Thai tea is a sweet, milky tea drink that has become popular recently, especially in bubble tea shops. If you've ever wanted to know how to make this addictive, richly refreshing black tea beverage, you've come to the right place. Our unique tried and tested recipe lists the many different ways to prepare this delicious.
If staying at home has prevented you from getting your fix of trendy beverages, fear not! This sweet beverage is one of the easiest to make at home. But before learning to make this beverage, we must first learn about its ins and outs!
What is Thai Tea?
It is a sweet and creamy beverage that originates from Thailand. This drink comprises mainly four components - black tea, milk, sugar and spices.
It is unclear when and how this drink came to be. However, the prevailing story is that a chef prepared this beverage to cater to a leader's taste for food with a western twist.
Supposedly, they borrowed milk and sugar from European desserts, and the drink was served over ice to distance it from its country of origin further. There is, unfortunately, no way to confirm the authenticity of this story.
Another famous tale states that pouring sweet, milky tea over ice started during the reigns of King Rama IV and King Rama V in the late 19th century.
Why is it Orange?
You can quickly identify Thai tea by its bright orange colour. However, black tea isn't orange. So what gives it this distinctive hue? As it turns out, this may have something to do with its history as well.
The palace chefs used to brew the tea leaves for the king. After that, they used the same leaves again so that the domestic staff could have their fill. Since reused leaves lack aroma and flavour, they added spices to the drink. These include herbs such as turmeric and tamarind. These spices naturally tend to turn drinks orange.
Another reason could be that restaurant chefs in Thailand added orange colouring to differentiate Thai tea from Thai iced coffee, which has a similar appearance.
And finally, some sources state that when cooks adapted the drink to fit Western palates, chefs added the bright orange colour. The added colouring was mainly to attract people's attention. However, they also loaded it with spices and flavourings to make it more exciting.
Regardless of the real reason, the orange colour is not necessary to enjoy the bold flavour of Thai tea. However, if the orange hue is essential to you, it is easy to achieve the colour without using food colouring. You can thank one unique spice: turmeric. Our recipe has a note on how much to add.
However, feel free to omit it if you're only concerned with the tea flavour. If you don't want to use natural colouring, we have listed the correct amount of food colouring in our recipe below.
What does Thai Tea taste like?
Thai tea is sweeter than regular tea due to sugar and condensed milk. And the milk makes it creamier and thicker. So the mouthfeel is cool and refreshing, but the spices make it warm simultaneously.
The dominant flavour is from the variety of black tea used in its preparation. However, we can also find several other flavours present.
Overall, this drink is great if you like tea, boba milk tea, or milkshakes. Also, since many serve the beverage over ice, it's an ideal beverage for the summer.
How to Enjoy
Most Thai tea is, as mentioned previously, served over ice. However, it can also (less commonly) be served hot as a latte of sorts. Additionally, you can also add boba pearls. This drink is similar to the cold, milky tea used as bubble tea.
If you don't like drinks, you can find similar flavourings used in a wide variety of other dishes. For example, many cooks prepare ice creams, cakes, and even cookies with flavourings like this iconic drink.
It has left quite an impact on food culture around the world. But are there any health-related reasons to choose this beverage?
Before listing all the extraordinarily healthful things about Thai tea, it is essential to mention the few potential allergens or health risks it contains. Most teas contain caffeine, and this one is no exception. It is also not lactose-free since it uses both condensed and evaporated milk.
You can also use several spices and food colourings in drinks bought from shops. If you have a severe allergy to any of these, making this beverage at home is a surefire way to avoid potentially dangerous substances.
Black tea on its own is a veritable host of health benefits. Packed with antioxidants, regularly drinking can prevent cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration. In addition, polyphenols in black tea inhibit the absorption of lipids and complex sugars. In other words, they combat weight gain. And finally, it can help ease or prevent chronic illnesses and inflammation.
Adding the milk and sugar makes this less accessible for lactose intolerant and diabetic people. However, this doesn't detract from the health benefits listed above. So if you're looking to drink tea for its health advantages but don't enjoy the taste on its own, this drink is for you!
A classic Thai tea contains around 200 calories. However, you can reduce the total calorie count by diluting with more ice, reducing the amount of sugar, and using skim milk.
However, if you add boba topping, this calorie count increases drastically - up to 300 calories.
Unfortunately, since it contains a lot of sweeteners and fats (from the milk), this beverage is not low in calories. However, by omitting the condensed and evaporated milk, you can make this drink much less calorie-rich.
You can easily find instant powder mix to order online to make this Thai tea drink. However, if allergens or foreign additives are a concern, this quick fix may not work for you.
Indeed, a freshly prepared version of this beverage tastes much better than one made with a powdered mix. But, this version will require many more ingredients.
The most important of the ingredients is, of course, the tea. The variety of Thai tea leaves used in this drink is usually Ceylon since this is the variety that is grown in Thailand. The specific brand varies, but a popular one in Thailand is "Number One Mix". However, any form of strong black tea will work for this drink.
Try to steer clear of complex varieties in flavour like smoked lapsang souchong. Using complex spices might conflict and muddle the taste if you are using complex spices. However, you can always omit spices, and certain combinations of tea leaves and herbs work well together. Try experimenting and seeing which blends taste the best to you.
