Thai iced tea is one of our favorite drinks. It is smooth, refreshing, and delicious. Recently, we set out on a mission to find the best recipe so we could make this exotic drink ourselves. Not only did we discover how to make the tea just as creamy and flavorful as the original, but we also learned some interesting things along the way. We were thrilled to find out how easy it is to make this at home. It cooks in just ten minutes, and most of the ingredients we already had on hand. Also, we were surprised to learn that the traditional orange color is nothing more than artificial dye. Thankfully, this additive is not necessary, and our simple version of this delicious beverage uses only fresh, natural ingredients. Here, robust black tea is steeped with cinnamon, sugar, vanilla, whole cloves, and star anise, then chilled, served over a tall glass of ice, and generously topped with a rich swirl of cream and sweet condensed milk.
There are so many recipes online that it can be difficult to know where to begin. Many of them call for packaged Thai tea mix which is essentially flavored tea and orange food coloring, but we were interested in a homemade version that we could make from scratch. We tested multiple recipes: some of them were too sweet, or not sweet enough. One used too many spices which overpowered the drink, while others were too thin and watery. So we adapted the best parts from all of them, determined to get the most balanced, authentic flavor possible.
There is a variety of ways to make the topping, and recipes call for anything from evaporated milk to vegan non-dairy creamer. We tried several combinations, and decided that our favorite method is to mix the condensed milk and cream together which gives it a silky texture and just the right amount of sweetness. A tall glass of this ice-cold drink will complement any spicy dish and is the the perfect way to relax and cool down during these final few weeks of summer. The exotic mystery of Thai iced tea is revealed here, and now you can enjoy this sweet and wonderfully refreshing pick-me-up anytime you want!
Thai Iced Tea
serves 4 to 5
5 cups water
6 black tea bags
2 whole star anise
3 whole cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup condensed milk
1/4 cup cream
ice, for serving
Place the water in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and add the tea bags, anise, cloves, and cinnamon, stirring gently to combine. Cover and let steep for 10 minutes. Then, using a slotted spoon, remove the tea bags, anise, and cloves. Add the sugar and vanilla, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer to a heatproof pitcher, and refrigerate until cool, about 2 to 3 hours.
In a small bowl, stir the condensed milk and cream together until blended. To serve, fill a glass about half full with ice, then pour about 8 to 10 ounces of tea over the ice, leaving at least half an inch of space at the top of the glass to add the cream. Measure out two tablespoons of the cream mixture, and pour it gently over the top of the tea. Repeat for remaining glasses. Stir as desired, and enjoy!
— To make this vegan, use a non-dairy creamer in place of the topping mixture. You may need to adjust the sugar to taste.
— To make the drink more or less sweet, adjust the amount of topping to taste.