If you don’t already know, Ang Mo Liang Teh or 红毛涼茶 is the colloquial term used to describe the ice-cold beverage that we’ve all come to love, beer!
Though there is no reference as to where this term first appeared, it seems to be very commonly used amongst the older generation (and also the millennials who grew up with them). Ask any friendly uncle with his group of retired friends at a neighbourhood Kopitiam, and you’ll probably get varying answers.
From my understanding and research (by randomly asking beer-guzzling uncles at Kopitiams), this is the most plausible and likely explanation for the term Ang Mo Liang Teh. When Singapore was first founded back in our forefathers' era, most of them were immigrants from China, India, and neighbouring East Asian countries and have no concept of beer. During the period where Singapore was colonised, beer was not something that locals made or brewed, it was made popular by the caucasian who then brought it across their colonies. Hence, we can all agree that this explains the “Ang Mo” portion. By the way, if you’re new to the term Ang Mo, which directly translates to “Red Hair” in Hokkien, is not an offensive term but rather used to describe the physical attributes of caucasian people, explicitly the colour of their hair.
Now, what about Liang Teh? Liang Teh refers to cooling / herbal tea. The ones you see at traditional Chinese medicinal shops served in giant brass vats with dragon heads as spigots. Of course, you get bottled ones nowadays, but I digress. So, obviously, tea is not beer and where is the association you may ask. Truth is, I don’t know as well. But the most likely answer is that Singapore is closely situated near the equator and is hot AF, and anything cold, cooling, and enjoyed to beat the heat is therefore known as, Liang Teh!
So to put it all together, an ice-cold cooling beverage brought in by the Caucasians during Singapore’s time of colonisation where most of the Chinese population spoke in dialects such as Hokkien, the term Ang Mo Liang Teh is birthed.
Hence, while thinking of a name for my bottle shop that specialises in Craft Beer, Ang Mo Liang Teh was something that came to me naturally and instantly. The name has raised some eyebrows, and at the same time made many chuckle. I think it is something fun and quirky, maybe slightly controversial. But hey, isn’t that what Craft Beer is about? It’s fun, it’s diverse in terms of flavour profiles, some prefer it light, while others like it hoppy or malty and everyone has their own opinions about it. But regardless of what your taste buds tell you, the Ang Mo Liang Teh bottle shop is a place where we can gather, and experience and enjoy craft beer!
So head over today and experience it for yourself, whether you’re a seasoned craft beer enthusiast or a craft curious, I’m sure there’s something for everyone. And if you’re too lazy to head out, we’ll deliver it to you.
What Even is Ang Mo Liang Teh?
May 3, 2021