The next most important ingredient is milk. Dairy milk seems almost a given since many people prepare it using condensed and evaporated milk.
However, many non-dairy types also work well in Thai tea, although nontraditional. Coconut milk seems the most obvious, and is notably lighter and adds a tropical tang which might be just the thing if you like fruity notes in your beverages. Soy, almond and oat milk also work well, though the latter is notably less creamy.
Evaporated and condensed milk are both used in this recipe. Some Thai teas use both, and some use just one. If you do not have any of these, heavy cream or half-and-half is a less traditional yet functional addition.
Finally, sugar is the least important ingredient. If you cannot consume white sugar, brown or palm sugar is also an option. If these are dissolvable in milk, you can also use honey and stevia or other non-sugar sweeteners.
If you brew various spices with the tea leaves, that will further enhance the distinct flavour profile of this drink. You can opt to buy the powder mix for convenience.
However, we recommend making the drink with fresh spices. The flavours of the herbs will be more vibrant and make the beverage tastier,
If you want to make it from scratch, these are the spices that you will need to find:
- Star anise
- Green cardamom
Other Additional Ingredients
Other than these few ingredients, other common additions include food colouring, ice, and occasionally mix-ins like tapioca pearls, crystal jelly boba and grass jelly. (Besides the tapioca pearls, you can buy all of these at grocery stores).
But what if you don't want to use this vast array of different ingredients and want to stick to a more convenient option? Should you opt for powder mixes instead?
Thai tea leaves vs powder mix
Powder mixes have some drawbacks, but they also have many clear advantages. For one, they are incredibly convenient and require only water (and ice, if you are so inclined) to make. They also can be improved with spices and boba tea if you are strapped for time or cash but still want a quick fix for Thai tea. Our recommended blend is the Qbubble Tea Powder Mix.
On the other hand, these Thai tea mixes have several apparent drawbacks which one should be aware of before making a purchase.
First, you cannot customise powder mixes according to your tastes. For example, if you like your tea stronger or with fewer spices, you cannot make these changes to a powder mix (since you dissolve it in water to use).
Second, these mixes contain many preservatives and ingredients, which could be a potential allergen or health hazard for some. Dairy and orange food dye are a few examples.
Finally, the taste of these Thai tea powders is vastly inferior to that of a freshly prepared beverage - it lacks the textural brightness and unprocessed flavours which come from using your ingredients.
And finally, buying your ingredients (sugar, tea, and milk) and making this drink is more financially responsible in the long run since it costs less than purchasing ready-use packets multiple times. Thus, these mixes can be better in some situations, but making it fresh is often the best. Make your choice wisely!
How to make Thai tea
The process of making this drink is a simple one.
- Brew the black tea together with the spices. This process can take around 5-10 minutes, and you can complete it beforehand.
- Pour over ice.
- Top up with a mixture of milk. This mixture depends on personal taste but can also depend on what you have on hand. You can use only one milk instead of a mix of multiple.
- Serve and enjoy!
If you are unsure which type of tea you like, try sticking with basic Ceylon, or Assam leaves since more complex ones might muddle the drink's taste. In addition, you can use mixed tea bags to make the brewing process even quicker and easier.
If you are more experienced with making tea, try cold-brewing it for a luscious, smooth and sweet tea flavour. If you don't want to use ice in your Thai tea, brew the leaves the day before or at least 2 hours in advance. Allow it to come to room temperature and then refrigerate it to cool it faster. In a hurry, put the tea into a plastic bottle, wrap it with a wet paper towel, and put it in the freezer. This step will cool it even faster.
Thai Tea Recipe | How to Make from Scratch
- 2.5 teaspoon black tea leaves
- 2 whole star anise
- 2 pods green cardamom lightly crushed
- 1 pc cinnamon stick
- 2 teaspoon turmeric
- ¼ cups sweetened condensed milk
- 2 tablespoon evaporated milk (optional)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 4 cups Water
- Add the spices and the tea to a pot and add 4 cups of water. Bring it to a boil.
- Once boiling, take off the heat and strain to remove the solids. Set aside to cool or use the methods described above.
- Mix the condensed and evaporated milk in a separate bowl.
- Pour the tea over ice into your serving glasses, leaving half the glass empty for the milk mixture.
- Add the milk into the glasses. Serve your Thai tea cold and enjoy!
- You can choose to omit any or all of the spices or add your own. Cloves and nutmeg, for example, are great additions.
- You can substitute the loose leaf black tea for 5 tea bags.
- The evaporated milk is optional. You can choose to omit it. We recommend adding 1 tablespoon extra of sweetened condensed milk if you do so. You can also replace it with 2 tablespoons of regular milk of your choice.
- If you want to use non-dairy milk, make a sweetened condensed milk equivalent with 1 cup of liquid and ½ cup of sugar.
- You will need a strainer for this recipe. If you do not have one, our favourite one is here.
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
We hope this recipe helped you learn a bit more about this overlooked treat! Look no further than this Thai tea recipe if you want to try a new tea preparation. ทานให้อร่อยนะครับ!
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