tehCpeng — A guide to the real thing.

by ember: a tehCpeng.net com­mu­nity service.

/‘tεh si pεη/ (IPA) n.

  1. A deli­cious con­coc­tion of red tea, Gula Melaka and evap­o­rated milk care­fully pre­sented unstirred in three or more layers.
  2. A pop­u­lar vari­ant of a (also) pop­u­lar morn­ing drink with ori­gins from Kuch­ing, Sarawak.
  3. This blogger’s all-time favourite drink.
  4. A drink that deserves it’s own page. =)

If you’re a fel­low Kuch­ing­nite, you’d already have a rough idea what teh-C peng is. Since its more of a Kuching-thing, I’m bet­ting that there are quite a few out there who doesn’t quite yet know about this hid­den trea­sure of Kuching.

Before we pro­ceed, note that we’ll be dis­cussing the teh-C peng spe­cial, also known as the 3-layer vari­ant more pop­u­lar in Kuch­ing. You should also know that a Kuch­ing teh-C peng spe­cial is very dif­fer­ent from reg­u­lar teh-C peng found else­where in the region. Read on!

The Menu

So yeap, this is a page all about teh-C peng, that drink my blog is named after. And due to its lengthy nature, I’ve divided the guide into a few parts to make your life easier:

The name, in three parts.

teh for tea

So lets start off with get­ting down and dirty with the name — ‘teh-C peng’ by dis­sect­ing its three-part name. teh lit­er­ally means tea in Malay.

The tea used in teh-C peng’s are usu­ally of a cer­tain vari­ant of red tea.

c for milk

There is no offi­cial def­i­n­i­tion for the ‘C’ in the mid­dle but accord­ing to pop­u­lar con­cep­tion its lingo for ‘evap­o­rated milk’. It is accepted in almost every kopi­tiam in Malaysia, that when you add the suf­fix ‘C’ to an order of a drink, you’re imply­ing that you want evap­o­rated milk to be added, or the milked vari­ant of that drink. Milk-ed vari­ants of drinks are very com­mon in Malaysia, not lim­ited to kopi-‘C’, cincau-‘C’ and of course, teh-‘C’.

Accord­ing to the Singlish Dictionary’s def­i­n­i­tion of ‘kopi-C’, the ‘C’ is known to stand for a cer­tain Car­na­tion brand of evap­o­rated milk. Ask those of the older gen­er­a­tions and they may be famil­iar with it, for I’ve never heard of a par­tic­u­lar Car­na­tion brand of evap­o­rated milk. But it seems that’s how the ‘C’ in teh-C peng originates.

peng for ice

Okay, now lets move on to peng. Which is ‘ice’ in Hokkien. This is another com­monly used suf­fix when order­ing drinks in Malaysian kopi­tiams when­ever you want your drink to be iced. It is optional though, for when you omit the -peng, the waiter would assume you want your drink steam­ing hot.

So there you have it, a seem­ingly com­plex but com­monly used for­mula for order­ing drinks here in Malaysia. If you’ve prop­erly grasped how I defined the three-part name, you’ll instantly make out that teh-C peng means, sim­ply, in Eng­lish — iced milk tea. =)

Spe­cially in three layers.

TCP at Aunties Corner
Teh-C peng

If you’d order your­self a glass of teh-C peng any­where else in Malaysia, you’ll prob­a­bly get a light-brown coloured glass of typ­i­cal iced milk tea. Obvi­ously. But when you’re here in Kuch­ing, teh-C peng comes in three lay­ers, some even five.

Its three lay­ers are often made up of (top-to-bottom) tea, evap­o­rated milk and Gula Melaka (Palm sugar) syrup. Sim­ple physics would explain how the dif­fer­ent den­si­ties of the three main ingre­di­ents float on top of each other.

It’s three lay­ers are often made up of (top-to-bottom) tea, evap­o­rated milk and Gula Melaka (Palm sugar) syrup.

4 layer TCP
4 layer teh-C peng at Saberkas with an extra green­ish layer of wheat­grass syrup.

In most Kuch­ing kopi­tiams, order­ing for ‘teh-C peng’ gives you the three layer ver­sion. But there are places in Kuch­ing where order­ing ‘teh-C peng’ serves you the nor­mal iced milk tea. In such cases, you’ll have to empha­sise that you want the ‘three-layer’ teh-C peng or by order­ing teh-C peng ‘special’.

