Let’s talk about one of Thailand’s most famous exports, the one drink that has come to define a Thai food experience in nearly every country around the world. An order that brings out a large glass, cup, drinking apparatus lovingly filled to the brim with what I can only explain as sweet, orange deliciousness; a secret and unknown liquid of a far east concoction, something sweet, bitter, floral and smooth on the palate. This drink remained a total mystery to me only until I spent time in Bangkok working as a barista in the Yim Huai Khwang Cafe at my hostel.
Turns out that the Thai Iced Tea is just about as simple as it comes and there are even variations on the classic treat. At its base level, the Thai Iced Tea is mostly composed of, you guessed it “Thai Tea”. Thai tea, itself, is a blend of tea you can find at most ethnic food markets, at many times bought by the pound. A strong black tea with hints of cardamom, anise and clove is much like the Indian Masala Chai but with a more bitter front note and less cinnamon. There are vast similarities with the Thai tea tradition of Thailand and the Tea Tarik drinking habits of Thai Muslims and Malaysians, something that must have come over from India through the close borders and centuries of trade.
Thai tea is inherently a bit different than those types tea yet the likeness is certainly notable. Regardless of its history, the names and what is what, people in Thailand are truly in love with the tea and it is omnipresent at nearly any place stable enough to have a drink menu. What I mean by this is that you normally can’t find nice drinks in a stand that serves soup and soup only.
The traditional preparation includes loose Thai tea leaf blend, steeped appropriately in hot water for ample flavor and combines it with condensed milk to give it its rich and velvety flavor along with the hallmark burnt orange color, and sugar to keep it nice and sweet. Typically the Thai’s drink this tea cold, order it extra strong and prefer it on ice, yet you can also find it served hot and unsweetened, something reminiscent of the Hong Kong style Milk Tea.
While I always stay with the traditional drink, you can find Thai Iced Tea pretty much everywhere from Boba Tea shops, serving it with tapioca pearls and fruit jellies to bakeries who often infuse sweets and baked goods with the Thai Tea flavor. Thai Tea Ice Cream has become one of Thailands favorite treats and it can be found easily all around any major city in the region.
The Thai’s have also adapted their favorite tea to incorporated the green tea variety for those that like a tea with less caffeine and a more bitter flavor on the front of the palate. If you want to try it with green tea, make sure you buy Thai Green Tea (not normal green tea) and follow the same instructions as below.
PRO TIP: If you order this drink in Thailand, ask for half the sugar, because often you can get a drink so sweet, you can’t or probably for your health shouldn’t drink.
Thai Iced Tea Recipe
-100 ml Hot Water
-1.5 Tablespoon Looseleaf Thai Tea Leaves
-1 shot (Tablespoon) Condensed Milk
-2 Shots (1.5 tablespoons) Sugar syrup
-50 ml milk foam
Take loose leaf tea and put in a tea bag. Steep tea in hot water for 3 minutes. Remove tea bag and add condensed milk and sugar. Stir thoroughly. Take empty cup and fill with ice to the brim and pour in hot tea mixture. Stir again.
You could easily be done there, but why not miss a chance to get fancy!
If you have a cocktail shaker, take 50 ml’s of milk and a few ice cubes and shake for about 30 seconds or until ice has melted. This will create milk foam. Pour your milk foam over your drink, grab a straw and enjoy!