Cha chaan teng (or ‘tea restaurant’) cuisine is the epitome of Hong Kong’s East-meets-West culture. The famous Hong Kong-style milk tea, creamy, flaky egg tarts and buttery pineapple buns are just some of the unique Chinese and Western fusion comfort foods you can find at these local cafes and diners.
The question is, how did this iconic food style become so popular? It all goes back to the sultry summers of the 1950s, when an icy drink enjoyed under the ceiling fans in a bing sutt — the predecessor of cha chaan tengs — was a treat for workers after a long day. Due to the strict licensing requirements of the time, local cafes only served drinks and simple dishes that did not require cooking (hence the name bing sutt, which means ‘ice room’). They are recognisable by their patterned floor tiles, slow-spinning ceiling fans, and low-hanging lampshades.
Bing sutts have since evolved into the modern-day cha chaan teng, still serving classic icy beverages, but also noodle and rice dishes that are now beloved meals across the city. Can’t wait to try them for yourself? Here are 10 must-visit cha chaan tengs in Hong Kong. Dig in!
Original bing sutts do cha chaan tengs quite like no other. There’s a reason why these are the classics!
Founded in 1952, Lan Fong Yuen is one of the oldest and longest-running cha chaan tengs in Hong Kong. Their famous ‘silk stocking milk tea’ is made using an original family recipe. If you peek inside the kitchen, you’ll see how they brew and strain the milk tea through a sackcloth bag that resembles a pair of silk stockings.
Must-try: the traditional ‘silk stocking milk tea’ is as silky as it sounds.
Known for their stained-glass windows and varied menu with everything from rice and noodles to spaghetti, eggs and sandwiches, Mido Café has garnered media attention through classic Hong Kong films, including The World of Suzie Wong from the 1960s.
Must-try: experience the traditional cha chaan teng atmosphere while enjoying the appetiser sampler, which comes with shrimp toasts, chicken wings, French toasts, and fish and chips.
The family-owned Kam Wah Cafe has been dishing up delicious local treats to neighbourhood folks since 1973. One of their signature dishes is the boloyau, a crispy sweet pineapple bun with a thick slab of butter.
Must-tries: their classic pineapple buns are best enjoyed with a cup of Hong Kong-style milk tea.
Did it even happen if it wasn’t on Instagram? With their picture-perfect interiors and eye-catching dishes, these cafes will have you snapping away before taking a bite.
Located in Hong Kong’s first public housing estate, Garden at Mei Ho pays homage to the traditional Hong Kong-style bing sutt. Expect cha chaan teng dishes with a Thai, Japanese, and Singaporean twist.
Must-try: the pandan cake with coconut ice cream is a refreshing treat.
A visit to Lo Fung Restaurant is a trip back in time. This cha chaan teng recreates traditional dishes in an innovative way — accompanied by nostalgic photos and music, it offers a taste of old and new cultures.
Must-try: the tomato baked rice with pork chop will get your mouth water.
Cafe Match Box is a cha chaan teng in Causeway Bay inspired by all things Hong Kong: The Peak, minibuses, and traditional Hong Kong classrooms. The nostalgic decoration is inspired by the owner’s experience as an art director for films. The telephone, lamp and clock are all original antiques that make the cafe oh-so Instagrammable.
Must-try: the stir-fried beef rice noodles is a classic cha chaan teng dish that warms both the body and the soul.
These cha chaan tengs may have long queues, but the food is well worth the wait.
From the outside, the Australian Dairy Company might not look like much, but this legendary cha chaan teng in Hong Kong is the place for breakfast. Even with long queues and rushed service, the creamy, fluffy eggs make everything all worthwhile.
Must-tries: for a satisfying breakfast, order fluffy scrambled eggs and thick cut toast, with macaroni on the side.
First opened in 1989, Tai Hing has since become a household name in Hong Kong, with locations all across the city. Their traditional barbeque pork has been popular since the beginning, and now they also serve up quick, easy, and delicious cha chaan teng comfort food.
Must-try: Tai Hing is most famous for siu mei, or Hong Kong-style roast meat.
Eat where the locals eat! Experience the true essence of Hong Kong at these neighbourhood cha chaan tengs.
Featuring traditional booths and classic floor tiles, Cheung Hing Coffee Shop in Happy Valley exudes rustic charm. Locals love this 70-year-old cha chaan teng for the comfort food and nostalgic vibe.
Must-try: Hong Kong-style milk tea is served with egg tarts here.
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