Thai iced tea
27 July, 2021 | Ernest Atta Adjei Updated 2021

How To Make The Real Thai Iced Tea From Scratch

Iced tea is an excellent beverage to drink on steamy days, but Thai iced tea is the perfect antidote for spicy meals. It's the ideal pair for popular Thai dishes like pad prik king and tom yum. 

This deliciously creamy, lightly caffeinated, mildly spiced, and delightful drink with its popular burnt orange color is great to behold. Thai iced tea is simple to make at home, and it's what you'll find at your favorite Thai restaurant or on the Bangkok streets. 

You don't need any fancy or expensive equipment. All you need is a tea kettle or a saucepan to make this delicious beverage. But before we show you how to do it, here are a few essential things to know about Thai iced tea. 

What is Thai Iced Tea? 

This tea drink is usually made from tea mix, sugar, and milk. And you can serve it cold or hot. First, the beverage is poured on ice and sweetened with sugar, and then you add the milk on top. 

But remember that the beverage we love here in America isn't necessarily original iced Thai tea. Actually, in general, tea is a relatively new concept that came from China to Thailand sometime around the 1980s.

The traditional ingredients of Iced Thai tea were condensed milk, black tea, and crushed ice. During this time, Thai Tea (also called Cha Yen) became the main drink on Thai streets. 

Why Is Thai Iced Tea Orange: Thailand Vs. Western Cultures 

Thai iced tea

The Traditional Thai tea contains black tea, crushed ice, and condensed milk. If so, then why is the drink orange? And what's up with all those spices? 

The short answer is food coloring and marketing. The orange color and spices were added when Thai tea became prevalent in Westernized cultures. The intention was to differentiate it from other regular, plain black tea, hence marketing. 

In the early years, chefs added orange food coloring to give the westernized iced Thai tea a bright orange color. Nowadays, you'll find both the westernized and traditional versions in Thailand. 

Keep in mind that when you brew the Thai tea mix, it becomes dark red. However, you get the signature bright orange color when you add milk. It turns orange because there's food coloring in the Thai tea mix. 

How To Make Thai Iced Tea 

We'll show you two ways to make Iced Thai tea: real Thai iced tea and regular Thai tea. 

Most of the regular iced Thai tea mixes usually contain syrup or low-grade powder. But the real iced Thai tea gets its flavor from high-quality spices and black tea, excluding any artificial ingredient. That means your drink won't become bright orange since the color comes from a dye added to the Thai tea mixes. 

If you love masala chai and other milky or spiced black teas, then you'll also love this beverage. If you don't have all the spices listed in this recipe, that's fine; you can leave out one or two. 

But if you want to get the full flavor, you can get tamarind powder at your local Indian or Southeast Asian market. 

Even though you can use tea bags, we recommend using loose-leaf tea; it tastes better because the loose-leaf flavor is richer and more complex. 

Let's start with the real Iced Thai tea. 

How To Make Real Thai Iced Tea 

Ingredients 

  • One tablespoon of sweetened condensed milk 
  • One tablespoon of sugar 
  • Two teaspoons of evaporated milk, whole milk, or coconut milk 
  • 1 cup of boiling water
  • Tamarind powder (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon of almond extract (optional) 
  • ⅛ vanilla bean (optional) 
  • Two pods of cardamom 
  • ½ cinnamon stick (optional) 
  • One pod star anise 
  • Two tablespoons of loose-leaf black tea 
  • Ice 

Note: These ingredients are for two servings. And it takes five minutes to prepare and an additional five minutes to cook. 

Instructions 

  1. Get your ingredients 
  2. Steep the star anise, cinnamon stick, tea, cardamom, tamarind powder, vanilla bean, and almond extract in the boiling water for five minutes. Remember, if you don't like the almond extract or have any optional ingredients, feel free to leave out one or two. 
  3. Strain the tea
  4. Stir the sweetened condensed milk and sugar until they completely dissolve 
  5. Fill your two tall glasses with ice 
  6. Pour the tea over the ice, leave a small space on top for the evaporated milk. 
  7. You can top up with more ice if you want. Then drizzle with one teaspoon of evaporated milk on each tea glass. 
  8. Enjoy!

How To Make The Regular Thai Iced Tea (To Get The Signature Orange Color) 

Ingredients 

  • 6 cups of water 
  • ⅓ cup of granulated sugar 
  • ½ cup of Thai tea mix 
  • Four tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk (or coconut milk, whole milk, optional)
  • Ice 

Note: These ingredients are for four servings. And it takes five minutes to prepare and an additional 15 minutes to cook.

Instructions 

  1. Boil water in a tea kettle or a saucepan 
  2. Remove the kettle or saucepan from heat after it's boiled. Combine tea mix with hot water and sugar. Then stir to combine. 
  3. Cover and allow the tea to steep for 15 minutes. 
  4. Strain the tea and allow it to cool down completely. (You can put the tea in the fridge for about a week.)
  5. When you're ready to serve, put ice in glasses and pour tea over them. Stir in sweetened condensed milk. 
  6. Enjoy!

Possible Variations You Can make. 

How To Make The Regular Thai Iced Tea

Adjust the sugar level. The iced Thai tea is very sweet. But if you don't like it that way, you can adjust the sugar amount to fit your taste. 

Change milk. You can use different types of milk, as shown in the ingredient list. For a non-dairy version, you can use coconut milk. You can also use whole milk or half and half. Just make sure you add some additional sweetener if needed. 

Add citrus. The iced Thai tea is excellent with a slice of orange, lemon, or lime. It can make the other flavors stand out more. 

How Is Thai Tea Different From Regular Black Tea? 

Thai tea is brewed with cloves and star anise and sweetened with condensed milk or sugar, unlike regular black tea. You can make Thai tea in two different ways:

  1. You can make it from a pre-made Thai tea mix which includes coloring, with the spices mixed with the black tea.
  2. A simple, strong black tea, either tea bags or strong black tea 

Conclusion

Making Thai iced tea is simple and easy to make at home. We've provided two versions so you can choose the one that works well for you. If you want to get the perfect orange without the food dye, you can use turmeric. 

Yes. Believe it or not, it's commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisines. Adding a small amount into your recipe will dye the tea naturally, without any potential health consequences. 

Even though turmeric has a strong flavor, it doesn't overcome the Thai tea mix. It blends perfectly with the other flavors. That said, you can order your Thai iced tea online now! We'll happily deliver them to you. Place your order now!