Wednesday, April 20, 2016

All Right Tea [Cringe]: Instant Milk Tea

What a bunch of teas!
I’m no tea connoi… connois… connoiss… expert. And I’m more of a coffee person, so much so that I once wondered whether I’d be able to stop drinking coffee one day. Since I want to cut down on coffee, and since I seem to have developed a peculiar way of having a hot beverage with every meal, I have turned to tea as an alternative.

I like my tea with milk. And so when you’re in a hurry and you want tea and you want it RIGHT NOW,  and going out to a tea plantation and picking yourself some tea leaves, or when even the usual tea bags take a few minutes too long, then you need the instant of instants - premixed tea.

Before I go any further with this tea mix, this article might only be relatable to Malaysians and maybe the neighbouring countries; and of course those who shop at Asian grocery stores as at least three of these instant teas are locally produced.

What is Teh Tarik

For the purpose of what these instant teas are trying to emulate, and since two of them here are aptly named ‘teh tarik’, I think I should explain what that means first. If there were a national drink for Malaysians this would be it. It’s a drink that a group of friends have when they meet at a local stall to hang out; that’s what you might get from a travel show or a food slash lifestyle show, which is of course overgeneralising.

’Teh Tarik’ is a combination of two Malay words:

Teh = Tea
Tarik = Pull/Pulled
Teh Tarik = Pull/Pulled Tea

Imagine you have a piping hot milk tea in a mug in one hand, and an empty mug in the other; and then pour the hot tea from one mug into the other while pulling the mug upwards, and/or the opposite downwards, creating a sort of a tea waterfall. You then repeat the process a few times. The act is in effect cooling off the tea and creating a froth in the ready-to-serve tea. I don’t know if there’s any real difference between teh tarik and the regular milk tea without the ‘pulled’ preparation; I suspect there isn’t but don’t tell the teh tarik fanatics I said that.

Onto the instant teas this article is about, among them, my favourites are the Lipton and Aik Cheong, with Old Town Coffee following close behind.

I’m going to go ahead and give them stars; five being my favourite.

Boh 3 in 1 Instant Tea Mix [Original] [Boh] - One Star

I just don’t 'get' the tea or the milk in this mix, or maybe there’s too little premix in the sachet, but even if I reduce the water in the mix the taste is too light for my… err taste. The tea is not as frothy as the other ones but it’s probably because it’s not meant to be a ‘teh tarik’. There’s a bitter tea aftertaste at the back of the mouth, which I don’t particularly hate.

Old Town White Coffee 3 in 1 White Milk Tea [Old Town | Amazon | FairPrice | Tesco] - Three Stars

Old Town need to drop ‘White Coffee’ in the print on the package. I still have to double check that I’m actually buying tea instead of white coffee. There’s also a bitter aftertaste like Boh, but there’s a good mix of milkiness and sweetness and of course tea that agrees with me. Also, it is rather frothy. 

Aik Cheong Teh Tarik Milk Tea Beverage [Classic] [Aik Cheong | Amazon | eBay] - Four Stars

This instant tea is the first of the bunch I ever tried. At one point, after a redesign of their packaging, the tea tasted like there was a hint of ginger; and speaking of that, you do have to be careful as the colour of the packaging of the ‘Classic’ and ‘Ginger’ look quite similar and the label is too small in my opinion. Apart from that, the ‘Classic’ now does seem to taste more like the original ‘Classic’, which I like. And true to its name, the tea is frothy.

Lipton Teh Tarik Milk Tea Latte [Lipton | eBay | Tesco]- Five Stars

The Lipton Teh Tarik has all the goodness of Old Town’s and Aik Cheong’s and maybe more, even if slightly. I think taste is a matter of personal preference and Lipton has got the mix to match my taste. I don’t know if they use brown sugar but they are doing a pretty good job at making it tastes like it contains something similar [sometimes I like to think that I can tell the difference between brown sugar and white sugar]. The mix is frothy and you can hear little pops when you add some water, which is just as amusing even if I don't know what causes it and there's no information whatsoever on their website.

Do you like instant teas or do you pick the tea leaves yourself to make a cup?

On a side note, have you gotten over that cringe-worthy title? Legend has it that nobody can.

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