Teh Tarik - Pull that tea!
Updated: Jul 7
It was a rainy day and as I plodded to the kitchen after work, I needed a reminder of Singapore, something that would give me a warm, internal hug. “Teh Tarik!”, I exclaimed, startling David. He looked at me with a puzzled expression and one raised eyebrow. “It’s pulled tea, something I grew up on”, I explained. His dead-panned response was “I’ll wait for the pushed version”.
After changing into new pants, thanks to the side effects of laughter, and yet another wonderful present of getting old, I proceeded to get the ingredients to prepare the Teh Tarik. Loose tea, condensed milk and water, that’s it! If you don’t have loose tea, I’m not giving you any substitutes, go and buy it, it makes a HUGE difference. The simplicity of the ingredients doesn’t take away from another cool fact. Teh Tarik is a culmination of 2 languages. Teh from the Hokkien word tê, meaning tea and Tarik meaning pulled in Malay.
The fast version of this would be to microwave the hot water, steep the tea and then add the condensed milk. But I wanted to do this the authentic way, a small saucepan, 2 heaping tablespoons of loose tea, 2 cups of water and then bring it to a boil. Strain the tea, add a couple of tablespoons of condensed milk (or however much you like for sweetness) and then the fun begins, the pulling.
Pulled tea gets its name from pouring it between 2 vessels from a height to cool the tea to an optimal drinking temperature whilst ensuring that it throughly mixes with the condensed milk. I remember my very first attempt doing it. I sipped the tea from the floor, since that’s where most of it ended. Now, I’m a pro. I do it over the sink, so I sip from there instead. My advice to the first-timers, start with the basics. Pull with regular water and work your way to a height of about 15 inches. Then proceed to room temp beverages and finally graduate to piping hot drinks. Another piece of advice, bathing suits.