Coffee Drinks: Yuangyang, Hong Kong Coffee-Tea

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[Photograph: Flood on Flickr]

While most Americans think of our counterparts in the Far East as tea-crazy (as opposed to our latte-loving selves), it turns out there is a lot of coffee going on throughout Asia as well these days. One of the best examples is in a popular Hong Kong drink, called yuangyang.

A marriage of coffee and tea (with a fair amount of milk for good measure), this East-West bev pretty concisely captures the ever-expanding hold that coffee culture has on pockets of China, Japan, Korea, and the surrounding areas. Named for a species of duck where a colorful male and blandish beige female, yuangyang is a mixture of light milk tea—strong-brewed black tea cut with copious amounts of cold milk—and thick, black iced coffee—kind of the Hong Kong version of an Arnold Palmer.

While the coffee comprises only about a third of the overall recipe (milk tea is the primary component), the flavor is strong enough to cut through, adding a bit of bittersweet bite and a body boost. The drink is not only reminiscent of the common quackers, but also embodies the principal of yin and yang: Coffee is the yin, or the stronger element of the two, while tea's softer yang offers a nice, easy-drinking base.

Is it sacrilegious to blend iced coffee and iced tea, or is it a perfect union? (I'm inclined to say the latter—especially if we can turn the whole mess into bubble tea, since tapioca makes everything better.) Have you ever tried yuangyang?