Thai Iced Tea is a deliciously creamy, mildly spiced, slightly-caffeinated, and refreshingly sweet drink made from tea, milk, and sugar. Popular in Southeast Asia and served in many Thai food restaurants, learn how to make Thai tea right at home with this easy-to-follow guide and recipe.
After traveling through Southeast Asia for 6 months in 2011, Thai food still, to this day, remains one of my favorite cuisines to recreate here on TFS. Favorites include chicken curry, Thai basil chicken (Pad Kra Pao Gai), and Thai chili sauce.
Thai Iced Tea Recipe
If you have ever been to Thailand or any Thai food restaurant here in the states, chances are, you’ve crossed paths with Thai iced tea. Before ever traveling to Thailand, I remember my husband (then college boyfriend) ordering this sweet and creamy orange-colored iced tea any opportunity he could get.
And then we went to Thailand…
Many years ago, before parenthood and responsibility, my husband and I spent a total of 45 beautiful days in Thailand scuba diving off Koh Tao and doing absolutely nothing on Koh Phi Phi except eating, drinking, and being merry. One may expect that in that month and a half we drank as much Thai Iced Tea as possible, but that simply was not the case. What? You ask. How can that be?
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What is Thai Tea?
The Thai Iced Tea we know and love here in the United States is not necessarily traditional Thai iced tea. In fact, tea, overall, is a relatively new concept believed to have been brought over to Thailand sometime in the 1980s from China. Created some 30 years ago, traditional versions consisted of black tea, condensed milk, and crushed ice.
It was at this time that Thai Tea, ชาเย็น (known as Cha Yen) became a staple of Thai street food.
Thai Iced Tea in Thailand vs. Western Cultures
If traditional Thai tea consists of black tea, condensed milk, and crushed ice, then why is it orange? And what about all those spices?
The orange color and spices were added when Thai tea became more and more popular in Westernized cultures in order to set it apart from regular, plain black tea (aka marketing!) In fact, in the early years of westernized Thai iced tea, chefs would add orange food coloring to really give it a bright orange hue.
Nowadays, you’ll find both versions of Thai iced tea in Thailand- the “traditional” and the westernized version.
The following recipe is a less traditional (more westernized) version of the original Thai tea recipe.
- The ice isn’t crushed.
- I used a tea mix rather than black tea with optional spices.
- I made it at home rather than buy it off the street.
- Rather than serving it in a plastic bag with a straw poking out, I’m drinking it out of a shiny clean glass.
How is Thai Tea Different From Plain Black Tea?
Unlike regular black tea, Thai Tea is infused with star anise and cloves and sweetened with sugar or sweetened condensed milk.
Thai tea can be made in two ways:
- From a pre-made tea mix which includes the coloring and the spices mixed in with the black tea. I used Pantai tea mix, but I’ve also heard great things about Number One Brand tea mix.
- Or from simple, plain, strong black tea. Either loose leaf tea (that is strained after steeping) or tea bags both work.
The recipe I am sharing here today is using a pre-made tea mix. After all, I’m American and this is what I know best.
But it’s pretty darn good. And it brings back ALL the memories of scooting from one side of Koh Tao to the other on the back of a teeny tiny little motorbike…without a helmet.
Does Thai Tea Have Caffeine?
Yes, Thai tea contains approximately 20-60 mg of caffeine as it is prepared using black tea. The total amount of caffeine, however, varies greatly given several dilution factors – water, milk, and ice.
How to Make Thai Tea
For the full list and amounts of ingredients, scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom of the page.
- Decide which method (plain black tea vs. pre-made mix) you want to use – This is the very stuff I used to make this recipe and it does, in fact, taste exactly like the Thai iced tea from restaurants. There are other mixes available, so check them out and read reviews if you’re unsure. I can’t speak for them personally.
- Once you have your tea, decide on creamer. I used half and half rather than condensed milk because I prefer less sweetness. If sweetness is your jam, then give condensed milk a try, or perhaps mix one part condensed milk with one part half and half.
- Steep the tea. I brought 2.5 cups of water to a boil and simmered the sugar with the loose tea in the water, covered, for approximately 20 minutes. There is some debate on how long to steep tea as, in general, much more than 5 minutes will make for a more bitter tea. For this recipe, however, it is recommended to steep for a longer time.
- Strain through a fine-mesh strainer or filter.
- Allow tea to cool.
- Finally, fill a cup with ice (crushed, cubed, whatever you’ve got) and add the prepared and cooled tea approximately two-thirds of the way full. Fill the glass with milk or creamer of choice and stir to combine.
Viola! That’s it! Learning how to make Thai Iced tea is super simple, right?
Delicious, creamy, mildly spiced, slightly caffeinated, and definitely sweet, Thai Iced Tea.
More Drink Recipes,
If you try making this Homemade Thai Tea Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
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Thai Tea Recipe - How to Make Thai Tea
- 1/2 cup Thai Tea Mix
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup half and half - or milk of choice (full-fat coconut, sweetened condensed, evaporated, etc.)
- Bring water to a boil in a small saucepot over medium-high heat. Add the Pantai Thai Tea Mix and the sugar. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to low and boil gently for two minutes or so before removing from heat.
- Allow the tea to steep for approximately 10-15 minutes before straining through a fine-mesh strainer to separate solids. Set tea aside to cool (for best results, allow the tea to cool in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour).
- Fill glasses with ice. Pour in the steeped Thai tea approximately two-thirds full, leaving enough room to add milk or cream. Fill the glass full with half and half (or desired milk of choice) and stir to combine.
- Best enjoyed immediately.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)