5 Minute Recipes/ Asian Recipes/ Drinks/ Recipes

Malaysian 3 Layer Tea – Teh C Peng Special

08/09/2021

The popular Malaysian Teh C Peng Special recipe is here! This stunning 3 layer tea is icy and sweet, ready to cool you down on a hot day. Made from gula melaka syrup, evaporated milk and strong black tea – yum.

Tall glass of teh c peng special (three layer tea).

Why We Love This

Despite the thick layer of gula melaka syrup at the bottom of each cup, it has a lovely refreshing flavour and isn’t as sweet as you first might think. 

We love that it’s so easy to adapt the sweetness to suit your taste – add more or less gula melaka syrup, or leave it out altogether.

Glasses with three layer tea and evaporated milk.

What is Teh C Peng? 

Teh C Peng (sometimes written as Teh Si Peng or Three Layer Tea) is a style of Malaysian sweet tea that is said to have originated in Sarawak, Malasyia. It’s usually served up at cafes and kopitiam coffee shops and is now becoming more widely available in other areas of Malaysia. 

The drink consists of ‘teh c’ (black tea with evaporated milk) and ‘peng’ (ice), sweetened with gula melaka (palm sugar) syrup.

The word ‘special’ in the name refers to the three beautiful layers in the drink, caused by the different densities of each ingredient:  

  • Bottom – Gula melaka syrup or palm sugar syrup (dark brown)
  • Middle – Evaporated milk (white – the most popular brand is Carnation, hence the ‘c’ in the name) 
  • Top – Brewed black tea (light brown)
Hot tea pouring into a glass to make a 3 layer tea.

What You’ll Need

  • Tea – 3 Layer Tea is usually made with ceylon tea dust from brands like Boh. You can use regular black tea if you prefer. Sub with Thai tea mix which has been blended with spices like cloves and anise for an extra flavour kick. 
  • Palm Sugar – Known as gula melaka, this is a dark brown sugar with a uniquely rich, almost smoky caramelised flavour. Sub with brown sugar or coconut sugar if you need, otherwise skip the syrup altogether and sweeten with condensed milk instead. You can also use pre-made gula melaka syrup if you prefer. 
  • Evaporated Milk – The creamy taste and thicker consistency of this milk is perfect for milk tea!
  • Ice + Water – We use water to turn the palm sugar into a syrup, then the ice is used to fill each glass to cool down the drink immediately.

Ingredients laid out to make 3 layer tea.

How to make 3 Layer Tea:

  1. Steep the black tea bags (or loose leaf tea in strainer) with the boiling water in a teapot or jug for 3-5 minutes.
  2. While the tea steeps, place the palm sugar and 50ml (1.69floz) water into a small saucepan on low to medium heat. Stir as the palm sugar melts, using the back of a spoon to break up any lumps. The syrup should start to bubble, at this point, cook for a further minute or two before switching off the heat.
  3. Add the extra 20ml water to the syrup and stir through. This will thin it out and avoid it hardening.
  4. Divide the palm sugar syrup into two tall glasses as your first layer, then add a cup of ice to each glass, until they’re filled to the top.
  5. Pour the evaporated milk into each glass for the second layer, until around 2/3 full.
  6. Finally, pour the final layer of black tea to the top of each glass.
  7. Admire your three layer tea, then mix it altogether before drinking, making sure to blend all the palm sugar syrup for maximum sweetness.

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Before Drinking – Mix all three layers until evenly blended for the best flavour in every sip. This also helps avoid the gula melaka syrup from hardening as it cools. 
  • Adjust the Sweetness – Add more or less gula melaka syrup to your taste. Alternatively, you can control the sweetness by how much of the syrup you blend into the other layers.
  • Choosing Your Palm Sugar – Good palm sugar or gula melaka should be dark in colour and soft to cut. If it’s very hard, it’s usually a sign of a cheaper brand that has other sugars or additives added to the palm sugar.

FAQs

What tea do they use in kopitiams?

