The Origins of Teh Tarik: A Drink Created By Immigrants After WW2 For The Poor

There was a time before bubble tea, a time when we were cultured and looked elsewhere for our tea cravings. When the holiness of milky tea was not corrupted by the taint that is pearls.

Image: wikipedia

The age of the Teh Tarik.

Image: Giphy

Although more Millenials drank Teh Tarik in the past compared to bubble tea, it is still an iconic beverage for Singapore and Malaysia.

What Is Teh Tarik?

Teh Tarik is tea with milk that is made with condensed milk or evaporated milk with sugar, found in coffee shops in Singapore and Malaysia.

Image: Giphy

Teh Tarik translates to pulled tea. In order to make the taste of the tea even and to generate foam, the tea has to tarik a few times between two pitchers. The hot tea is poured from a height of over a metre into another mug, also known as pulling, and repeated a few times until bubbly, thick foam starts to show.

Apparently, the further the distance of the pulling of the tea the better, as this exposes it more to the air, cooling it and enhancing the flavour.

Rich History

Despite its humble origins and pricing, Teh Tarik has quite an interesting history.

It was actually created after WWII. Prior to the war, Indian-Muslim immigrants in Malaysia and Singapore used to serve chai tea to customers as chai tea leaves were commonplace back then. However, after the war, it was difficult and expensive to purchase chai tea leaves. Tea drinking in general, become a luxurious activity, exclusive to the wealthy.

Image: Giphy

As such, most labourers were unable to drink the tea they once loved. They began to experiment with other methods to recreate their tea beverages.

The British would buy only the best quality tea leaves. Seeing this, the Indian-Muslim immigrants bought the discarded tea leaves from processing, ground them into powdery tea dust to make their tea (that even made the taste of the tea stronger!).

They would often boil the tea multiple times, for multiple hours to save on cost. As a result, the taste of the tea would often get too bitter and astringent. As such, they decided to add condensed milk or evaporated milk with sugar.

This appealed more to the local population, making it a local favourite.

As such, the teh tarik we all know and love was created.

Pro tip: instead of drinking bubble tea that can cost anywhere from two dollars to six dollars, you can get your daily dose of tea and caffeine from our affordable coffeeshop. Teh Tarik only costs about a dollar, much cheaper in comparison.

My Teh Tarik has more bubbles than your bubble tea.