Teh tarik



Teh tarik is a drink made by cooling a brew of hot tea and milk through the process of pouring and “pulling” it between two cups or mugs to create a rich, frothy drink.1 The drink’s name means “pulled tea” in Malay, a reference to how it is made.2

History
There is an ongoing dispute as to whether this drink is a speciality of Singapore or Malaysia. The origins of teh tarik can be traced to Indian-Muslim immigrants in the Malay Peninsula who set up sarabat or drink stalls at the entrance of rubber plantations after World War II to serve the workers there. While sarabat stalls are still commonly found in factories and construction sites in Malaysia today, those in Singapore were relocated to hawker centres in the 1970s.3

Due to its Indian-Muslim origins, teh tarik is often known as a mamak concoction, mamak being a local term for an Indian.4 The term mamak or more properly mama can be traced to the Tamil word meaning “uncle”. In India, fresh cow’s milk is used for a similar drink of “pulled tea”, but evaporated and condensed milk are used for teh tarik.5 Historically, the water used for making teh tarik was boiled in aluminium pots over an open flame.6

The renewed interest in teh tarik has in part been encouraged by the rise of 24-hour Indian-Muslim eateries selling the drink along with roti prata (a round flatbread) and other types of Indian-Malay cuisine.7

Teh tarik is consumed by all races, although preferences for the amount of condensed milk used vary with the Chinese preferring less of it and the Indians favouring a larger amount.8

Description
Teh tarik is made with tea leaves placed in water just before it boils. Spices such as cardamom, cloves and ginger can be added together with the tea for added flavour.9 Teh tarik can be made with any type of tea, but tea dust is preferred as it results in a stronger flavour compared to tea leaves and gives teh tarik its characteristic orange colouring. Tea dust is a lower-grade tea made of broken tea leaves ground into dust. Sri Lankan tea dust is regarded as producing the best quality brew. For home brews, teabags are used as an alternative when tea dust is not available.10

The process of making teh tarik starts with adding evaporated and condensed milk to boiling water. Once the brew is bubbling, it is taken off the heat and the mixture strained into a tin mug. The tea is then poured from a height of about a metre into another mug. This process of “pulling” the tea is repeated a number of times until a layer of froth forms over the drink before it is served. The tea should preferably be “pulled” longer than an arm’s length. The “pulling” process cools the tea and enhances its flavour.11

A good brew is determined by the following: the type of tea leaves or tea dust used; how the tea is mixed; the way the tea is “pulled” and the time spent in “pulling”; the amount of sugar added; the volume of water used; as well as the proportion of evaporated and condensed milk. Some famed teh tarik stalls use up to six types of tea leaves in a concoction.12

Teh tarik lovers judge a teh tarik drink on the proportion of condensed milk used. Too much and it is considered too sweet, too little and it is not rich enough. Others suggest that using condensed milk alone makes for a more authentic tea. The condensed milk is believed to give the “pulled tea” more froth and better flavour. In some sarabat stalls, a spoonful of sugar is added to sweeten the teh tarik even further.13

Some related drinks
Teh-o or teh kosong is tea served without milk or sugar, while teh-si has evaporated milk and sugar added instead of condensed milk. Teh halia or alia is made of freshly ground ginger juice with condensed milk, and it is usually “pulled” like teh tarik.14 Teh peng is milk tea served with ice.

Besides the traditional teh halia and masala tea (a spiced Indian tea), modern sarabat stalls and Indian-Muslim eateries sell other tea concoctions such as teh-cino (a tea inspired by the Italian cappuccino) and halia-cino, which is ginger tea topped with milk foam.15

Teh-cino is a variant of teh tarik, but only hot milk is “pulled” before a layer of tea is added on top. Some cocoa powder sprinkled over the tea enhances the flavour of the drink. A&A Restaurant at Sembawang Road (now known as Teh Tarik Muslim Restaurant) takes credit for inventing teh-cino as well as Milo Dinosaur, which is a chocolate and malt beverage with Milo powder added as a topping.16



Author

Bonny Tan



References
1. KL teh tarik sellers divulge the secrets of their trade. (1994, November 2). The Sunday Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Teo, P. L. (2006, January 15). Storm in a teh cup. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Teo, P. L. (2006, January 15). Storm in a teh cup. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. KL teh tarik sellers divulge the secrets of their trade. (1994, November 2). The Sunday Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Teo, P. L. (2006, January 15). Storm in a teh cup. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Tay, L. (2010). The end of char kway teow: And other hawker mysteries. Singapore: Epigram Books, p. 354. (Call no.: RSING 647.955957 TAY)
7. Teo, P. L. (2006, January 15). Storm in a teh cup. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Teo, P. L. (2006, January 15). Storm in a teh cup. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Sugar and spice, it’s really nice. (1997, March 13). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; To make shiok teh tarik. (1997, March 13). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Tay, L. (2011, September 12). How to make teh tarik: As much as you would need to know. Retrieved from ieatishootipost website: http://ieatishootipost.sg/2011/09/how-to-make-teh-tarik-as-much-as-you.html; Teo, P. L. (2006, January 15). Storm in a teh cup. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Lau, F. K. (2006, January 15). Top teh. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Storm in a teh cup. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. KL teh tarik sellers divulge the secrets of their trade. (1994, November 2). The Sunday Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Office worker finds his teh tarek man 30 years later. (1991, November 11). The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tay, L. (2011, September 12). How to make teh tarik: As much as you would need to know. Retrieved from ieatishootipost website: http://ieatishootipost.sg/2011/09/how-to-make-teh-tarik-as-much-as-you.html
14. Lau, F. K. (2006, January 15). Top teh. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Teo, P. L. (2006, January 15). Storm in a teh cup. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Lau, F. K. (2006, January 15). Top teh. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG: Ho, M. & Lee, S. (2001, August 17). Shiok to the t. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.; 
16. Ho, M. & Lee, S. (2001, August 17). Shiok to the t. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Lau, F. K. (2006, January 15). Top teh. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Teo, P. L. (2006, January 15). Storm in a teh cup. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 16 July 2013 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Local foods -- Singapore
Non-alcoholic beverages -- Singapore
Tea (Beverage)

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