In conjunction with Singapore’s 52nd national birthday, we are proud to introduce a new series for this blog: Singapore’s Tea culture.
A rather obscure topic, you wonder? We understand why most would think that. In a nutshell, we may seem to consume tea in a similar fashion as our neighbouring countries like Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. But believe or not, Singapore did nurture a unique culture in tea enjoyment and consumption that we locals are often oblivious about!
So what is this unique tea culture exclusively for Singaporeans?
First, let’s talk about the most common type of tea almost all Singaporeans are passionately familiar with: Teh.
So what is “Teh”?
“Teh” literally means “tea”. But, aside from the term, the way we drink this type of “tea” is starkly different in comparison with most countries. “Teh”, where it’s commonly served in public food courts and hawker centers, widely known as “Kopitiam”, is essentially black tea served with condensed milk and sugar. The black tea used here underwent a processing method called Crush, Tear, Curl (CTC). This processing method is widely used in India from 1950s to 1970s, and rapidly results in a strong, dark brew. There are also vast variations of “Teh” that is worthy of spending some time perusing of. This article published by sgcgo.com gives you a complete guide on these variations of tea.
By now, with the advance importation technology, many would have heard of the many different types of teas; green tea, floral tea, herbal tea, oolong, etc. So why is this specific version of tea using this special combination of ingredients so widely accepted among Singaporeans?
The answer can be traced back when in olden day Singapore when immigrants are flowing into the then-fishing ___. Tea was first introduced by early Chinese immigrants, specifically from Southern Chinese with Fujian, Chaozhou and Guangdong who brought in Oolong and Pu-er tea, such as Tie Guang Ying and Huang Jin Gui. These Chinese immigrants enjoy tea as how are most familiar with; on its own, without condiments or flavourings. The turning point happens when the Indian immigrants came ashore and inject their own tea culture into the mix. India is the second largest producer (after China) in the world and Indians likes their tea strong and flavoursome. That is why black tea is always a favourite, and condiments such as milk and sugar are added to soothe out the black tea’s astringency.
This resulted in an exchange of various tea cultures in one island. Gradually, “teh” is formed, and enjoyed amongst all races and age.