How to Make Thai Iced Tea From Scratch

All-Natural Thai Iced TeaThe past few days we’ve had summer-like temperatures here in New York and we ate outside on our tiny balcony for the first time this year. I made Shrimp Pad Thai and one of my favorite summer drinks, Thai Iced Tea.

I could have just gone to one of the many Asian grocery stores in the city, but I really wanted to come up with an all-natural version from scratch. As much as I like the Thai tea you get in the supermarket or at restaurants, it does contain a fair amount of additives and food coloring (ever wonder where that bright orange color comes from?). Since this recipe is part of our latest GrubKit (checkout my post on it here), we’ve done a lot of research and testing on this. In the end, we’ve settled on Assam tea as the base. The flavorful Assam was our favorite when combined with milk and it also adds some bright, natural color to our iced tea.

I’ve included two versions of Thai iced tea. One is more traditional – but also packs in a lot more calories and fat – and for the healthier version, I’ve cut down on the sugar and used whole milk instead of sweetened condensed. Feel free to play around with the ratios and types of dairy, but if you’re trying to replicate the Thai tea you’ve had at restaurants, go for the first recipe.

Boil water, then add tea and spices into a tea bag. Steep for a 5 minutes, then add sugar, vanilla and star anise.

After tea has cooled, add ice to a glass, pour in tea, then top with milk and stir.

How to Make Thai Iced Tea From Scratch

  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons Assam tea leaves, or strong black tea
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon star anise powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk (for restaurant-style)
  • 1 teaspoon Stevia (for healthy version)
  • 3-4 tablespoons evaporated milk (for restaurant-style)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (for healthy version)

    Restaurant-style Thai Iced Tea:
    In a medium-sized pot, bring water to a boil. In the meantime, add tea leaves, cardamom pods, cloves and star anise into a tea bag. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, turn off heat and add bag. Gently stir and make sure bag is fully submerged.

    After 5 minutes, remove bag, add in star anise powder, vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk. Stir until dissolved and cool down to room temperature. Once ready to serve, fill 3/4 of a large glass with ice, then top with tea, leaving room for evaporated milk. Stir in the evaporated milk and serve.

    Healthier version of Thai Iced Tea:
    When tea has finished steeping, only add 1 tbsp. of sugar and omit sweetened condensed milk. Mix in Stevia until dissolved. Let cool to room temperature. When serving over ice, add whole milk or half & half instead of evaporated.

    Total Time: 10 minutes, plus time to cool tea
    Yield: makes 2 large glasses
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    25 Responses to “How to Make Thai Iced Tea From Scratch”

    1. Diana April 26, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

      Loved your all-natural version of this! It’s so much better than the artificial stuff. It would make a great substitute for coffee every once in a while. 🙂

      • Barb April 26, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

        Thanks, Diana! I agree, I like that it’s all-natural and not super sweet. I could have one right now… 😉

    2. ashley May 21, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

      My friend and made the healthy version of this over the weekend and it was deee-lish! We didn’t use quite the amount of sugar and I think in the future I would use at least 4-5 tbsp of tea per 2 servings vs. the 3 it calls for. The tea tasted a little weak with the listed amount. Thanks:)

      • Barb May 21, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

        That’s awesome, Ashley! Glad the healthy version turned out great for you and your friend 🙂 I’ll try more tea next time.

    3. Lauryn November 14, 2012 at 9:09 am #

      What if we don’t have stevia, can we just use more sugar?

      • Barb November 14, 2012 at 9:16 am #

        Hi Lauren – Yes, just use more sugar to taste.

    4. Jaidee December 23, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

      Ever wonder where green tea gets its “green” from, the same way Thai tea gets its “orange”.

    5. Kay March 13, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

      Hi there! I was so excited to find your recipe, thanks for posting it! I am pregnant and my #1 craving has been Thai Iced Tea. I’ve been looking to make a low-caf dye-free version. Your posting made this possible! The first batch turned out great, however… for me, it was missing just a little bit of something hard to describe. The Thai Tea I’ve had in the San Francisco area has just a hint of smokiness. After doing a tremendous amount of Googling, I found that the most commonly known “smoky” tea is Lapsang Souchong. I made a second batch with 1/2 decaf Assam and 1/2 Lapsang, along with cardamom, anise, cloves, etc. It’s just a touch closer to the restaurant style I am familiar with. I wondered if you or any of your readers are familiar with the smoky flavor I am seeking and if the source is in fact Lapsang Souchong? I’m on a quest to match the taste I’ve become accustomed to as best I can (without buying the bagged mix), even if it takes me all 9 months until baby gets here to do so. 😉 Thanks again!!

