How can I make restaurant-style Thai iced tea?
July 26, 2010 3:36 PM   Subscribe

I need your help making Thai iced tea like that served in Thai restaurants! Can you help?

Hello folks,

I would like to be able to make the same kind of Thai iced tea at home that I order in Thai restaurants.

Typically, the Thai iced tea I have in Thai restaurants is tan to almost orange in color and has a float of white cream (of some sort) on top. It's sweet, full tea-flavored, and sometimes a bit spicy.

I Googled Thai iced tea recipes and in the common recipes I've found, there are these ingredients:

- Thai tea (I purchased Thai tea bags from an Asian grocer)
- Water
- Sugar
- Sweetened condensed milk
- Evaporated milk or cream

I have purchased all of these ingredients and have tried several recipes with slightly different directions and steep times. Unfortunately, my Thai iced tea is still not coming out right. Its watery, bland, and not nearly close to the same flavor or color as the iced tea served at Thai restaurants I've been to.

I'm starting to think that I either have the wrong kind of tea or I need to purchase some sort of super-secret Thai iced tea concentrate that maybe the restaurants are using.

Can you help me sort this out?

BTW, I'm in the Seattle area if that helps.

posted by karizma to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
Your need to brew your tea extra strong. You can try boiling water and tea together and letting it simmer for ~5 minutes (this is how I make HK style milk tea which has the same ingredients).
posted by wongcorgi at 3:42 PM on July 26, 2010

This recipe suggests not using tea bags, but whole leaves.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:42 PM on July 26, 2010

I've seen it made with some resembling a coffee maker at a Thai lunch stand. They used a *lot* of tea. I don't know any more details than that though, but the result was what I expect Thai ice tea to be.
posted by Emanuel at 3:44 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, are you pouring the hot tea over ice? It needs to be cooled in the fridge before mixing with the milk.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:44 PM on July 26, 2010

I also had to brew the tea several times stronger than the box indicated for it to taste right. I think we ended up using the entire box of tea bags for one batch, using color (and taste/smell) to gauge the right steeping time.
posted by jquinby at 3:45 PM on July 26, 2010

Best answer: Here is a rock solid method. Toss out those puny tea bags. You will need:

1/3 cup of LOOSE Thai tea
4 cups of water
2/3 cup of sugar
half-half for topper. Evaporated milk can also be used.

Combine tea, water and sugar into one pan
Bring to the mix to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer and then brew for 20 minutes
Pull off heat and let it cool completely
After it is cooled then strain out the leaves

you now have a very strong concentrate that will be poured over ice. Top with 2 tablespoons of half and half or to taste.

Be sure that it is Thai tea that you have gotten and not something else. Just be aware that o liang is the coffee.
posted by jadepearl at 3:45 PM on July 26, 2010 [44 favorites]

I was checking out a bag of Thai tea at the store recently (it was very authentic looking, lots of Thai writing, ect.) and the only ingredients were tea and annato color, so if you don't care about your tea having that red color, you probably could just use regular black tea.
posted by genmonster at 3:47 PM on July 26, 2010

This person seems to have had success using a tea sock and loose tea rather than tea bags. [on preview: what jadepearl said].

She also says, "If I allowed myself to have a third try, this is what I would have done: To make a huge color contrast and a stronger tea flavor, I probably wouldn't mix sweetened condensed milk into it. I would just sweeten it with regular sugar (as I was told by my friend who makes this daily for the [Thai] restaurant) and just add evaporated milk over the top."
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:48 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've had success with jadepearl's approach. Make sure you find the loose tea (I've been able to find it at almost every medium sized or larger Asian grocery in the bay area I've been to). I use condensed milk myself which lets you skip having to mix in the sugar.
posted by MillMan at 3:57 PM on July 26, 2010

We asked a waitress at a Thai restaurant and she said they use tamarind. Perhaps that's what you're missing?
posted by Brainy at 5:35 PM on July 26, 2010

Once you have got the basic recipe down then you can start experimenting and adjusting. For sweeteners you can start using palm sugar which gives a more rounded sweetness or use sweetened condensed milk so that two steps (sweetener and milk) are done at once. The dairy topping of choice can be varied with coconut milk, evaporated milk, cream or condensed milk.

Similar to chai you can spice the tea. That crazy orange look is sometimes enhanced with annato so do not be surprised how weirdly orange the tea brew can be and some would say it gives a subtle, unique taste. Now traditional spices can include, cardamon, ground tamarind, star anise or any combination of spices that strikes your fancy. Add the spices at the same time as you do the boiling, simmering and steeping part of the recipe.

Restaurants will take the tea concentrate and add dairy to it prior to pouring over ice and then top off with more dairy. This is up to you and how much you dairy you like to have with your drink.

If you are unsure about how much sugar to add or feel you need to be conservative then make a simple sugar syrup to add to your drink at a later point. This too can be spiced.
posted by jadepearl at 6:27 PM on July 26, 2010

You have got to use way more sugar than seems healthy or wise. A friend made Thai tea last week with a sugar ratio of 1/2 cup of sugar to 2 cups water. I don't really understand chemically why this is, but any strongly spiced tea & milk combo will still taste weak and watery without the addition of an indecent mountain of sugar. You're probably doing everything else right already.
posted by sunnichka at 8:01 PM on July 26, 2010

jadepearl's recipe seems pretty good. I always use sweetened condensed milk and no sugar, though (although the first rule of Thai iced tea is you should be completely overdosing yourself on sugar).

The second rule is that you must steep the tea for a god-awfully long period of time, until you're certain you're doing something wrong. jadepearl's recipe does this.

If you're using tea bags, use way more than you're using right now. 1/3c of loose tea is an incredible number of tea bags.
posted by soma lkzx at 9:22 PM on July 26, 2010

Tamarind? That's insanity. Those tea bags sound highly suspect - you definitely want a bag of (loose) Thai tea. I can say for sure it's available at Uwajimaya - and probably plenty of other Asian stores in Seattle.

Just for reference - here's what a typical bag looks like. There are also some recipes/techniques on that page - it's up to you whether you want to try the 5-minute vs 2 hour preparation. When I made it in the past I went closer to the 5 minute version and it came out great.
posted by O9scar at 10:47 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses, folks! The loose tea was definitely the key, along with the sweetened condensed milk as the sweetener. Finding the tea proved a bit more difficult than I expected, but the nice folks at the Thai restaurant I frequent offered to sell me some. Thanks again!
posted by karizma at 3:26 PM on July 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

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