Drinks can make you enjoy or suffer

Generally, adults need to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, which is about two litres or half a gallon, and more for those who have perspired profusely due to weather, environment or exercise.

Water is also ingested when consuming fruits and vegetables, particularly those with high water content. The best examples are watermelon and cucumber, as they contain 92 percent and 96 percent water respectively.

I drink two mugs of room temperature boiled water immediately after waking up while still half asleep. I enjoy sipping hot water but don’t have the patience to heat up pre-boiled water in the electric kettle at home.

At the office, I would mix hot and cold water from the dispenser machine and drink it as hot as possible without being scalded. I drink two mugs at around eleven in the morning just before brunch and don’t drink during or after meals.

I enjoy my hot beverage if it is from one of my favourite coffee shops. It could be coffee, tea, or coffee mixed with tea, and always with evaporated milk with little or no sugar. Occasionally, I have Hainan tea, which is coffee mixed with tea and cocoa added.

Some customers prefer Milo or Horlicks, which could easily be made at home or in the office by adding hot water, just like any 3-in-1 coffee mix packed in sachets. These coffee mixes can give a sore throat and strong smell of coffee in the urine.

I do not enjoy coffee brewed at cafes, including those in coffeehouse chains, regardless of whether they are premium or specialty coffee. The worst are those kept in large capacity stainless steel coffee dispenser at hotels for guests to help themselves.

I prefer local coffee in ordinary coffee shops but less than five percent of those that I have tried are good enough for me to return for more. Many use poor quality coffee powder or brewed one too many. The resultant coffee was usually too weak or sweet, although ordered with less sugar.

While coffee can be bad, tea was often terrible. Many coffee shops use a type of tea dust that produces a distinctive unpleasant smell, which is absent from branded teas packed in sachets. But soaking more than one sachet or for prolong period will not produce the tea I enjoy the most.

This is because I have drunk the best tea at a stall operating in the Integrated Commercial Complex (ICC) at Pudu, Kuala Lumpur.

At the entrance of ICC Pudu is a popular outlet famous throughout the region for its Hainan tea and is usually packed.

My tea stall is further in towards the left and easily missed. But it is worth the trouble to locate it and find the master at work. He makes all the drinks cup by cup, adding a dash of coffee, tea or hot water like producing a piece of art, feeling and releasing it only after he is fully satisfied.

The water he uses is boiling hot to extract the full flavour of the tea and would be delicious even without sugar after adding the right amount of evaporated milk. This is the “teh-C kosong” I would have whenever I was at ICC Pudu. The C stands for Carnation, the brand for evaporated milk.

But what makes the tea here so special and would even delight James Bond, who likes his martini shaken and not stirred, is the pièce de résistance. I know of no other master that shakes his super-hot coffee or tea in a small container before pouring it into a traditional stout porcelain cup.

Mamak restaurants and stalls are well known for serving “teh tarik”, literally translated to pulled tea, as tea appears to be pulled when pouring from one big mug to another. Many people mistakenly thought it was to cool down the tea as many customers do not drink them hot.

But it is more to trap air bubbles in the tea and make it taste better, similar to carbonated drinks would taste funny when they are flat without the effervescent. My favourite tea is hot and bubbly and comes with the full flavour of quality tea and sharp taste of evaporated milk.

I also drink Chinese tea and they are great after consuming a lot of meat. Cheaper varieties sold in pots at coffee shops are hardly palatable. A safer bet is to pay much more by ordering “tea king” or Pu Erh tea.

The former has a delicate fragrant smell and tastes great from the first pot. But it would be rather flat after replenishing it with hot water to brew a second pot of tea. The latter is a very dark and strong tea, and the second pot can be just as good or even better if the first pot is emptied within a short time.

Whether coffee or tea has a diuretic effect is not important, it is essential we consume all kinds of drinks and food but without or with minimal sugar, salt, oil, preservative, artificial colouring and flavour.

Over the past decades, a world-renowned brand of blackcurrant-based concentrate was popular as a source of Vitamin C but no longer viewed as healthy after a series of scandals in the 2000s concerning its vitamin C and sugar levels, and the amount of actual fruit in it.

Similarly, one should stay away from so-called fruit juices packed in tetra pak or bottles. But the most horrifying is colourful drinks sold in large containers by the roadside throughout the country. They are commonly found operating at night markets and during Ramadan.

These ice-cold drinks may look and taste delicious in our hot weather but how clean are the water and ice used to make them? I shudder at their artificial colouring and would not enjoy the artificial flavours and sweetness.

At the other end of the scale are healthy drinks such as nourishing soups. Those double boiled with herbs and consumed at night would allow one to feel the effect upon waking up the next morning. The feeling is the exact opposite from a hangover after consuming too much alcohol.

Life is fair and will always balance up. Alcohol may give us a temporary high, but we are bound to come tumbling down before we are back to normal again. Similarly, we can choose to enjoy all the delicious food and drinks now and pay for them with poor health in later life.

We must learn to enjoy bitter foods such as bitter gourd, and drinks such as “kopi-O” without sugar or bitter herbal drinks, and life will be much sweeter in later years. Or we can enjoy overly sweet drinks and cakes, and eventually join more than 3.6 million Malaysians who are diabetics.

When given a choice of clean boiled water over mineral water in plastic bottle, I would choose the former. Human beings cannot absorb inorganic minerals in water well, unlike plants. If we need more iron, a good source would be green leafy vegetables.

It is better to drink more water than less and keep flushing out the urine to lessen the chance of developing bladder stones, as larger ones need to be surgically removed after causing much pain. Finally, may I now raise my mug of water and say cheers and drink to our good health.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.