21 Baghdad Street, Singapore 199660
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Bhai Tarik (Pull) through the Thick and Thin


Name of business:

Bhai Sarbat

Business location:

21 Baghdad Street, Singapore 199660

Business type:

Food & Beverage


1950s, Physical store in 1977


Bhai Sarbat is a popular drink stall at Baghdad Street. The stall offers a vast array of 125 local drinks, from the classic teh tarik and teh halia to the innovative Nescafé Godzilla and Banana Milkshake with Coffee. The current owner, Mr Mohammad Asgar has gone through a journey of hardship before finding stability and opportunity through Bhai Sarbat. He is passionate about creating new drinks and keeping the business alive.

Along the shophouses of Baghdad Street, there is a small, cosy drink stall, adorned in riveting bright green signboards. Step closer and you will discover that the green signages framing the shop are in fact menus, with drink options covering every inch of the display. From the traditional all-time favourite teh tarik to the innovative Nescafé Godzilla, patrons can choose from a wide array of local flavours. This is Bhai Sarbat, the famous drink stall currently run by Mr Mohammad Asgar. Mr Asgar often greets his customers from his aluminium-cladded drinks counter. With a cheeky grin, he entertains them with his teh tarik skills. Using a classic preparation technique also known as pulling the tea, Mr Asgar effortlessly pours tea from a height to bring out its flavour.

Starting out in the 1950s as a beca stall, or a food cart set up on a rickshaw, Bhai Sarbat spent its early years roaming the streets to sell tea. Founded by Mr Kabiruddin and Mr Zamir Ahmad, the drink stall acquired a physical shop space in 1977 when they earned enough money to cover rental costs. In the early days, the shop did not have a signboard or a name. As the stall gained popularity over the years, customers would refer to the shop as the “Bhai Sarbat stall”. Bhai, an Indian-wide term to mean “brother”, was a term of endearment that regulars would use for Mr Kabiruddin and Mr Zamir Ahmad. Sarbat refers to the classic teh sarabat or teh halia, a milk tea prepared with ginger extract which is the store’s trademark drink. This inspired Mr Asgar to claim Bhai Sarbat as the shop’s official name when he became the owner.

Mr Asgar came from the same village as Mr Kabiruddin, in Uttar Pradesh, India, and became Mr Kabiruddin’s apprentice over 15 years ago. Contrary to what most would think, he did not begin his career in Bhai Sarbat. Instead, he was a maintenance officer in Mustafa Centre when he first arrived in Singapore. As a hands-on person with experience in furniture making, Mr Asgar could fix any appliance—from faulty electricity wiring to malfunctioning hanging fans. After working tirelessly for eight years, he resolved to run his own business one day. He switched jobs and started working at Bhai Teh Tarik, another drink stall at Beach Road Hawker Centre. What he did not expect was that the owner would return to India and leave the store in his hands after a mere six days of training. “That time, I struggled very hard because everything was new,” Mr Asgar says. “People asked for halia, I don't know what is that, what is halia ah?” Still, he pulled through and was able to apply his newfound skills when he started working for Mr Kabiruddin. 

After working with Mr Kabiruddin for 10 years, Mr Asgar took over Bhai Sarbat and has since honed his mastery in preparing drinks. He refers to both co-founders as his uncles and reflects on how much has changed since their time. “During my uncles’ time, they only made tea, pulled tea. There were around 12-13 drinks only,” Mr Asgar says. “Now, I have 125 drinks on the menu, and when I make new drinks, I put them on my Instagram and TikTok.” He is constantly coming up with new drinks by mixing and matching the most intriguing blend of flavours. “Inside the banana milkshake,” he says as an example, “I can add coffee. It’s a very nice taste.” Occasionally, there will be curious visitors who approach Mr Asgar and request for the drinks featured in his social media posts. Still, most patrons tend to go for the typical teh tarik, teh halia, teh masala. During the day, office workers make a beeline for a much-needed fresh tea or coffee as an energy boost. When night falls, youths flock to the shop, eager to slurp on the cold, refreshing drinks such as iced tea, Milo and Horlicks. Tourists are frequent patrons as well, who quickly fall in love with the distinctive Singaporean style of teh

Though COVID-19 put a damper on business, Mr Asgar continued to keep the shop open as he did not wish to disappoint any customers. He pulled through this challenging period by starting an island-wide delivery service and introducing the “3-litre Box To-Go”, which allows customers to enjoy Bhai Sarbat’s drinks in the comfort of their homes. When business improves, Mr Asgar hopes to reopen Bhai Sarbat Restaurant, a revival of the business at 73 Bussorah Street that closed in 2021. He also plans to bring the Bhai Sarbat brand to India and is considering setting up Bhai Sarbat Singapore (BSS) in one of the shopping malls there.

Bhai Sarbat is Mr Asgar’s rezeki. The word is Malay for sustenance or blessings, and derived from the Arabic rizq, which refers to “everything granted by Allah for one’s physical as well as spiritual needs”. After going through decades of hardship, Bhai Sarbat has granted Mr Asgar countless opportunities, providing for him and his family through thick and thin. Grateful for what Bhai Sarbat has brought him, Mr Asgar is determined to keep it alive even in the hardest of times.

Interviewed by Fairuz Jaafar and Muhd Al-Hakim on 12 May 2022.