What is Thai Tea Exactly?

Thai Tea Recipe

Perhaps you are familiar with Thai tea, or maybe this drink is a new one to you. Whichever is the case, we are going to look a little closer at this beverage and find out some more about it. What is it exactly? Well let’s have a look.

First of all, not all Thai teas are created equal – some have orange food coloring, others have no food coloring. Some are made with cardamom, vanilla and anise, some with just one or two of those. Chai tea is an Indian tea similar to Thai tea but not the same. Again, there are various recipes for that too.

How to Drink Thai Tea

Some people like theirs with Half and Half while others prefer condensed or evaporated milk, and many people like to add plenty of sugar or sweetener to the finished drink. This type of tea can be served over ice for a refreshing summer drink (and it is commonly known as ‘Thai iced tea’) or you can enjoy it hot. Personally I like it hot with a splash of 2% milk, but I’m English so perhaps that’s why!

The first time I tried Thai tea was in a restaurant in Bedford. I had it cold and, wow, it was so good! I’m not usually into sweet tea or coffee (at all) but this one was sweet and the balance was perfect. If you want to experiment with Thai tea recipes, try some in a Thai restaurant first to see whether you like it (it’s quite different from Chinese tea, black tea, green tea, jasmine tea etc) then choose from loose Thai tea or Thai teabag sachets. I prefer the latter, since it’s just easier.


Authentic Thai Tea Recipe

This is the most consuming way to prepare the drink but you can’t say it’s not the freshest-tasting, tastiest Thai tea you ever tried! There are different recipes for Thai tea, but this one is very nice.

  • Author: Victoria Haneveer
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 5 mins
  • Total Time: 10 mins
  • Yield: 12 1x
  • Category: Drinks
  • Cuisine: Thai


  • 1 gallon (3 3/4 liters) water
  • 1 quart (950ml) Half & Half, evaporated milk, rice milk, or coconut milk
  • 3/4 quart (700ml) long-cut China black tea leaves
  • 8 ground Chinese star anise
  • 1 tablespoon powdered vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon orange flowers
  • Pinch of freshly ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of clove powder
  • 1 or 2 cups (225g450g) sugar (optional)
  • Red food coloring or beet powder (natural coloring) (both optional)
  • Crushed ice, to serve


  1. First bring the water to a boil, then add the star anise, vanilla, orange flowers, cinnamon and clove powder, along with the tea leaves and food coloring (if using).
  2. Boil for a further 3 to 5 minutes, stirring all the time, then take it off the heat.
  3. Cover the pot and let it steep until lukewarm, then strain and add sugar if liked.
  4. Serve over crushed ice, topped with Half & Half or your favorite type of milk preferred.

This makes quite a lot of tea and takes a while. I prefer to use the readymade tea and just add milk to it. You can buy this from a Thai or Asian market or else order it online. Because each type is different, you might need to try a few before you find one you like.

Thai Tea No Sugar

Top Rated Thai Tea Mix

I like this one because it is sugar-free. It is flavored with star anise and is perfect for making Thai ice tea or hot Thai tea.

Brew it strong then add milk or Half & Half, along with sugar or sweetener too if desired. Serve it over ice, adding a little extra Half & Half.

Thai Tea Mix, on Amazon

I also like the ‘Canton’ brand (comes in a brown paper package and again it’s unsweetened, on the ingredients list it just says 100% tea and it’s not bright orange like some!)

You can get that one on eBay, or at least you could. I stocked up on it because I like it so much.

what is thai tea exactly