Tea Or Coffee? That Is (Not) The Question

By Stuart Black Last edited 47 months ago
Tea Or Coffee? That Is (Not) The Question

A tankard of brown magic in the Long Ji Hong Kong Restaurant in Chinatown.

At the very heart of modern existence there is a burning conundrum we each must resolve every morning if we're to get through this thing called life. That question is of course: tea or coffee?

Or rather, as Londonist's food and drink editor Ben Norum, frames it: "Do you want a hug (tea) or a slap in the face (coffee)?"

It is a knotty one – how best to get your caffeine kickstart of a morning. Tea or coffee? Coffee or tea? But fret no longer, there is an answer and it is actually quite delicious. The ‘way’ is to have tea AND coffee.

It was the Chinese, being a philosopher race, who untangled this nagging riddle with a drink they call yuanyang. This clever beverage combining the two (the name means ‘lovebird’ after the mandarin ducks who live inseparably in pairs) is a speciality in cafés across Hong Kong where the quietly-satisfied local workforce knows better than most the inner harmony that emanates from a dilemma-free breakfast.

"Three parts coffee to seven parts tea," is the mantra chanted by the waiters there as they brew up a morning drink that represents the universe in balance in your cup. It's a simple recipe, though one that is hard to master — as several experiments at Londonist Towers have proven recently.

But rather than try to make it yourself, we suggest you head over to London's Chinatown where there is at least one café serving up an authentic yuanyang. The best might be at the Long Ji Hong Kong Restaurant on the corner of Charing Cross Road and Newport Court. Here it comes in a silver tankard (as surely befits the drink of kings) and you can really savour the drink's innate nuances: those bitter, almost cynical notes brought by the coffee, then the creamy chummy tones of the Hong Kong style milk tea. Ahh, instant zen...

Except for one other small dilemma — you'll have to decide whether to drink your yuanyang hot (as above) or cold (see below). Oh dear...

Iced yanyuang at Long Ji - recommended for hot summer weather.

Last Updated 25 February 2015