There’s been a longstanding debate over whether this iconic drink was invented in Singapore or Malaysia, with both countries having annual competitions to find the tarik aficionado, pouring it vertically, diagonally and whichever way it wants to flow! Some say it’s an art form and I can only nod my head in agreement as I confess to still being mesmerised by the whole performance on the odd occasion that I find myself back in Singapore or Malaysia.
What’s teh tarik ? Well, it’s milky tea created and perfected by the Tamil Muslim locals (known as Mamak). Practically a national institution, Teh Tarik is a Malay phrase and literally translated, means “pulled tea”. Strong, black tea, sweetened and creamed with condensed milk, it’s pulled and stretched from one glass to another, with at least a metre between the glasses.
This is what makes it special – the acrobatics involved; the more appreciative the audience, well, the more adventurous the whole act becomes. At the end of the “show”, not only do you have a completely homogenised drink but the tea also cools down to just the right temperature – this is the tropics, don’t forget – and all the while not a drop spilled!
In writing this, I realised how much I miss my family, living so far away from them but of course, entwined with these melancholic thoughts are also some really happy ones. Weddings and birthdays, definitely, but what I remember most are the countless times we got together for a sporting event.
Growing up in a non drinking, sports mad family, teh tarik, more than anything else, reminds me of some of the best sporting events of the last few decades. Watching Ali float and sting while trying to steal a sip from the grown ups’ cups is perhaps the earliest memory I associate with this drink. I know, I know, I’m practically giving my age away now! Thank God for Photoshop!
And of course, if you had a biscuit or two to dunk while you watched Sebastian Coe winning his second gold; McEnroe beating Bjorg; Zico, Maradona, Zidane, Beckham et al work their magic, well, that’s even better! Because let me tell you, biting into a biscuit that’s been dunked in hot, milky teh tarik is a truly rapturous experience, worthy of an adjective ladened post all to itself!
My granddad used to break a handful of Jacob’s plain crackers and drop them into his cuppa, letting them soak, then eating them with a spoon! Sounds gross, doesn’t it? That’s exactly what my kids say when they find me indulging in this nostalgic exercise, more often than I probably should!
And before I go:
Tarik Halia – Ginger Teh Tarik
Teh “O” – Black Tea
Teh Peng – iced
Teh C – with evaporated milk
Teh Kosong – no sugar
Teh Pok = light
Teh Kow = Strong
Teh Tarik Kow Kow Peng Kurang Manis – very, very strong iced teh tarik but not as sweet (less sugar)
and many more in the local lingos and dialects!
So how do you make teh tarik?
Let me tell you! This is how I do it:
And if you fancy more recipes from Singapore and Malaysia, just head on over to the page, for childhood favourites like:
Teh Tarik is frothy, milky hot tea, a speciality of the South Indian stall owners in Singapore and Malaysia.
- 2–3 tsp black tea leaves of your choice
- 250ml (1 cup) boiling water
- 2 Tbsp condensed milk
- 2 slices of fresh ginger
- 1 clove
- 1 cardamom, crushed slightly
- Pour the boiling water onto the tea leaves and add the flavourings if you are using them.
- Leave to steep for 4 minutes.
- Strain and stir in the condensed milk.
- And if you would like it to be teh tarik, get another mug, and pour the tea from one mug to another and back again until you have some froth. Do it over the sink, because I’m sure some of it will spill! I’ve been doing it for years and I still spill some!
An alternative way of brewing the tea
- Add all the ingredients into a small saucepan plus and additional 50ml (1/5 cup) of water and heat over the stove on medium heat.
- Keep a close eye on it and reduce the heat to low, when it starts to bubble. Simmer for 4 minutes, strain and do the same as above, if you would like teh tarik.
- Category: Drinks
- Cuisine: Singaporean and Malaysian