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Teh C Special: Where to find the original in 2023

Teh C Special or Three Layer Tea is a Sarawakian drink that has begun to capture the hearts of people all over Malaysia and even Singapore.

However, there is surprisingly a lot of misinformation online about this beloved Sarawakian drink.

So, I’m here to spread some facts behind Teh C Special or Three Layer Tea and tell you once and for all where you can find the original.

What is Teh C Special

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Photo: @saltedswk on Instagram

Most websites and recipes about Teh C Special are likely to provide you with the wrong list of ingredients, which is why we’re here to give you the truth.

Teh C Special is made of four simple ingredients: ice, red tea, evaporated milk, and gula apong.

Gula apong is a type of palm sugar made from the sugar-rich sap of the nipa palm (also known as the mangrove palm).

Yet, most online sources will either tell you that the sweetness comes from either gula melaka (palm sugar derived from coconut trees) or brown sugar, which are both false.

While there are certainly many regional variations with other ingredients, it must be stressed that this is the original and most faithful Sarawakian recipe.

While gula apong and gula melaka are both palm sugars, there are differences in taste and fragrance, with gula apong being the richer and more aromatic of the two.

To those who have never had both, the taste is often described to be like a golden, buttery caramel sugar.

Another thing to note is that this drink is never served hot, so when you order “Teh C Peng Special”, it is a little redundant.

Confused what does “Teh” or “C” or “Peng” mean? Check out my guide on ordering kopitiam drinks in Sarawak.

How to drink Teh C Special

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Photo: @geekyelephant on Instagram

You should not just stick your straw in and drink it right away, or else you’ll only get a mouthful of sweet gula apong.

This layered drink must be thoroughly mixed first before you can enjoy it, so that there is a balance between each of the ingredients.

Although some places provide you with a spoon for easier stirring, most will only give you a straw.

I’ve actually got a tip to mix and drink your Teh C Special or Three Layer Tea, and you don’t need a spoon for it.

Instead of stirring in a circular motion with your straw, what you need to do is churn it in an up and down motion.

The wavy movement will push the evaporated milk down and get the gula apong up. This method works great for me (and works great with boba milk tea too!)

What about Teh C Special syrup

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Photo: Amirhossein Soltani on Unsplash

Despite the fact that it originated in Sarawak, it can be hard to find good and authentic Teh C Special here.

This is because most kopitiams or food courts will turn to the easy alternative and use bottled “Teh C Special Syrup” which you can find in most supermarkets.

Why is this bad? Let me just tell you the ingredients:  Winter melon block, caramel, citric acid, flavour, xantham gum, sodium benzoate.

While the drinks made with this retail syrup are certainly quite sweet, they have zero of the delicious aroma and fragrance that makes for a good Teh C Special.

So, if you’re planning to buy one of these bottled syrups home as a souvenir or even canned versions of Teh C Special or Three Layer Tea, remember that the taste will be completely different.

Where to get the original Teh C Special or Three Layer Tea

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Photo: Borneo Coffee & Etc

I’m sure that everyone has their own go-to for their Teh C Special fix, but why not go to the place that started it all?

This popular Sarawakian drink is widely acknowledged to have originated at the Fresh Food Court at the 7th Mile Bazaar in Kuching (and so far, there have been no counterclaims).

However, the kopitiam has recently moved and rebranded itself as “Fresh Three Layer Food Court”!

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I actually went to the old location by mistake and was severely disappointed when I realised it wasn’t what I was looking for.

Thankfully, a bit of searching revealed that it moved to a bigger space only a minute’s walk away from the old one.

The new place has tons more stalls serving Kolo Mee, Laksa, dumplings, bread, stir fried noodles, economy rice, and more.

One cup of Teh C Special is going to set you back approximately RM3.20, and one way you can tell that it’s the legit place is if it automatically comes in a sealed plastic cup.

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This is because many people come here to take away these aromatic drinks and bring them home.

Seriously, when you are there, you can observe that almost every table will have at least one cup of Teh C Special.

These sweet and fragrant drinks aren’t only enjoyed by young ones with a sweet tooth either, as I’ve seen people from all walks of life – young and old – savouring these delicious beverages.

Fresh Three Layer Food Court is so popular that you might struggle to find a parking spot especially on weekends, but I assure you that the experience will be well worth it.

Opening hours: 5AM-10PM (Tue-Sun, closed Mon),
Address: Ground Floor, Lot 386, Block 46 Lorong Liu Shan Bang 3B/2 7th Mile, Penrissen Road, 93250 Kuching, Sarawak (Google Maps)

Featured image: Amirhossein Soltani

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