You are truly missing out if you have never heard of Thai tea! This popular drink is commonly served in Thai restaurants and consists of a blend of black tea, milk, and added spices that produce a unique flavor. Thai tea originated in Thailand and quickly grew as a staple of Thai street food culture. It then grew so much that it was brought over to the United States and is enjoyed by people all over the world.
This tea type has many health benefits and is an excellent source of caffeine. While caffeine can make you feel alert and active, and act as a mood booster, it can also have unpleasant side effects on your overall health if too much caffeine is consumed. This is why it is important to be aware of the exact amount of caffeine in your Thai milk tea. On average, Thai tea can have more caffeine than a cup of coffee!
In this article, we will go over an in-depth look at the history and variations of Thai tea, how to prepare your Thai tea and give a breakdown of how much caffeine you can expect to consume when drinking Thai tea. Keep reading for all the information!
What is Thai Tea?
Thai tea is a classic beverage enjoyed by many across the world. The tea originated in Thailand and is prepared by brewing strong black tea, adding condensed milk, and various spices. This tea is typically served ice and can be referred to as “Thai milk tea,” “Thai iced tea,” or simply just “Thai tea.” Check out the full history and variations of Thai tea below.
History of Thai Tea
Thai tea, known in Thailand as Cha Yen, is a relatively new development when it comes to the vast history of tea. This tea was originally imported to Thailand from China in the 1980s. It’s believed that Field Marshal Pibul Songkram, a Thai leader, invented the base recipe for the Thai tea we know today. It’s said that the drink was inspired by the heavily sweetened pallet of Western cultures. From there on, this drink became popularly served alongside meals at local Asian markets and street stalls.
As Thai cuisines such as Pad Thai, Khao Pad, and Som Tum began making their appearance in the United States in the early 21st century, so did Thai tea! But this tea looked much different than the traditional Thai tea, as the Americanized Thai tea contained orange food coloring and high sugar content to appeal to the sweet palates of Americans. Now, you can find Thai tea in restaurants, and bubble tea shops, or even make your own at home!
Main Ingredients of Thai Tea
Traditional Thai tea is made with a strong black tea, such as Ceylon tea, steeped with a variety of spices such as tamarind seed, star anise, cinnamon, and vanilla. Once the tea is brewed, it is combined with sweetened condensed milk and poured over crushed (never cubed) ice. You will typically find the drink garnished with fresh mint leaves, orange blossoms, or lemongrass to compliment the creamy, fruity, and sweet flavor of Thai tea. The tea can be served hot, but the best choice is iced Thai tea.
Variations of Thai Tea
Just as with many tea drinks, people have made their recipes and variations over the years. While the most common type of tea to start Thai tea with is a black tea base, you can also find other variations made with green tea or white tea. Using different teas to make Thai tea is a good idea for someone who is trying to avoid drinking a lot of caffeine since green and white tea both have less caffeine than black tea.
How To Make Thai Tea?
Unlike a lot of other cultures’ tea preparations, Thai iced tea is not a drink that is typically made at home. But, the recipe is fairly simple as long as you have all of the ingredients. This is one of the most perfect caffeinated beverages to enjoy on hot days when you need a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. As we said, the recipe is a lot easier than you would expect, plus you can even buy Thai tea mixes which take the guesswork out of the recipe. Take a look at the list below before heading to your local grocery store!
What You Need to Make Thai Tea
- 4 organic black tea bags or loose tea leaves
- 3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup orange blossom water (optional)
- 2 anise stars
- 1 green cardamom pod, smashed
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3/4 cup (240 ml) half and half (approximately), (some people also use coconut milk, almond milk, whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, or evaporated milk)
If you are using one of the Thai tea mixes, you will need all the same ingredients minus the tea and spices, which is what the mix replaces. The recipe will use 1 cup (80 g) of the Thai Tea Mix.
Preparation of Thai Tea
To make your Thai tea, follow the steps below.
