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Cha chaan teng
Cha Chaan Teng 7267.JPG
Traditional Chinese茶餐廳
Simplified Chinese茶餐厅
Jyutpingcaa4 caan1 teng1
Literal meaning"tea restaurant"

Cha chaan teng (Chinese: 茶餐廳; Cantonese Yale: cháhchāantēng; "tea restaurant"), often called Hong Kong-style cafés in English,[1] is a type of restaurant that originated in Hong Kong. Cha chaan teng are commonly found in Hong Kong, Macau, and parts of Guangdong. Due to the waves of mass migrations from Hong Kong in the 1980s, they are now established in major Chinese communities in Western countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The cafés are known for eclectic and affordable menus, which include dishes from Hong Kong cuisine and Hong Kong-style Western cuisine.[2] They draw comparisons to Western Cafés due to their casual settings, as well as menus revolving around coffee and tea.

History

Since the 1850s, Western cuisine in Hong Kong had only been available in full-service restaurants—a privilege limited for the upper class, and financially out of reach for most working-class locals. In the 1920s, dining in a Western restaurant could cost up to $10, while a working local earned $15 to $50 per month.[3] After the Second World War, Hong Kong culture was influenced by British culture. Hong Kong people started to like adding milk to tea and eating cakes. Therefore, some Hongkongers set up cha chaan tengs that targeted a local audience.[4] Providing different kinds of Canto-Western Cuisine and drinks with very low prices led to them being regarded as "cheap western food", or "soy sauce western food" (豉油西餐).

In the 1950s and 60s, cha chaan tengs sprang up as rising lower class incomes made such "western food" affordable,[5] causing "soy sauce western restaurants" and bing sutt ("ice rooms") to turn into cha chaan teng[6] to satisfy the high demand of affordable[5] and fast Hong Kong-style western food.[6]

In recent years, the management of cha chaan tengs has adapted to developments in the Hong Kong economy and society. During the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, cha chaan tengs became much more popular in Hong Kong as they still provided the cheapest food for the public.[7] In April 2007, one of the Hong Kong political officers suggested that cha chaan teng be listed in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists, because of its important role in Hong Kong society.[8] In June 2014, a number of famous dishes in cha chaan teng—namely milk tea, yuenyeung, pineapple bun, and egg tart were enlisted into the first Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory of Hong Kong.[9]

Name and description

The name, literally "tea restaurant", serves to distinguish the restaurants from Western restaurants that provide water to customers instead of tea. Cha chaan teng establishments provide tea (usually weak tea) called "clear tea" (清茶 cing1 caa4) to customers as soon as they are seated. (Some patrons use this hot tea to wash their utensils, a common custom in Hong Kong.) The "tea" in the name refers to this inexpensive black tea, which differs from the traditional Chinese tea served in traditional dim sum restaurants and teahouses (茶樓).

The "tea" may also refer to tea drinks, such as the Hong Kong-style milk tea and iced lemon tea, which are served in many cha chaan tengs. The older generations in Hong Kong refer to dining in these restaurants as yum sai cha (飲西茶; lit: "drinking Western tea"), in contrast with the going yum cha.

Some cha chaan tengs adopt the word "café" in their names. This is especially the case when located in English-speaking countries where they are commonly known as "Hong Kong–style cafes" and are instead best known for their serving of yuenyeung and Hong Kong–style (condensed milk) coffee.

Culture

Table sharing etiquette sign in a Cha chaan teng (Hong Kong)
Table sharing etiquette sign in a Cha chaan teng (Hong Kong)

Fast service and high efficiency

Usually, tea restaurants have high customer turnover, at 10–20 minutes for a sitting. Customers typically receive their dishes after five minutes. The waiters take the order with their left hand and pass the dishes with their right hand. This is said to embody Hong Kong's hectic lifestyle. During peak periods, long queues form outside many restaurants.

Long working hours

The staff in a cha chaan teng work long hours, sometimes also night shifts.

Trend

Because of the limited land and expensive rent, cha chaan tengs are gradually being replaced by chain restaurants, such as Café de Coral, Maxim's, and Fairwood. As chain restaurants dominate the market, Hong Kong's cha chaan teng culture is disappearing. They are, however, increasing in popularity overseas, with many opening up in Cantonese diaspora communities as a casual alternative to more traditional Chinese Restaurants.[10][11][12]

Common phrases and abbreviations

To speed up the ordering process, waiters use a range of abbreviations when writing down orders.

Customers similarly use special phrases when ordering:

Menus

Two menus, one on the board and another on glass, in a bing sut in Sheung Shui, Hong Kong. No rice plates can be seen on the menus.
Two menus, one on the board and another on glass, in a bing sut in Sheung Shui, Hong Kong. No rice plates can be seen on the menus.
Hong Kong-style French toast
Hong Kong-style French toast
A typical breakfast, eggs and a bun, including a cup of silk-sock milk tea
A typical breakfast, eggs and a bun, including a cup of silk-sock milk tea
Yuanyang, mixture of coffee and Hong Kong-style milk tea
Yuanyang, mixture of coffee and Hong Kong-style milk tea

A cha chaan teng serves a wide range of food, from steak to wonton noodles to curry to sandwiches, e.g. Hong Kong-style French toast.[13] Both fast food and à-la-carte dishes are available. A big cha chaan teng often consists of three cooking places: a "water bar" (水吧) which makes drinks, toast/sandwiches, and instant noodles; a "noodle stall" which prepares Chiuchow-style noodles (including wonton noodles); and a kitchen for producing rice plates and other more expensive dishes.