      • Barb March 14, 2013 at 9:44 am #

        Hi Kay – Thanks so much for your comment. Congrats on your pregnancy 🙂 I’m glad you found this recipe! Many of the store-bought Thai tea is a mix of different tea leaves and additives. But yes, I know what you mean by the smoky flavor so I’ll have to experiment and try the Lapsang Souchong tea. Maybe try adding a bit more Lapsang to the mix?

        • Kay March 14, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

          Thanks for your reply, Barb! Have a great weekend! 🙂

    6. PlantLust April 8, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

      I’ve been searching for a Thai Iced Tea recipe also (lots of prepping/priming/painting & yard cleanup in my future and I don’t do coffee) and found the following. Note the crushed tamarind seeds which are supposed to contribute the orange colour naturally.

      My tea supplier advised Formosa tea but if that’s not available then try Ceylon. It’ll be a fun experiment to try both recipes…

      5 tsp loose Thai tea
      1 star anise, slightly crushed
      1/2 tsp tamarind seeds, crushed (to naturally create the orange colouring)
      2 1/2 cups water, near boiling
      5-6 tablespoons condensed milk
      1-2 tablespoons evaporated milk
      1 piece Asian rock sugar, about 2 inches
      2 cup ice cubes or crushed ice

    7. Taquonda Gary July 5, 2013 at 12:56 am #

      I used Silk Vanilla Almond milk. It is sweeter than whole milk but healthier.

      • Barb July 8, 2013 at 8:09 am #

        Sounds good! Will try that out sometime.

      • Machiventa March 13, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

        Whole (raw) milk is one of the healthiest things on this planet.

    8. l.bug April 18, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

      thank you 🙂 cannot wait to try this..i appreciate the step-by-step visuals. I learn very visually, especially when it comes to recipes. And the beautiful photography motivates me to create and eat/ Appreciate it!

      • Barb April 18, 2014 at 6:12 pm #

        Thank you so much for your kind comment! I’m glad the step-by-step photos help 🙂

    9. Meghan B. August 9, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

      I know this is WAY late, but I have a newfound LOVE of Thai tea. I was really sad to learn the coloring came from artificial coloring. Check out they sell an organic thai tea mix without the artificial crap 🙂

    10. Suzanne August 25, 2014 at 6:09 pm #

      Thank you so much for posting this recipee. It is by far the best I’ve found for this drink. Star anise used in 2 forms makes it a great flavor, getting very very close. I also tried adding Lapsang Souchang like Kay and found it immediately made it more like the restaurant kind. Thanks.

      • Barb August 26, 2014 at 11:04 am #

        Wonderful, I’m so happy you enjoyed this recipe! I’ll have to try adding Lapsang Souchang next time. Thanks so much for your comment, Suzanne!

    11. Alison September 29, 2014 at 9:55 pm #

      I threw some together at the last minute when I realized the Thai leftovers I was heating up were going to be too hot without the milky tea that had made eating the dish possible in the restaurant. I used canned coconut milk, and it was PERFECT.

      • Barb October 1, 2014 at 11:35 am #

        Yum, sounds so good with coconut milk! Glad you enjoyed the drink 🙂

    12. Syma October 8, 2014 at 12:23 am #

      Dear Barb,
      A question on your recipe…you just mention “3-4 cloves”…of what?

    13. Melia January 13, 2015 at 8:51 pm #

      I can’t wait to try this recipe. I have tried several others but something has still been missing. The Thai restaurants in my area have the Thai tea made like southern sweet tea and add 1/2 n 1/2 after pouring it in your glass. I love the taste and I hope the spices and different tea leaves make the difference.

      • Barb January 15, 2015 at 5:16 pm #

        Hope you like the recipe, Melia! Thanks for your comment 🙂

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