Real Thai Iced Tea

Real Thai iced tea

The Spruce / Emily Baker

  • Total: 10 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 5 mins
  • Servings: 2 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
89 Calories
2g Fat
18g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2
Amount per serving
Calories 89
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 2%
Saturated Fat 1g 3%
Cholesterol 4mg 1%
Sodium 19mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 18g 7%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Protein 2g
Calcium 115mg 9%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This recipe is for the creamy style of Thai iced tea that most Thai restaurants in America serve (ชาเย็น, also known as cha yen, cha nom yen or cha yen sai nom). While many Thai iced tea mixes often contain a low-grade powder or syrup, this authentic recipe gets its flavor from good-quality black tea and spices without any artificial ingredients. This means your Thai tea won't be bright orange, since the color comes from a dye added to Thai tea mixes.

Similar to hot Thai tea, real Thai iced tea is a mix of black tea, spices, sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk. It's a great drink for fans of masala chai and other spiced or milky black teas. The best part is it's easy to make and far cheaper to make from scratch than buying it.

If you don't have every one of the spices in this recipe on hand, that's OK—you can skip one or two. But if you want the full flavor, seek out the somewhat unusual ingredients (such as tamarind powder) at your local Southeast Asian or Indian market. Although you can use teabags, it tastes better with loose-leaf tea because the flavor is richer and more complex.

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons loose-leaf black tea
  • 1 piece star anise
  • 2 pods cardamom
  • Optional: 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • Optional: 1/8 vanilla bean
  • Optional: ground tamarind (to taste)
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup water (boiling)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 teaspoons evaporated milk (or coconut milk or whole milk)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Thai iced tea
    The Spruce / Emily Baker
  2. Steep the tea, star anise, cardamom and cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, tamarind powder, and almond extract (if using) in the boiling water for 5 minutes.

    Steep tea
    The Spruce / Emily Baker
  3. Strain the tea.

    Strain
    The Spruce / Emily Baker
  4. Stir in the sugar and sweetened condensed milk until both are completely dissolved.

    Stir tea
    The Spruce / Emily Baker
  5. Fill two tall glasses with ice.

    Ice
    The Spruce / Emily Baker
  6. Pour the tea over the ice, leaving an inch or so of space at the top for the evaporated milk.

    Pour tea
    The Spruce / Emily Baker
  7. Top up with more ice if needed, and then drizzle with 1 teaspoon of evaporated milk on each glass of tea.

    Top Thai iced tea
    The Spruce / Emily Baker

Tips

  • Use strong tea such as Ceylon, Assam, or Keemun. Alternatively, you can use 4 teabags of strong black tea, or you can make a caffeine-free Thai iced tea with 4 tablespoons of rooibos tea.
  • You easily can make this recipe vegan by replacing the sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk with cream of coconut and coconut milk.
  • You can adjust the sweetness of this Thai tea according to your tastes. This recipe is not as sickly sweet as some Thai ice tea mixes, but you can increase or decrease the sugar as desired.

Recipe Variations

  • If you like this cha yen style of Thai iced tea, you also might enjoy cha manao Thai iced tea, which replaces the sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk with lime juice and jasmine essence. It is especially refreshing in summer.
  • And if you're a coffee drinker, be sure to try Thai iced coffee, which has the same spiciness and creaminess with a coffee base instead of tea.

What is the difference between Thai tea and milk tea?

Milk tea is a popular drink iced or hot and is traditionally made using black tea. The "milk" can range from sweetened condensed milk to evaporated milk to whole milk to non-dairy milk. Thai tea is a type of milk tea that contains a more specific mixture of black tea, spices, sugar, and evaporated and/or condensed milk.

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