Food and drinks

Soup macaroni in Hong Kong
Soup macaroni in Hong Kong

Drinks

The invention of drinks like yuenyeung (鴛鴦), iced tea with lemon (凍檸茶) and Coca-Cola with lemon (檸樂) is often credited culturally to this style of restaurant.

Adding ice in a drink may cost an extra fee. Some people simply ask for a glass of ice.

Snacks

Fried dishes

Soup dishes

Miscellaneous dishes

Set meals

A feature found in cha chaan tengs is set meals. There are various sets available throughout the day for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. The lunch and dinner sets usually include a soup and a drink. Generally, there is an additional HK$2-3 charge for cold drinks. Sometimes an additional HK$5 is charged for toasting the bread (烘底).

Other sets include:

Tables and seats

Generally, the tables in cha chaan tengs are square for 4 people, or round for 6 to 8 people. For each table, there is a piece of glass that covers the top and some menus are placed between the table and glass. During lunch or dinner, customers are sometimes requested to "daap toi" (搭枱), meaning they share a table with other customers who were already seated before. This helps save space, provide waiting guests with seats faster, and give customers in a hurry a seat.

Hygiene

Before 2007, most cha chaan tengs allowed people to smoke, and some waiters would even smoke when working. Since 1 January 2007, Hong Kong Law prohibits smoking within the indoor premises of restaurants.

Interiors and utensils

Much of the plastic-ware found on the table is provided by beverage companies, which is a form of advertising. This plastic-ware includes containers holding toothpicks, plastic menu holders, etc. Brands like Ovaltine, Horlicks and Ribena are the usual providers. To minimise costs, cha chaan tengs also rarely have utensils that bear their own brand name. As a result, the same utensils can be found in many different cha chaan tengs, even different chains. These utensils can be bought in supermarkets, department stores, and stores specializing in restaurant supplies.

Walls and floors in cha chaan tengs are often tiled because they are easier to clean (especially in the humid summer weather in a city like Hong Kong). In overseas communities, these restaurants are famous for stocking Chinese newspapers and having LCD televisions the wall, broadcasting Hong Kong news services.

Variations

Other kinds of local restaurant related to cha chaan teng in Hong Kong include chaan sutt (餐室; lit. "meal chamber"), bing sutt (冰室; lit. "ice chamber"), and bing teng (冰廳; lit. "ice dining room"), which provide a lighter and more limited selection of food than cha chaan teng.

In the old days, these eateries only sold different types of "ice", sandwiches and pasta but no rice plates. However, some of the restaurants bearing these titles today ignore the tradition, and provide all kinds of rice plates and even wonton noodles. Original chaan sutts, bing sutts and bing tengs, which can be regarded as the prototype of cha chaan tengs, are now scarce in Hong Kong.

In June 2009, Hong Kong retail design store G.O.D. collaborated with Starbucks and created a store with a "Bing Sutt Corner" at their store on Duddell Street. It is a concept that fuses the retro Hong Kong teahouse style with the contemporary look of a coffeehouse.[16][17]

In media and popular culture

See also

References

  1. ^ "Hong Kong-style Diner | Hong Kong Tourism Board". www.discoverhongkong.com. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  2. ^ Beerman, Jason "Cha chaan teng cheat sheet: What to order at the most popular eateries in Hong Kong" Archived 24 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine CNN Go. 20 February 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2012
  3. ^ .(December 2018). Titbits Through Time. Chinese Culinary Institute & International Culinary Institute.
  4. ^ . (28 December 2007). Cha Chaan Teng is not UNESCO Intangible Culture Heritage. Wenwipo.
  5. ^ a b . (2006). 茶餐廳與香港人的身分認同. Hong Kong University Press.
  6. ^ a b . (6 March 2016). 飲食男女《人物專訪》中環老牌熱狗王 六旬夥計不捨離開:對呢個招牌有感情. Eat and Travel Weekly.
  7. ^ .(30 January 2008). Eating in Hong Kong: the Ch Chaan Teng. The New York Times.
  8. ^ . Changing Chinese Foodways in Asia. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2001.
  9. ^ . (2006). Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory of Hong Kong. Leisure and Cultural Services Department.
  10. ^ CNN Travel
  11. ^ History of Cha Chaan Teng – Yahoo Knowledge
  12. ^ HKwalker Archived 25 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "40 Hong Kong foods we can't live without" Archived 5 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine CNN Go. 13 July 2011. Retrieved 9 October 2011
  14. ^ "【港人最愛 】原來,忌廉都可以咁溝?". www.coca-cola.hk (in Chinese (Hong Kong)). Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  15. ^ "香港茶餐廳經典飲料 「滾水蛋」你喝過了嗎? | ETtoday旅遊雲 | ETtoday新聞雲". ETtoday 旅遊雲 (in Traditional Chinese). Retrieved 16 August 2021.
  16. ^ DeWolf, Christopher (21 April 2010). "Hong Kong's best bing sutt: Guide to old-school diners". CNN Travel. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  17. ^ Starbucks with Traditional Hong Kong Style
  18. ^ Chong, Vince (23 December 2007). "Keeping alive a tea café culture". The Straits Times. p. 28.