- Bring water temperature to a boil and add the tea bags, sugar, star anise, cardamom pod, and cinnamon sticks. If you are using orange blossom water, this will give your tea an extra fruity flavor.
- Continue to stir until all the sugar dissolves and allow the tea to boil for about 3 minutes, then remove from heat.
- Allow the tea to steep for at least 30 minutes in the hot water. The longer you steep tea, the more concentrated the flavor will be. Depending on your preference, you can allow the tea to steep for up to 2 hours. This also allows the tea to cool if you are preparing iced tea.
- Remove the tea bags, star anise, cardamom pod, and cinnamon sticks. You can do this with a spoon or strainer.
- If the tea is still warm, refrigerate it so it can be fully chilled.
- Fill glasses with ice and pour in organic Thai tea. Be sure to leave enough room to fill in your half-and-half (or other dairy option).
If you are using a tea mix, simply follow the same steps but substitute the tea mixture for the tea bags and spices. You will boil, strain, and chill this tea blend as seen in steps 1-4.
You may notice that your at-home Thai tea looks slightly different than the ones you would receive at a restaurant. This is because it is common to use food coloring to achieve the popular orange color.
What are the Health Benefits of Drinking Thai Tea?
Like all teas, Thai tea has several health benefits for those who drink it often. Because this drink contains a mixture of black tea, Thai tea gives it all the same benefits such as improved heart health, reduce risk of stroke and cardiovascular diseases, and lowered blood pressure. Black tea consumption has been proven to reduce the risk of death by any cause by 13% compared to those who do not drink tea.
In addition to the benefits of black tea, the spices used in the tea may also have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and immune-boosting effects.
Does Thai Tea Have Caffeine?
Because of the use of black tea in Thai tea, this beverage has high caffeine content. Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in plants such as coffee beans or the leaves of the tea plant. A cup of black tea can contain between 40 and 70 mg of caffeine. This is the highest caffeine content of all teas. Green or white tea, which is a great alternative option, only has between 10-15 mg of caffeine. To compare, the average cup of coffee contains 75-100 mg of caffeine.
How Much Caffeine is in Thai Tea?
The caffeine content of Thai tea will depend on a few different factors. For example, strongly brewed tea will produce a more caffeinated base. Additionally, the amount of milk you use will determine the amount of tea used, which can also alter the caffeine content. There are also different kinds of tea, so the type of black tea used will be a large factor too. Generally, Thai iced teas made with Assam or Ceylon tea will have more caffeine than other types of tea. For this reason, it is difficult to determine the exact caffeine content, especially if you are not making this drink yourself.
One cup (8 fl oz) of Thai iced tea can have anywhere from 30-60 mg of caffeine. This amount ranges because of the factors we talked about earlier. Thai iced tea contains less caffeine than a regular cup of black tea because it is diluted with milk and ice, giving you less caffeine per ounce of drink.
Thai tea, known in Thailand as Cha Yen, made its debut in Thailand when it was created by a Thai leader in the 20th century. It quickly grew as a staple of Thai street food culture and was brought to North America where the recipe was altered with orange food coloring and high sugar content to appeal to the sweet palates of Americans. This delicious drink is commonly found in Thai restaurants and bubble or boba tea shops all around the world.
The main ingredients of Thai tea are black tea steeped with a variety of spices such as tamarind seed, star anise, cinnamon, and vanilla combined with sweetened condensed milk and poured over crushed ice topped with a garnish of fresh mint leaves or orange blossoms. The overall taste of Thai tea is bold, sweet, and creamy. You can make your Thai tea at home by gathering all of the necessary ingredients and brewing the black tea mixture. This gives an added level of personalization for the amount and type of spices and milk added to the tea.
Because Thai tea is made with a base of black tea, it does contain a fair amount of caffeine. You can find anywhere between 30-60 mg of caffeine in a cup of Thai tea. This measurement varies because of the type of tea and amount of milk used.