Teh Tarik: The National Drink of Malaysia

One of my favourite things about traveling around Asia is the huge variety of food and drink on offer. With so many countries and cultures in close proximity you get a fusion of flavours, spices and other ingredients that give you some amazing dishes and delights. One of my favourite drinks in Asia is Teh Tarik.

Teh Tarik is literally translated as “pulled tea”. It is a popular drink in Malaysia and the surrounding countries, I have drank it in Singapore, Brunei and the south of Thailand where there is a large Malay community. Its origins come from the Indian influence in Malay culture and there are a number of urban myths about how it came to be. Personally I just love the taste!

The recipe is as simple as it can be, just black tea mixed with either evaporated or condensed milk. The art of a good Teh Tarik comes from the way the maker mixes the tea and the ratio of milk to tea in each glass. This, of course leads to some variations of taste throughout the region, but you can’t mistake the sweet taste wherever you happen to have a cup. If the tea maker is using condensed milk then it is likely going to be very sweet, my personal preference is Teh Tarik made from evaporated milk, this still gives an amazing taste without it being over sweet.

The mixture of black tea and milk is placed in one container and then the tea maker will pour the mix to another container and back again several times to produce a froth on the top. This process is quite amazing to watch in itself and many tourists flock around tea and coffee shops to watch it being done, it’s almost like a kind of street theatre.

Teh Tarik is a real local drink though and the Malaysian Government have declared it the national drink. Many locals in Malaysia and Singapore will have Teh Tarik with most meals. Local Malaysians will also sit around coffee and tea shops drinking Teh Tarik much as westerners might go to their local bar or pub, such is the appeal and social characteristic of the drink.

When something becomes popular of course there are bound to be imitations and this is the case with Teh Tarik. Thai Tea is now becoming more popular which is very similar to Teh Tarik although this is often drank cold rather than hot. Other countries have also started producing their own version of a milk pulled tea, Hong Kong for example have a milk tea fusion but this is far removed from the Teh Tarik process and if you are expecting them to taste the same you will be sadly disappointed.

There is certainly no mistaking the unique taste of one of Asia’s endearing beverages. If you are every in the region, make sure you taste Teh Tarik. 

If you are visiting Malaysia, Check out this site for reviews of the best places to go. There are a number of articles about many different places in Malaysia from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu and The Cameron Highlands

Malaysian Travel Guides

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