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Coffee around the World: Yuanyang


This Hong Kong coffee is a strange prospect when compared to the more ‘traditional’ coffees that we might be used to on these shores.

It’s no secret that we like coffee, but we also like tea. But what about the two mixed together? A t-offee if you will.

Yes, the Yuanyang is a coffee-tea hybrid merges the two hot drink disciplines into one mega concoction to satiate your need for theanine and caffeine.

Known as Kopi Cham in Malaysia, the drink was originally served at dai pai dongs (open-air food vendors) and tengs (cafes).

The actual name of this coffee concoction refers to mandarin ducks, a symbol of conjugal love in Chinese culture.

With the birds appearing in pairs with the male and females both looking very different to one another, so the naming utilises that ‘opposites attract’ symbology.

It also directly translates directly to “Lovebirds tea”, can you see a recurring theme here?…

As far as we’re concerned, coffee and tea are definitely secret lovers, it even looks like an unassuming cuppa at first glance!

If you ever happen to find yourself in Hong Kong you’ll realise just how popular this coffee-tea fusion really is, with street vendors and fast food restaurants all making their own ‘secret’ recipes of the drink.

What actually makes a Yuanyang?

A photo posted by Darren Chui (@darrenchuichui) on

You’ll need

  • Espresso (single or double to suit your taste)
  • 2-3 tsp black tea leaves
  • Sweetened condensed milk (or normal milk if too sweet)

How to make a Yuanyang

  1. Bring water to a boil.
  2. Add tea leaves or a tea bag and simmer for around three minutes.
  3. Stir in coffee or add one-shot of espresso. Add a little sugar if you like a little bit of sweetness in your coffee if you plan on using normal milk.
  4. Strain and serve with sweetened condensed milk (or normal milk if you prefer).
  5. You can drink a Yuanyang hot or cold served over ice.

The mixture looks very much like a dark cup of tea with milk and gives you a satisfying tea drink with the caffeine kick and rich taste of coffee all in one cup.

If we were to describe the taste it would be somewhere between chai tea and chocolate, the tea taste is the first to hit the palate, with the biting coffee flavour suddenly giving your palate a boost.

Having made our own version a few times, we’ve found the Yuanyang to be perfect as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up that works perfectly with a shortbread biscuit! They taste amazing when dunked into the coffee-tea (or should that be tea-coffee) mix.

This is also a way for tea drinkers to get a taste of coffee without quite moving to the ‘dark side’, or for us coffee drinkers who just can’t quite get our head around going back to tea completely.

 Our speciality Orang Utan coffee is absolutely superb in this coffee-tea hybrid (and is what we have used when trying this recipe out for ourselves), and we used Twinings Everyday Tea to make our own equivalent of the Yuanyang, just be careful with the amount of sugar used.

Too much can really alter the taste to the point of no return, not enough and it can be slightly over-powering, it may take a few attempts to get it just right.

Either way, we would like to see more artisan efforts at this Hong Kong classic, give it a try and let us know what you think!