Monday, January 31, 2011

Prosperity Brew

My friend Chuan taught me a few things about the art of brewing tea. You don't want to leave the tea bag(s) soaked in the jug too long, otherwise some intricate chemical reactions would take place in there, making the brew lose its zing, that it will taste soury. 'After a few minutes, take them out. Use it again for brewing next batches,' he said one evening after evaluating and criticizing the dull-tasted tea we had together at a cafe in Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.

Boastfully he claimed himself a tea expert and I couldn't say more because he's Chinese. No way you could be better than a Chinese in tea science. I personally like mine black and bitter with modest sweetness, not manih letteng that best describes the overwhelming sweetness of all kuihs and ladies in Kelantan. So far, in my experience befriending Chuan, whose name means "boat", I could see he has steered his barge full of tea knowledge very well. Surprised to know that I carry Chinese gene of my paternal ancestors within me, he introduced me to the celestial aroma of jasmine tea when he was being my guest during his visit to Kampung Cina Kuala Terengganu a year ago.

Chinese people seldom add sugar into their cuppa, he informed me, and after hearing this I had to accustom my British tongue to a new taste of tea: unsweetened. That was hard because I have been sipping sweetened Liptons and Bohs all my life. The idea of not adding sugar into my jasmine tea has caused my taste buds act a bit awkward. So when Chuan has gone back to his hometown, I silently add sugar into it while pondering what "jasmine" really means in Malay. It was "melur", a kind of flower that smells good and when naming a Malay girl "Melur", she must be very pretty.

On the same warm day of our journey at Kampung Cina, he made me taste a kind of cold sweet tea, whose name was hard to pronounce correctly without Chuan's assistance. It was called "luo han guo" tea, made from a kind of exotic fruit harvested from "luo han guo" trees by people of China, probably at their backyard by the bank of air chor (water puddle). It tasted like longan juice sold at many hawker stalls at Sarawak, and also borrowed the colour of it, but with a tinge of quaint taste and aroma that my narrative capability could not describe nor relate to similar things on earth. Chuan said, luo han guo tea carries cooling properties. I reckon this tea is good for short tempered people like me.

Lately I began to like drinking unsweetened Chinese tea. Probably it was luo han guo tea that cooled down my ego. I discovered calmness and tranquility - a celestial aftermath of sipping unsweetened "oolong" tea, a type of half-fermented tea from mainland China. The unfermented version of it is "green tea", tasted good too. The commercial black teas available in the market are fully fermented ones, and used by mamaks nationwide to make the life-threatening teh tarik.

With tea, you make good friends.

I would like to wish all my Chinese friends, Selamat Hari Raya Cina. This is less pretentious than saying English sounding phrases like 'Happy Chinese New Year'. And for your information, we say 'Hari Raya Cina' over here in Terengganu.


  1. teh hok sejuk buleh buat angin. so, drink while its hot :)

  2. I am in the process of avoiding tea at all cost, as drinking tea doesn't make my teeth to stay white all the time. White equate to less visit to my dentist (after constant blabbering by my other half)

  3. When I was a kid, I hate tea.
    It tasted bitter and I prefer Milo or Nescafe to be brought to school.
    I don't remember when was the time I started to enjoy tea but yeah, I have to admit the fact that tea has lots of nutritious.
    I tried to drink Green Tea once but my throat cannot swallow the drink.
    It's too bitter for me.
    I just drink Lipton or Boh in my entire life.

  4. i'm a tea lover! i'd definitely go for tea instead of coffee.

  5. iced lemon tea!! :)

  6. Old Gannu foggie like me will be reminded of teh wangi. It does not come in bags, but in small packs of loose tea leaves. After brew and tapis (sieve), we celok (dunk) biskut keras or biskut tawor.

    MRSM Kalae Chepo 66/73

  7. I didn't notice that in Terengganu people greet CNY as Selamat Raya Cina... No wonder my fren keep on wishing me "Selamat Raya Cina" before.. eheheh...