The iconic orange color of Thai tea tells a story of trends seeping through borders and street food, setting the stage for modern Thai cuisine. Contrary to popular belief, Thai tea is not an essential component to traditional Thai culture — nor is it orange, it's actually the product of western influence and tourism. The origins of Thai Tea are unclear, but many believe Pibul Songkram, a field marshal in Thailand around the 1980s, was one of the main influences that popularized the idea of adding condensed milk to tea.
So Where Does The Orange Color Come From?
After recognizing the potential Thai tea had when it gained popularity among Thai restaurant goers, western chefs wanted to give it an identity as bold as the dishes in the colorful Thai palate — so they added orange food coloring. Many of you may not know this, but the orange food coloring gave Thai tea an added exotic element, which drastically enhanced its marketability. Thai tea was so inextricably linked to its orange identity that the orange coloring trend found its way to Thai street markets. Tourists expected their tea to be orange, so the competitive street vendors adapted. This set the stage for the rest of Thai cuisine, as many restaurants, albeit progressive, adopted orange food coloring as another key ingredient in Thai tea.
What Ingredients And Flavors Combine To Produce An Amazing Thai Tea?
Tea is new to Thailand, its popularity and prevalence was initiated in the 1980’s after tea was supplemented for opium as a cash crop. Because of this, many of the ingredients that make up Thai tea are a culmination of Asian flavors from nearby countries. All of these ingredients combine to form an undeniably eclectic flavor.
Ceylon Tea 8g
- Native to Sri Lanka, Ceylon tea provides the perfect base for Thai tea’s creamy texture with its pungent spice and smooth consistency.
1 Piece of Star Anise
- Star Anise originates from China and gets its name from its unique star pattern. The spice extends its unusual shape to its flavor, offering an eccentric kick of subtle spice. It is also a proven digestive aid.
2 Pods of Green Cardamom
- The Chinese spice, Cardamom, adds a natural sweetness to your brew and will also freshen up your breath.
Half a Cinnamon Stick
- Another Sri Lankan delicacy, cinnamon offers an added spice element to heighten the overall flavor. A quality cinnamon also has the ability to lower blood sugar, which is perfect for a sugary drink like Thai Tea.
2 Cups of Boiling Water
- Native to earth, all natural H2O is great for hydration and the perfect solvent for your spices.
2 Tablespoons of Sugar (Adds Sweeter Taste)
- This one is pretty self explanatory. Thai tea is meant to be sweet, so expect to be generous with the amount of sugar you use.
Half a Teaspoon of Almond Extract
- Almonds originated in China and have been at the apex of recipes for quite some time. When broken down to an oil, it offers a smooth balance to the creamy texture.
1 Tablespoon of Sweetened Condensed Milk
- Perhaps an ode to their neighbors, Thai tea borrows their key ingredient from Vietnamese coffee: condensed milk. Condensed milk provides a sweet and creamy balance to the spicy tea base.
2 Tablespoons of Evaporated Milk
- The evaporated milk gives Thai tea that extra creaminess. It's also a perfect drizzle to cascade the walls of your cup.
- The most important ingredient in traditional Thai Tea is the crushed ice. It provides optimal consistency for your stirring pleasure.
- Begin by bringing the 2 cups of water to a subtle boil. Be careful not to overheat your water as the added heat can damage the potency of the spices.
- Steep tea, anise, cardamom, and cinnamon for about 5 minutes
- Strain out the tea bags and spices. Then mix in the sugar, almond extract, condensed milk, and 1 tablespoon of the evaporated milk.
- Drizzle the second tablespoon of evaporated milk down the sides of the cup
- Add in your desired amount of ice.
- Pour the finished tea mixture into the cup
- Finally, take a photo, share with your friends, and enjoy!
Thai Tea can be enjoyed at anytime. In our professional opinion, we recommend adding a glass of Thai Tea to go with a spicy dish, where the creamy and sweet texture balances the strong piquant flavors. No matter how you choose to enjoy it, Thai Tea will always be a timeless classic that tells the story of two cultures coming together to create a single masterpiece.