Saturday, October 13, 2012

Old Hong Kong Cool Tea Culture

Cool Tea in Hong Kong is nothing new. In fact it has been part of the life of Hong Kong Cantonese for centuries. However traditional cool tea shops are close to extinct.

The other day I was exploring the restaurants in Soho, the next day I continue to explore Hollywood Road and found one of the endangered cool tea shops.

Herbal tea shops in Hong Kong had been very popular especially during the 60s when TVs were expensive.  I remember when I was a kid, we like to go to nearby cool tea shops, sat there for an hour or so to enjoy a cup of cool tea and at the same time watching television.  Nowadays, life pace is fast, people just walk by the shops, place a few dollars on the table, drink and go.  Of course they can still choose to sit down and drink, but there are no televisions in the shops.

Traditional Cool Tea Shop at Hollywood Road Hong Kong
My Sesame Drink was only HK$8
Cool teas are not necessarily cool in terms of temperature.  To be more realistic, they are kind of Chinese herbal tea mainly derived from tradition and culture.

But why cool tea is called cool tea while it is not cool?  It is believed that these herbal teas will provide cooling effect to the body, hence some of the minor defects could be cured without consulting a doctor, such as sore throats, flu, hangover or ailments. 

There are many kinds of cooling tea. Most popular being 5-Flower Tea, 24-Taste, sugar cane juice, sesame drink. The 24-Taste is actually quite bitter.  But as they are believed to be good to our bodies, it remains very popular among people of all ages.  You can find these in almost any cool tea shop.  The price is usually between HK$6 and 8 per cup/bowl.  The other day my sesame drink at Hollywood Road was only HK$8, not cool but iced, providing very good hydrating and cooling effect under the mid day sun.

Middle photo - the 5-Flower Tea costs HK$7 per bowl

Right photo - 楊春雷 in Wanchai
Although traditional herbal tea shops are close to extinction, the culture of drinking cool tea remains popular among Hong Kong Cantonese.  New generation cool tea shops are everywhere in the city.  However if you want to have an old Hong Kong feel and drink a cup of cool tea at a very traditional cool tea shop, here are the two oldest in my knowledge:  春回堂at the corner of Stanley Street and Graham Street in Central; 楊春雷at Spring Garden Street in Wanchai.  The one at Hollywood Road is also very old, but I don’t recall it’s name.

春回堂 on Stanley Street
See people just pay, drink and go

New Generation Cool Tea Shop
The new generation cool tea shops usually sell Turtle Puddings on top of the traditional cool teas.  They also sell bottled cool tea for take away.

Hong Kong Food Blog - Old Hong Kong Cool Tea Culture

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Soho Restaurants in Hong Kong

How many Soho restaurants are there in Hong Kong? And what is special about them. These mini to medium size restaurants in Central Hong Kong are mainly situated around Elgin Street, Staunton Street, Shelly Street, all easily accessible via the Central escalator. One thing special about these restaurants is that they are all very cosy, stylish and with wide range of international foods.

If you've been following my blog, you may know that I usually omit lunch and do generally one meal a day.  My office has recently moved to Central, nearby the Soho area.   Although I do not eat lunch, but I have fun exploring the Soho restaurants and here is a summary. 

Pampas - Argentinian Steak House
G/F, 32B-C Staunton Street, SoHo, Central, Telephone: 2868 6959
They claim to offer fresh organic prime beef cuts flown in direct from Argentina
G/F, 47 Elgin Street, SoHo, Central, Telephone: 2525 9944
60-seat Mediterranean tapas and wine bar
This is my boss's favourite.  He enjoys sitting at the entranace area.

G/F, 32 Elgin Street, SoHo, Central, Telephone: 2521 1608
Contemporary Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine with an Australian flavor

F.A.B French American Bistro
G/F, 30 Hollywood Road, SOHO, Central
Telephone: 2810 1600

Quite a cozy Italian restaurant.  There are many Italian restaurants lining up at Soho.
El Taco Loco, 9 Lower Staunton Street,
(Off Central Escalator) Central, Hong Kong, Tel: 2522 1239

Mexican Cuisine - Signature dishes include Frijolesy, Carne Asada as well as Tacos, Burritos, Quesadillas and Nachos. Margaritas and Mexican beers are a specialty.
Marouche Lebanese Cuisine
G/F, 46-48 Cochrane Street, SoHo, Central
Telephone: 2541 8282
The meat is mainly sourced from the US and New Zealand, but the spices and ingredients used are imported directly from Lebanon, and even the chef is Lebanese.

G/F, 14 Staunton Street, SoHo, Central, Telephone: 2869 6212
Evolving from the Royal Nepalese cuisine, into an assortment of contemporary dishes

I’m curious about Nepal food, so I took a photo of their menu.  Main course is BBQ/curry, your choice of meat/vegetables.  Starter is Bhenta Tareko (fried eggplant with Nepali herbs); Samosa (stuffed deep fried cone pastries with light spices) or soup of your choice (pumpkin, tomato, lamb, mixed beans), coffee and tea.  HK$98+10% service fee.

If you want to spend reasonable money and enjoy unique food in unique stylish comfortable restaurants, you may want to spend a month to do your lunches in this area.

The set lunches for most restaurants are set around HK$98+10% service fee.  This may be the way shop owners keep themselves competitive.  Please prepare to pay a little more if you choose to go a la carte.   

There are places lining up with Italian restaurants, Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, British…you name it and you’ll find it.  If you want to explore more about Soho restaurants, click here.

Hong Kong Travel Blog - Soho Restaurants