When order­ing, you’ll have to empha­sise that you want the ‘three-layer’ teh-C peng or by order­ing teh-C peng ‘special’.

A nor­mal teh-C peng.

To be safe though, be sure to include the ‘spe­cial’ in your orders when­ever you want your teh-C peng to come in three (or more) layers.

Make your­self a cup!

By no means a com­plete guide but a rough idea at how you could make your own teh-C spe­cial. Check out how I did it (and failed mis­er­ably, but you’ll get the idea) in this post.

How to drink it?

Do I have to teach you how to drink tea? =P

Seri­ously though, to be con­sumed, you have to, obvi­ously, stir up its three lay­ers evenly until it forms a smooth light-brown (some­times almost orange) colour. And no, you don’t get a spoon to do the stir­ring, its done with your straw.

When you’re sat­is­fied with your stir­ring, sim­ply drink it like how you’d sip on your Star­bucks ice blended frappuccino. =)

Where in Kuch­ing should I try it?

Good ques­tion. =D See­ing as teh-C spe­cials have gone main­stream in East Malaysia and also in the Penin­su­lar to some degree, you can pretty much find teh-C spe­cial any­where, includ­ing your near­est neigh­bour­hood cof­feeshop. But it goes with­out say­ing that the teh-C spe­cial expe­ri­ence will vary from cof­feeshop to cof­feeshop, across even streets, and what more, oceans.

A lot of peo­ple can tes­ta­ment to the fact that decent teh-C spe­cial offer­ings are rare even in Kuch­ing itself. Dur­ing the teh-C spe­cial boom in Kuch­ing a few years ago, a lot cof­feeshops strug­gled to con­coct a good emu­la­tion of the orig­i­nal blend. Some did it quite decently, some inno­vate the drink into offer­ing more ‘lay­ers’ to it, oth­ers fail mis­er­ably. That said, as with every other Malaysian dish or drink sen­sa­tion that spi­rals into pop­u­lar­ity (and inevitably poor adap­ta­tions), it is always worth to revisit the place where it all started.

Fresh Food Court, 7th mile bazaar — The Birthplace

Address: Lorong Liu Shan Bang, Kota Sen­tosa, 93250 Kuch­ing, Sarawak, Malaysia | Show in Google Maps

The best place in Kuch­ing to savour teh-C spe­cial is none other than the Fresh Food Court at the 7th mile bazaar. I’m not sure as to its authen­tic­ity but it is widely acknowl­edged that the three-layer teh-C peng orig­i­nated under these very roofs before gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity all over Kuching.

Fresh Food Court 7th mile
Fresh Food Court @ 7th mile

It is widely acknowl­edged that the three-layer teh-C peng orig­i­nated under these very roofs [of the Fresh Food Court] before gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity all over Kuching.

In fact, I had my very first three-layer teh-C peng right here at Fresh Food Court a few years back. It was love at first sight. I’ve been a devoted teh-C peng lover ever since that first cup. And in my per­sonal opin­ion, Fresh Food Court still is home to the best teh-C peng Kuch­ing can offer.

TCP at Fresh Food Court
TCP at Fresh Food Court

Their pop­u­lar­ity grew city-wide purely by word of mouth. Their teh-C peng is so good, and tauke so mod­est, they don’t adver­tise their spe­cial­ity at all. Seri­ously, you could be sit­ting in there all day with­out a clue that they serve Kuching’s best teh-C peng. Unless, over time, you realise there’s a dom­i­nant drink on the tables around you and on the wait­ers’ serv­ing trays.

Fresh Food Court charges a decent RM1.40 RM1.60 a glass. Take away is slightly more costly at RM1.80 RM1.90 (pric­ing revised circa 2008), prob­a­bly due to the larger size of their sealed plas­tic take-away cup.

The above exam­ples of rec­om­men­da­tions are listed out based on my obser­va­tions alone. Thus, it is no way com­plete. If you feel that I’m miss­ing some­thing to the best teh-C peng list, feel free to rec­om­mend alter­na­tives through the com­ments below. I’ll be more than glad. =D

Sources: Jack Tsen-Ta Lee, 2007, A Dic­tio­nary of Singlish and Sin­ga­pore Eng­lish, http://www.singlishdictionary.com/singlish_K.htm#kopi-C, Retrieved on 22 July 2008

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