There's nothing quite like enjoying an intensely strong, milky cup of Assam-based tea, a slice of buttered toast and a couple of soft boiled eggs as a hearty breakfast meal. This is a description of a typical indulgence for Jasmin and I when visiting Singapore and Malaysia. The beverage is called teh tarik, a hot milk tea traditionally brewed from particulate, low grade black tea. More specifically, it’s a black tea base is brewed from tea dust and fannings typically found in supermarket teabags, which elicit a strong, hearty and somewhat bitter brew that must be adjusted with milk to be enjoyed. A revered post-colonial icon of South-East Asia, the enduring popularity of teh tarik boils down to its ubiquitousness in coffee houses and street side vendors, but also its unmistakably famous flavour. It is cheap to purchase and to produce, it tastes utterly decadent and it is an excellent pick-me-up on a hot, humid day.
Its origins are steeped—pun intended—in history, first noted to be served in British Malaya by Indian-Muslim immigrants who served the workers of rubber plantation workers following World War II. Teh tarik is said to have shot to fandom quickly, perhaps owing to its similarity to chai, a drink familiar to the migrant workers and popular at the time of British occupation. With spices and quality tea being something of a luxury, crafty vendors would stretch the volume of their product by boiling the same leaves time and time again, eliciting as much flavour as possible, and masking the unpleasant tannic taste of their brew with milk and sugar.
In an act of part showmanship, part necessity and a great amount of skill, teh tarik is mixed by ‘pulling’ between two drinking vessels to simultaneously aerate, cool and mix the beverage. As the liquid falls from great height and is repeated several times, a frothy consistency is achieved that significantly enhances the mouthfeel and full flavour of the beverage.
We’re breaking with the usual conventions in this variation of teh tarik by choosing higher grade orthodox-style teas from Endeavour Breakfast. Although you could observe a shorter brewing time to suit your preference, we’ve gone ahead with a lengthy steeping time of 30 minutes to extract the fullest, most rich flavour and colour from the Ceylon, Assam and Kenyan black tea leaves. A smidgeon of vanilla and a splash of sweetened condensed milk relieve the unpleasant tannic bitterness of extended steeping, and instead serve up a luscious, creamy beverage that we hope is worthy of the original.
There is an element of risk in ‘pulling’ with a scalding hot drink, so if you are unsure of your pulling skills, try out a cheat’s method instead: simply combine the liquid ingredients of this recipe in a blender and pulse for 5 seconds.
- 550mL boiling water
- 2½ teaspoons Endeavour Breakfast
- 1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk
Bring water to the boil. Add water and tea leaves to a small pot over high heat.
Simmer for 3 minutes, then remove from the stove. Allow to steep for 30 minutes before straining the leaves. Mix in the condensed milk.
‘Pull’ the tea solution from vessel to vessel about eight times, until desired frothiness is achieved. Alternatively, pulse through a blender for 5 seconds.
Serve immediately as-is or poured over ice.