Thai Iced Tea

If you have time to bring your cow in from the pasture and milk it, you can enjoy all kinds of delicious milk-based recipes. One of my favorites is Thai Iced Tea, which is made from strongly-brewed black tea, laced with spices such as star anise, crushed tamarind, cardamom and others (often making this beverage a favorite among chai tea fans). The brew is then sweetened with sugar and milk, and served over ice.  The basic recipe is so easy that virtually every YouTube video you see uses the same brand and shows the same steps.  Here’s a great scratch recipe.

  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons Assam tea leaves, or strong black or peking black tea
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon star anise powder
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar or 1 teaspoon Stevia
  • 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk (for restaurant-style)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons evaporated milk(for restaurant-style)

Restaurant-style Thai Iced Tea:
In a medium-sized pot, bring water to a boil. In the meantime, add tea leaves, cardamom pods, cloves and star anise into a tea bag. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, turn off heat and add bag. Gently stir and make sure bag is fully submerged.   Steep for 3 to 5 minutes.

After steeping, remove bag, add in star anise powder, vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk. Stir until dissolved and cool down for at least 30 minutes, to make a strong mixture. Once ready to serve, fill 3/4 of a large glass with ice, then top with tea, leaving room for evaporated milk. Stir in the evaporated milk and serve; makes two large glasses.

Sweetened condensed milk is thick and sweet, almost like a syrup, while evaporated milk is like heavy cream, and is unsweetened.  Both come in a can and the most popular version in Thailand is made by Carnation, though there are a number of other brands as well.

For an easier recipe, you can buy authentic Thai tea mixes. These mixes are normally dyed with yellow food coloring and that’s what makes the tea a brilliant orange color (this is the food dye you recognize in Kraft Macaroni and Cheese).  If you want to have the color and flavor you find in most Thai restaurants, buy an authentic mix.

As far as the creamy layer on top, many people use various ingredients (half and half, whole milk, coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk and even low-fat milk).  Once you get the basics down on making Thai iced tea you can customize the concentration of sweetness and tea flavor exactly the way you like. It’s one of those recipes that is great no matter how you change it up.

Those who have milk sensitivities or who are lactose intolerant have so many choices:  milk made from 100% coconuts, almonds, cashews, soy, rice, and various blends of these milks. You can try tablets (Lactaid, e.g.), lactose-free milk, or milk from animals other than cows (sometimes those with sensitivities are not affected by goat’s milk, for example). Goat’s milk is often strongly flavored and is not recommended for tea.

Gotta go, I think it’s tea time!

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