Teh Tarik: Pulled tea from Singapore and Malaysia

Teh Tarik: Pulled tea from Singapore and Malaysia

This drink is made using a technique similar to South Indian filter coffee

Teh Tarik or Pulled Tea
Teh Tarik or Pulled Tea Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: Teh Tarik (pronounce as Te ta rik) is hot milk tea, similar to UAE’s Karak Chai, but with a twist. It is popular in South Asian countries like Singapore and Malaysia; uses a unique technique and gets its names from it too. In Malay, the word teh tarik translates to ‘pulled tea’.

The art of 'pulling tea'

The art of pulling hot beverages from a height say a meter, to create a layer of bubbly foam is common in many South Asian kitchens. For instance, the South Indian filter coffee uses the same technique. Speaking to Gulf News Food, Sameer Purain, owner of Sedap, a Singaporean restaurant based in Dubai, explained this drink’s cultural significance and how it is made. He said, “Teh tarik is a strong brewed black tea blended with condensed milk pulled or poured in quick, steady motions back and forth repeatedly between two metal jugs.”

It is typically served at street-style stalls, restaurants, and homes across Singapore and Malaysia. The cost may vary but remains true to its humble origin. A cup of teh tarik can cost anywhere between 1.50 Singaporean dollars (SGD) (Dh4) at coffee shops to about 2.50 SGD (Dh6) at premium restaurant chains, according to Mukta Purain, Sameer’s wife and co-owner of Sedap.

How Teh Tarik is pulled...
How Teh Tarik is pulled... Image Credit: Shutterstock

Humble history of Teh tarik

According to many online reports, it is believed that this drink was first prepared by immigrants went from India to old Malay and Singapore around the 15th century. They brought the culture of drink stalls or ‘sarabat’ and set up tea stalls outside factories. The factory workers and miners started gathering around these tea stalls for their occasional break, and that’s how the teh tarik culture really began.

Soon, this tea-drinking culture spread across towns, cities and homes, so much so that ‘pulled tea’ became a staple South Asian beverage and Malaysia’s national drink. It is something that people drink first thing in the morning, as an accompaniment to snacks or just as is.

Most hot beverages like tea and coffee are usually paired with fried, baked, savoury or sweet accompaniments. So is teh tarik. Purain added: “You can have teh tarik with anything. Everyone has their own preferences. Some like it with snacks such as goreng pisang or curry puffs, while others enjoy a more substantial meal like nasi lemak (fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf) or rojak (salad made with a mixture of sliced fruit and vegetables served with a spicy palm sugar dressing). Other’s may have it with breakfast such as roti canai or flatbread, kaya toast or carrot cake. You will see the older generation of Singaporeans drinking teh tarik in coffee shops with their friends, and it’s quite a social event, quite similar to the coffee culture in Dubai.

Hawker street food culture: Eating at a hawker in Singapore is something that everyone does, regardless of the status quo or hierarchy.
Hawker street food culture: Eating at a hawker in Singapore is something that everyone does, regardless of the status quo or hierarchy. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Purain said: “I have seen this drink growing up, as it is readily available in kopi tiams or coffee shops as called in Singapore. I would go with my parents for teh tarik, curry puff, or kaya toast. Or we would have it as an afternoon snack with pisang goreng or fried banana fritters or any other type of sweet fritters.” For Purain and his family, having teh tarik over snacks happens to be an excellent way of catching up and spending time together, especially when the extended family visits.

How is it different from a cup of chai?

Indian masala chai is a popular tea drink just like teh tarik. However, the preparation and technique set it apart. A cup of Indian chai is brewed with black tea, spices and milk and is not pulled, whereas teh tarik is made with condensed milk. The pulling process helps cool the tea down and, at the same time, gives you some froth and a nice blend of the milk and tea flavours, quite similar to the UAE’s iconic karak chai. It’s the showmanship of pulling tea that makes teh tarik so popular around the world, too. 

Here is a recipe to make Singapore’s iconic Teh tarik

Preparation time: 2 minutes

Cooking time: 5 minutes

Serves: 2


1 cup of strong black tea, brewed (Use 2 tsp tea leaves and brew it in hot water for about 2 minutes)

60 ml of condensed milk

30 ml of evaporated milk


1. Get 2 tin pitcher or mugs for the tea pulling process.

2. Put all ingredients into a mixing tin mug or pitcher.

3. Now, pour the tea from one pitcher to another as high as possible, without spilling a drop. [Insert video]

4. This pulling process is what makes Teh tarik frothy and light. It also improves the flavour and helps mix the tea with the evaporated and condensed milk thoroughly.

Serve hot with curry puffs or banana fritters and enjoy.

Recipe courtesy: Chef Jaslin, Sedap Asian Street Kitchen, Dubai

Do you have a favourite tea story to share with us? Write to us at food@gulfnews.com

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