can also keep it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
If you're in the mood for something different, you can recreate this Hong Kong boba drink by adding other ingredients. For instance, you can switch loose leaf with oolong tea and make coffee oolong milk tea. Adding this ingredient will make your drink taste sweet and fruity with a nutty aftertaste.
You can also make coffee jelly milk tea by adding 2 to 3 tablespoons of coffee jelly as toppings. Coffee jelly has a sweet and milky flavour with a mildly bitter undernote. This jiggly dessert is best used when you serve your boba drink cold.
Another topping that you can use is egg pudding. To get the most out of this sweet dessert, add caramel-drizzle egg pudding to your Hong Kong boba drink for an extra custardy sweetness and velvety texture.
You can also complement the chewy taste of boba with 1 to 2 tablespoons of cute, bursty popping boba. Popping boba adds a twist of fruity flavours to your drink. Can you imagine the melting taste of fruit juice showering your tastebuds with every sip? That's what this fun dessert is made for.
Adding grass jelly is another delicious alternative to enjoy your boba drink. This topping has a mild and slightly bitter taste that matches Yuanyuang's earthy flavour.
You can try Thai tea instead of using Hong Kong milk tea as a base. Thai tea has a bold, earthy taste with a hint of nuttiness and mildly bitter flavours. You can also taste a slightly warm mouthfeel from the spices used in this drink.
However, if you prefer a beverage with fruity notes and a floral aroma, Jasmine milk tea can make a perfect base tea for this boba drink.
- Using silk clothing or a sackcloth bag is essential in producing a smooth and silky tea. This stocking also acts as a filter to separate the fine leaves from the drink. While a fine-mesh strainer can filter the tea well, silk stocking is usually preferred for a frothy and strong-flavoured beverage.
- You can also replace brown sugar syrup with honey at a 1:1 ratio to thicken your beverage. Honey adds distinctive fruity and floral notes to this boba drink. It is also one of the famous sweeteners used in many popular Asian teas like Yuja tea and Matcha milk tea.
- If you like a creamier consistency, you can add 1 to 2 tablespoons of creamer to this boba drink to make it milkier and thick.
Coffee Milk Tea Recipe (Yuenyeung)
- Grind the dark roasted beans in a coarse setting. Then, mix the grind with 1 cup of water in a container. Close the lid and let everything brew for a few minutes. Then, strain the mixture over an empty container using a fine-mesh sieve. Brew the fine-ground powder in a countertop espresso machine if you opt for espresso.
- Pour the loose leaf into a silk stocking. Steep the leaf and transfer the stocking into an empty kettle. Then, pour the tea over the stocking 4 times until you get a blackish-brown solution. Steep everything again for 5 minutes.
- Add boba pearls with boiling water in a saucepan. Cook boba over medium heat until it floats. Then, strain everything and transfer the boba into a drinking glass.
- Remove the silk stocking from the kettle and pour in cow's milk. Stir the mixture until you get a creamy, light brown mixture. Then, fill the bottom half of the boba glass with this drink.
- Pour the brewed coffee until it fills the glass. Add 3 tablespoons of brown sugar syrup. Then, stir your coffee milk tea well before serving.
- The coffee brewing method shown in this recipe is a simpler method of preparing it. We, however, recommend cold brewing the coffee beforehand to get the best results.
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
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