What is Teh Tarik? How do you make Teh Tarik? We wanted to find out the answers to this national beverage of Malaysia so we asked a local.
Teh tarik (literally ‘pulled tea’) is a hot milk tea beverage which can be commonly found in restaurants, outdoor stalls and kopi tiams within the Southeast Asian countries of Malaysia and Singapore. Its name is derived from the pouring process of ‘pulling’ the drink during preparation. It is made from black tea, condensed milk and/or evaporated milk.
“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” -George Bernard Shaw
Preparation – The mixture is poured back and forth repeatedly between two vessels from a height, giving it a thick frothy top. This process cools the tea to optimal drinking temperatures, and helps to thoroughly mix the tea with the condensed milk. It is also done to give the tea a better flavour. This is often compared to the decantering of toddy to improve its flavour.
Locally and regionally sourced tea used for teh tarik are not of the highest grade. Despite the strong aroma from the common Ceylonese variety, the taste is rather acrid and generally would not go well with a little cream or fresh milk like other fine tea. Hence condensed milk or evaporated milk is used to ensure any overpowering taste is well balanced by the creamy flavour of the thickened milk.
Culture: Roti prata and teh tarik at a stall in Jalan Kayu, Singapore. Since colonial times, Teh tarik has been a popular Malaysian Indian cuisine for several people in Malaya and Singapore. The origins of teh tarik can be traced to Indian-Muslim immigrants in the Malay Peninsula who set up drink stalls at the entrance of rubber plantations after World War II to serve the workers there. Traditionally, teh tarik has been seen served with the Roti Canai which has become a popular breakfast set by Malaysians until today.
An element of showmanship exists in the preparation of teh tarik. The ability to drag a long stream of tea above the heads of the patrons without giving them a shower is an amusing novelty for the locals and tourists alike.
In Malaysia, there are occasions where teh tarik brewers gather for competitions and performances to show their skills. Teh tarik has become recognised along with nasi lemak as part of the food and beverage heritage of Malaysia by the Malaysian government ministry.