Rather than regular tea leaves or bags, coffee shops in Malaysia generally use tea dust or tea powder. Popular brands are Boh Tarik, Boh Teh Harimau or Serbuk Teh Tarik. Tea dust is essentially the small pieces of ‘broken’ tea leaves or ‘fannings’ leftover from the production of loose leaf tea. 

Why did my gula melaka harden after I added the ice?

You might not have added enough water to dilute the palm sugar when making the syrup. Use a ratio of 1:1 – so 50 g of gula melaka would need 50 ml of water to make the syrup. You can also add an extra 20 ml of water to make sure it won’t harden. Just don’t add too much, because if it’s too watery the evaporated milk will sink into it and won’t give you that clear layer definition.

What’s the difference between teh c peng and teh tarik?

Both are sweet milk teas popular in Malaysia. Where teh c peng is sweetened with gula melaka, teh tarik (Malaysian pulled tea) is sweetened with condensed milk. Teh tarik gets its name from how the tea is poured between two vessels a few times until it has a frothy, bubbly texture.

Variations

  • Panas / Hot Tea – Skip the ice for a warming sweet milk tea instead. 
  • Make it Vegan – Try swapping the evaporated milk for coconut milk, soy milk, oat milk or almond milk. We haven’t tested these alternatives, so can’t confirm if the layering will be the same. 
A tall glass of teh c peng special with a straw.

More amazing Asian drink recipes to try next:

★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and a star rating below!

Two glasses of three layer tea and a small bottle of evaporated milk.

Malaysian 3 Layer Tea – Teh C Peng Special

The popular Malaysian Teh C Peng Special recipe is here! This stunning 3 layer tea is icy and sweet, ready to cool you down on a hot day. Made from gula melaka syrup, evaporated milk and strong black tea – yum.
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Course: Drink
Cuisine: Malaysian
Servings: 2 Glasses
Calories: 217kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $5

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 4 black tea bags or 1 tbsp loose black tea leaves (BOH or Thai Tea Mix work well)
  • 250 ml boiling water
  • 50 g palm sugar gula melaka if possible, roughly chopped
  • 50 ml water + extra 20 ml (1.69floz + 0.67floz)
  • 2 cups ice cubes
  • 200 ml evaporated milk 100ml per glass (6.76floz – 3.38floz per glass)

Instructions

  • Steep the black tea bags (or loose leaf tea in strainer) with the boiling water in a teapot or jug for 3-5 minutes.
  • While the tea steeps, place the palm sugar and 50ml (1.69floz) water into a small saucepan on low to medium heat. Stir as the palm sugar melts, using the back of a spoon to break up any lumps. The syrup should start to bubble, at this point, cook for a further minute or two before switching off the heat.
  • Add the extra 20ml water to the syrup and stir through. This will thin it out and avoid it hardening.
  • Divide the palm sugar syrup into two tall glasses as your first layer, then add a cup of ice to each glass, until they're filled to the top.
  • Pour the evaporated milk into each glass for the second layer, until around 2/3 full.
  • Finally, pour the final layer of black tea to the top of each glass.
  • Admire your three layer tea, then mix it altogether before drinking, making sure to blend all the palm sugar syrup for maximum sweetness.

Recipe Notes

  • Before Drinking – Mix all three layers until evenly blended for the best flavour in every sip. This also helps avoid the gula melaka syrup from hardening as it cools.
  • Adjust the Sweetness – Add more or less gula melaka syrup to your taste. Alternatively, you can control the sweetness by how much of the syrup you blend into the other layers.
  • Choosing Your Palm Sugar – Good palm sugar or gula melaka should be dark in colour and soft to cut. If it’s very hard, it’s usually a sign of a cheaper brand that has other sugars or additives added to the palm sugar.
  • Panas / Hot Tea – Skip the ice for a warming sweet milk tea instead. 
  • Make it Vegan – Try swapping the evaporated milk for coconut milk, soy milk, oat milk or almond milk. We haven’t tested these alternatives, so can’t confirm if the layering will be the same. 

    Nutrition

    Calories: 217kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 29mg | Sodium: 174mg | Potassium: 303mg | Sugar: 26g | Vitamin A: 239IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 273mg | Iron: 1mg
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    Malaysian 3 Layer Tea - Teh C Peng Special

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