Thai iced tea, also known as cha yen, is made from a special blend of tea leaves known as Thai tea. This cold tea has a distinctive flavor because it is usually mixed with cinnamon, vanilla, and other sweet spices. This simple drink is the perfect complement for Thai food. It is often served with evaporated milk on top. It is found in Thai restaurants worldwide, and is easy to make at home. Here’s how to make Thai iced tea:
Ingredients and supplies:
- 4 cups water
- 3/4 cups Thai tea blend (often packaged as Cha Thai)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup either evaporated milk or half-and-half
- Medium saucepan with lid
- Fine mesh or tea strainer
- Heat-proof pitcher
- 4 tall glasses
- Ice cubes
- Boil the water. Boil four cups of water in a saucepan on medium-high heat until it reaches a rolling boil.
- Add tea leaves. Now, add the tea blend to the hot water, and then take the pan away from the burner. If you continue to boil the water once the tea has been added, the resulting tea will become bitter. Stir gently so that the leaves are soaked with water. Otherwise, the leaves will remain on the surface. Once they sink into the water, cover the pan, letting the tea steep in the water for three to five minutes. The longer you leave the tea in the water, the stronger the flavor will be.
- Strain the Thai tea. Strain the liquid in saucepan directly into the pitcher, discarding the used leaves. The finished tea will be bright orange or terra cotta-like in color. The brighter or darker the color, the stronger the tea.
- Sweeten the tea. Add about half a cup of sugar. Stir the tea until all of the sugar has dissolved. You can adjust the amount of sugar if you like your Thai tea sweeter or less sweet. The sugar must be added while the tea is still hot, or it will not fully dissolve, leaving a grainy texture in the finished iced tea.
- Refrigerate the tea. Chill the tea for two hours or more. Take the pitcher out of the refrigerator moments before the tea is served. It is best to make this tea ahead of time rather than trying to cool it quickly with ice, which will dilute its characteristically strong flavor.
- Serve your Thai iced tea. Fill four glasses with ice. Then, pour chilled tea into each glass, but do not fill the glass completely. Leave enough room in the top of the glass to add about four tablespoons either of evaporated milk or of half-and-half. Pour slowly so that this liquid remains in a distinct layer. Leave it on the top of the glass, or stir until it creates a swirled pattern with the tea itself. Serve with a straw or an iced tea spoon, if desired. Refrigerate any leftovers in a covered container for up to a week.
Thai iced tea can also be made with plain black tea, which should be mixed with vanilla extract, cinnamon, and other spices to approximate the flavor of Thai tea. This strong and sweet beverage has a beautiful color, and is often served on hot days or with hot food.