In Appreciation Of Teh

A Nation's Fuel

This might be dramatic, but why not? This is an appreciation post for the drink that fuels me, this nation and more. A cup of tea.

I like drinking it and I like making it. The tea leaves I use to make my cup of teh can’t be found in any supermarket in Singapore. Instead, it comes from an undisclosed hawker stall in the West of Singapore. The stall doesn’t even sell it. They only sold it because we asked if we could buy some. 

And I’m glad we could buy it because I make it almost every morning at home. It’s become a ritual of sorts. If you’ve seen those YouTube videos by people who have an entire coffee ritual, I do the same but for tea.

I boil the water. I scoop the tea leaves into the tea sock. I put the tea sock into the boiling water. Then the tea's aroma and its steam starts to invade the kitchen. I remove the tea sock, add the milk, the condensed milk and lastly, I pull the teh.

As fun as the pulling (tarik) of the teh is, it serves a practical purpose too. It cools it off, making it easier to enjoy and it creates the foam at the top of the cup.

In a world where change is the only constant of life, this repetitive ritual that I go through every morning provides an anchor of sorts.

I appreciate the story behind teh too. Earlier above, I mentioned how I use tea leaves to make teh. That’s a little misleading. The tea “leaves” aren’t really leaves, it’s tea dust. It’s the cheapest form of tea. A byproduct of the delicate loose leaf tea sold in high-end tea boutiques. And I admire the story that we made a national delicacy out of the lowest grade of tea leaves. A reminder to make do with what you have.

Other than making tea, I enjoy drinking it from stalls all around Singapore and Malaysia. I can say that only because every single stall will make it slightly differently (can't say the same for Coca-Cola). It’s a simple drink. Water, tea dust, and milk (mostly condensed, sometimes evaporated) are the three main ingredients. But the combinations and ratios of those ingredients are endless. Some put a lot of tea dust, some put a lot of condensed milk, some add a dash of evaporated milk, some add a sprinkle of salt. There's the brand, quality and origin of the tea dust too. These differences in taste and differences in making the teh break the monotony that’s often found in Singapore’s copy-and-paste chain restaurants and standardised drinks.

That's why I'm looking forward to making my cup of teh tomorrow morning.

Over & Under

Here, I bring up things that are over or undervalued (in my opinion of course).

Overvalued - The Right Answer
I’m in my third week of university and one thing that has become clear, but something that I’m still trying to absorb is: most of the time there is no right answer. For most of my educational experience, there’s always been the distinct right answer. You get it and you get the mark. But in law school, and especially at the edges of the law, it can be argued both ways. So the more important part is knowing how to argue one way or the other.

In my legal research and writing class, we’ve been taught that examinations are like guiding a blindfolded person up the stairs. Where the stairs lead to is not a big deal. It’s the steps that matter most. You need to guide the blindfolded person up, one by one, and explain how you ended up at the top of the stairs. If your legal reasoning is weak, you’re skipping up the steps and you’re much more likely to fall before you reach the top.

“There is no right answer, most of the time” takes some getting used to.

Undervalued - Unlearning
Change is the only constant in life. That means to learn something new, is to unlearn something old. You learn when you REPLACE (unlearn) flawed mental models with better ones.

See the Twitter thread that explains more behind the Cognitive Transformation Theory (CTT).

Weekly Links

9/11 Message Board - The 20th anniversary of 9/11 is approaching. I have no memories of it, but archived message boards like the one I linked, show what it was like on September 11, 2001, as the horrors unfolded.

Another message board - This was posted before 9/11 and it discussed what would happen if planes hit the World Trade Center. Look at the eerie post below.

Until next time,

Guan Jie