Thai Iced Tea is a creamy and refreshing mildly spiced sweet tea made from Thai tea mix (or black tea), milk, and sugar. Popular in Southeast Asia and served in many Thai restaurants, learn how to make Thai tea at home with this easy-to-follow guide and recipe.
Thai Iced Tea Recipe
Before ever traveling to Thailand, I remember my husband (then college boyfriend) ordering Thai iced tea any time we ate at our favorite Thai food restaurant. Sweet, creamy, and bright orange, it is impossible not to love this refreshing drink.
Several years later, we traveled throughout southeast Asia, including Thailand. In Thailand, we did little more than scuba dive and eat for a month and a half. Ironically, I never once saw the favorite bright-orange Thai iced tea. Distracted by all the other delicious foods that Thailand has to offer (really, the food makes a visit to Thailand worth it alone), I didn’t notice its absence until we got home.
Naturally, I was confused. So I did some research…
What is Thai Tea?
The Thai Iced Tea we know and love here in the United States is not 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.
But if traditional Thai tea is made with black tea, sweetened condensed milk, and crushed ice, then why is it orange? And what about all those spices?
Thai Iced Tea in Thailand vs. Western Cultures
Interestingly, 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. In fact, during 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 in Thailand- the “traditional” and the westernized version.
The following recipe is a less traditional (more westernized) version of the original.
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 leaves (that are strained after steeping) or tea bags. Both work.
The recipe I am sharing here today is using a pre-made tea mix.
Does Thai Tea Have Caffeine?
Yes, it 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 Thai iced tea mix) you want to use – This is the very stuff I used (found on Amazon) 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 sweetened condensed milk because I prefer less sweetness. If you love your tea to be sweet, then give sweetened condensed milk a try, or perhaps mix one part condensed milk with one part half and half. You can also use evaporated milk, coconut milk, regular cow’s milk, or any plant-based milk.
- 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 the 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.
There you have it. Super simple, right?
Delicious, creamy, mildly spiced, slightly caffeinated, and definitely sweet.
More Delicious Thai Food Recipes
Have you tried making this Thai Iced Tea Recipe?
Tell me about it in the comments below! I always love to hear your thoughts. And tag me #theforkedspoon on Instagram if you’ve made any of my recipes, I always love to see what you’re cooking in the kitchen.
Thai Iced Tea (Thai Tea)
- ½ cup Thai Tea Mix
- 2 ½ cups water
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup half and half - or milk of choice (full-fat coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, whole milk, 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.)