FOOD FOR THOUGHT BLOG | It’s More Than a Café! BY PAT TSANG

Apr 28, 2024

FOOD FOR THOUGHT BLOG | It’s More Than a Café! BY PAT TSANG

Breakfast

It was a weekday morning at around 8.30am. As usual, I had already arrived at the  “Cha Chaan Teng” (茶餐廳) downstairs of my office building, and started eating my breakfast.  The restaurant was very busy at the time. I was sitting at my usual 4-seater table near the entrance. You can imagine how big a restaurant with a capacity of about 55-60 customers is.  While I was drinking a glass of Ice YuenYeung (Coffee mix with Tea),  a couple came in and sat down at my table.  Table sharing is a norm here.   When customers can get seats faster, shop owners can do more business.  Everyone benefits.

What is a “Cha Chaan Teng” (CCT)?  It literally means a tea restaurant in English, which is like a local cafe which offers three meal courses a day at affordable prices for the community.

The couple ordered the same classic breakfast set as me.  It included a hot/cold drink such as coffee/tea, a plate of fried eggs and ham/sausage with toast, and a bowl of beef macaroni with soup.  Yes,  the macaroni actually comes with soup, not sauce.  Hong Kong people like soup so we tweak things to fit our tastes.   CCT are very creative, aren’t they?

Cantonese Wonton Noodles

Lunch

“She’s ridiculous!!! When can I get rid of her ???, my girlfriend grumbled.   I listened to her complaining about her boss while I was tucking in my Wonton Noodles at another CCT.  Like many HK people, we were making use of our little one-hour lunch break by meeting up. We both worked in the concentrated business district so the CCT was only a 5-minute walk from our separate offices.  I took the meal deal offer by paying an extra HK$5 for an Ice Lemon Tea. I like it with less syrup (less sweetness), so I told the waiter when ordered.  Actually, other than lemon tea, there are quite a few items that you can ask to have in the way you like at CCT. For example, you can have spring onions to be taken away from your noodles, or have condensed milk instead of evaporated milk for Milk Tea.   CCT are very accommodating, aren’t they?

Lemon Tea

Afternoon Tea

At around 3pm, my boss was going to treat our team to an afternoon tea, so I took orders from my colleagues and placed a delivery order from a nearby CCT which was famous for Egg Tarts and Red Bean Ice.  It is very common that managers would treat their staff from time to time in order to boost staff morale here.  The order was delivered within an hour.  CCT’s services are very efficient, aren’t they?

Dinner

I had not finished my work until 7pm, so my husband suggested eating out.   Like other working couples,  we hardly had time or energy to prepare dinner after work.   We met at the CCT close by our home.  CCT are a bit quiet at dinner time especially when they are in residential areas.  We usually can eat at our own paces, and enjoy dishes like Steam Fish or  Beef Stir Fry Vegetables which are normally cooked at home.  CCT are very helpful to people who are too busy to cook, aren’t they?

Beef stir fry vegetables

A must-go

Wouldn’t you be surprised if I said that all those four meals took place in one day?  Although it seems a little exaggerated, you can totally rely on CCT to provide you with those meals.  From the above scenes, I hope I have shown you how CCT tie up with the day-to-day life of HK people. 

CCT are always crowded with noisy customers. Their popularity proves that people are enjoying their efficiency, convenient locations, and tasty food at low prices.  CCT have been once proposed to be listed in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Cultural list to reflect its importance to HK society.  Although they failed to be added to the list, they have become a must-go spot for tourists.  When you visit HK, do not miss out on this cultural experience, and let the one whom you share the table with recommend some must-eat items to you.  

by Pat Tsang

Heart & Parcel