This sweet and creamy Thai Tea Recipe from Scratch is a decadent chilly caffeinated drink recipe without the harmful dyes. Sip this beautiful beverage with a bold ombre orange color to cool off or cool down when eating spicy Thai foods.
Healthy Thai Tea
Iced tea is the perfect beverage for sipping on steamy days, but better yet Thai Iced Tea breaks the bite of spicy meals. It’s the perfect pair for those famous Thai dishes such as tom yum or pad prik king. This deliciously sweet and creamy iced beverage with its famous burnt orange coloring is part caffeinated tea and almost part dessert.
Reading: how to make thai iced milk tea
Traditionally Thai tea is made using a Thai tea mix, which if you’re going for authenticity you’ll want to use. The reason Thai iced tea boasts that beautiful orange color is due to food coloring, Yellow 5 to be exact. While there is mixed information on the drawbacks of artificial dyes, they’re usually not associated with being healthy.
This is also my version of the recipe, which was inspired by the beverages I drank regularly while living in New York.
When my cravings recently kicked in for this decadent icy beverage I searched and searched for a tea mix without the food dye. Sadly, I couldn’t find anything, but this only encouraged me to find a healthy alternative that tastes equally delicious, if not exactly like the original.
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This recipe for Thai Iced Tea is perfectly sweet and creamy and as tasty as the authentic version. I’ve prepared it so many times it’s almost become a daily staple along with my other obsession, which is the taro bubble tea.
What is Thai Iced Tea?
This tea beverage is most commonly made from tea mix, milk, and sugar and can be served hot or cold. The tea is poured over ice and sweetened with sugar then topped with evaporated milk.
What Does Thai Tea Taste Like?
I’ve recently traveled down a delightful rabbit hole of decadent drinks like this tea, and have been quite literally whipping up beverages such as whipped coffee and dalgona matcha. I’m the least one surprised by my current Thai beverage obsession, which actually is just an old favorite.
Ingredients in Healthy Thai Tea
- Black Tea (loose or in tea bags): using black tea bags to prepare this recipe is the easiest and fastest option. I prefer to use organic black tea.
- Water: the tea and spices will need to steep in water to cook and you can use tap, filtered, or bottled.
- Sugar, Stevia, or Coconut Palm Sugar: The sugar you choose to use for this recipe is entirely up to you. If using something like stevia though you will not need as much as the recipe below suggests. I prefer to use coconut palm sugar because it tends to be one of the healthier options for sweetening recipes.
- Star Anise: this licorice-like flavored spice is a key ingredient to a bold flavor that also adds a subtle sweetness.
- Whole Cardamom: this spice is described as being spicy, citrusy, and minty all at the same time, and has a strong aroma which makes it perfect for this tea blend.
- Cinnamon Stick: this pungent and bitter spice is stronger in its original form. Adding a single stick to the tea mixture will add a unique warming flavor.
- Vanilla Bean: slice a 1/4-inch sized piece from a vanilla bean to add to the tea and spice mixture, which adds a strong vanilla taste.
- Turmeric: This spice has an earthy and bitter taste with an almost musky peppery flavor, but mixed into this tea recipe it blends smoothly and is responsible for creating the beautiful orange flavor without having to use food coloring or dye.
- Vanilla Extract (or Almond Extract): adding in the vanilla extract or even almond extract is purely optional, but helps to heighten the vanilla flavor.
- Sweetened Condensed Milk: generally sweetened condensed milk isn’t one of the most healthy ingredients in a recipe, however, this organic version leaves out all the junk. You can also use canned coconut milk too and omit dairy altogether.
- Evaporated milk: while I haven’t found a healthy evaporated milk alternative you can easily make your own. You can also just use heavy cream or even whole milk.
How to Make Thai Milk Tea
This recipe is super simple to make and has all healthy ingredients with no artificial flavoring or dye. For specific healthy ingredient options follow the links in this ingredient list. There are only three main steps to prepare the tea, mix the sweetened milk, and put it all together.
- Place the tea bags, water, vanilla extract, star anise, cardamom, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, and turmeric into a medium-sized pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Pour the tea mixture through a strainer to remove the whole spices. Fill two glasses with ice and pour the tea over the ice.
- In a small bowl whisk the sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk (or whole milk) together until smooth. Pour the mixture over the iced Thai tea. Garnish with mint leaves.
How to Get the Perfect Orange Thai Iced Tea Coloring without Food Dye
Turmeric! Believe it or not, this spice commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisines such a curry works equally well in Thai tea. Sprinkling the potent powder into your recipe will naturally dye the tea the delicious beautiful burnt orange color without the potential health consequences.
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While turmeric does have a strong flavor it doesn’t overpower this Thai tea mixture. It blends perfectly with the other flavorings.
How to Store Thai Iced Tea
If you plan on making large batches of this tea, which I highly recommend, then you’ll want to store the tea in glass jars with lids or in a pitcher. Keeping them in the single-serve-sized jars makes them easy to grab and go. The tea will keep for up to 7 days stored in the refrigerator.
It is entirely your choice if you would like to add the sweetened milk mixture to your tea during storage or keep it stored separately. The milk mixture only keeps for about 4 to 5 days if you add in whole milk or evaporated milk. Keep this separate and the sweetened condensed milk will last for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
Tips for Making the Best Thai Iced Tea
- Lots of sugar. Thai iced tea is super sweet, just like Southern sweet tea, and you can use whichever sweetener you prefer. Adding quite a bit of sugar may seem odd, but this is key for making the best-tasting Thai tea.
- Sweetened Condensed Milk. This super thick milk mixture does add even more sweetness but also brings an extra-smooth creaminess to the beverage. It is also responsible for creating the beautiful ombre look of deep orange to a creamier colored orange.
- Whole Spices. Since this recipe doesn’t use the Thai tea mix you’ll need to add some additional spices. These spices will be in their whole form to achieve that delicious flavor. I would even suggest using these spices in the tea mix too though. You need a cinnamon stick, star anise, whole cardamom, ground turmeric, and a piece of vanilla bean although the last is optional.
How to Make Homemade Evaporated Milk
Since this recipe only makes two drinks you won’t need very much evaporated milk. You can store the remaining homemade milk in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for your next batch of tea.
- Place 1 cup of whole milk into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat.
- Bring the milk to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and then reduce the heat to low. Continue to simmer the milk for 20 to 25 minutes until it’s reduced by about half.
- Remove from heat and let cool before using. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
Which tea is best for making this Thai milk tea recipe?
Traditional Thai Iced Tea uses a Thai tea mix that comes in powder form. For a healthier version and this recipe, you’ll want to use black tea. You can either use loose tea and place it in a tea infuser or cheesecloth. The best option though is to use tea bags, which are less cumbersome for this recipe.
Can Thai Iced Tea be Made Dairy-Free?
Yes. Switch all of the dairy ingredients with canned coconut milk and you’ll have a delightful dairy-free Thai iced tea recipe. Just make sure to shake the can before opening it. Then stir the coconut milk before adding it to the tea.
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