Snapshots from Malaysia: 'Teh Tarik,' Pulled Tea

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A roti canai and teh tarik vendor in Penang. [Photo: Carey Jones]

One of the greatest things about street vendors is the performance involved. When your food's prepared in front of you, you've got a front-row seat to noodle-tossing, dough-stretching, and—probably my favorite in Malaysia—tea-pulling.

Called teh tarik, translating literally to "pulled tea," it's a drink made by pouring hot black tea and condensed milk between two containers, from farther and farther distances, until it's blended and frothy—far less aerated than a cappuccino, say, but with a real layer of foam on top.

First, as pictured at top, sweetened condensed milk and tea are stirred together...

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Then poured into another vessel...

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Then from a little more height...

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And boom, the money shot.

It's all about theater, of course. Though the pouring may mix and aerate, a one-foot pour is probably as effective as a two-foot. But vendors pride themselves on their tea-pulling skill, the higher the better. It's awfully fun to watch as they whip the tea back and forth in just seconds, long trails of liquid streaming through the air, flying between vessels.

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And there it is, light and frothy. More fun than an Aerolatte any day.

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