In Appreciation of Teh
This might be dramatic, but why not? This is an appreciation post for the drink that fuels me, this nation, and more. A cup of tea.
I like drinking it and I like making it. The tea leaves I use to make my cup of teh can’t be found in any supermarket in Singapore. Instead, it comes from an undisclosed hawker stall in the West of Singapore. The stall doesn’t even sell it. They only sold it because we asked if we could buy some.
And I’m glad we could buy it because I make it almost every morning at home. It’s become a ritual of sorts. If you’ve seen those YouTube videos by people who have an entire coffee ritual, I do the same but for tea.
I boil the water. I scoop the tea leaves into the tea sock. I put the tea sock into the boiling water. Then the tea’s aroma and its steam starts to invade the kitchen. I remove the tea sock, add the milk, the condensed milk and lastly, I pull the teh.
As fun as the pulling (tarik) of the teh is, it serves a practical purpose too. It cools it off, making it easier to enjoy and it creates the foam at the top of the cup.
In a world where change is the only constant of life, this repetitive ritual that I go through every morning provides an anchor of sorts.
I appreciate the story behind teh too. Earlier above, I mentioned how I use tea leaves to make teh. That’s a little misleading. The tea “leaves” aren’t really leaves, it’s tea dust. It’s the cheapest form of tea. A byproduct of the delicate loose leaf tea sold in high-end tea boutiques. And I admire the story that we made a national delicacy out of the lowest grade of tea leaves. A reminder to make do with what you have.
Other than making tea, I enjoy drinking it from stalls all around Singapore and Malaysia. I can say that only because every single stall will make it slightly differently (can’t say the same for Coca-Cola). It’s a simple drink. Water, tea dust, and milk (mostly condensed, sometimes evaporated) are the three main ingredients. But the combinations and ratios of those ingredients are endless. Some put a lot of tea dust, some put a lot of condensed milk, some add a dash of evaporated milk, some add a sprinkle of salt. There’s the brand, quality and origin of the tea dust too. These differences in taste and differences in making the teh break the monotony that’s often found in Singapore’s copy-and-paste chain restaurants and standardised drinks.
That’s why I’m looking forward to making my cup of teh tomorrow morning.1The last photo is my own homemade cup of teh. I try to go easy on the condensed milk. Which is why there isn’t much foam.