What Is Thai Tea Made Of And How To Prepare It

thai tea

A very creative and innovative teapreneur birthed a drink unique to the streets of Thailand. However, Thai tea has broken free and is now traveling the world, captivating the palates of billions.

What Is Thai Tea?

Thai tea is a tea beverage that originated in Thailand and is now popular throughout the world. This tea is notoriously known because of its orange color. There’s a whole lot of feisty in a cup of this tea, making it intriguing, to say the least.

It is unknown who invented this tea or where it came from. Many speculate that the tea culture of the Chinese came to Thailand back in the 1940s. It was around that time that the communist party took over the country leading to many Chinese fleeing the country, some of which ended up in Thailand. Since then, the tea culture of the Chinese has greatly influenced Thailand’s gastronomy. 

Thailand was not a traditional tea nation, nor did they cultivate tea as China does. It wasn’t until the 1980s that Thailand’s first tea crop was established in Chiang Mai Province. Various Chinese traditions of brewing tea caught on in Thailand, with street vendors serving up creative drinks with tea in them. One of which is Thai Tea. 

The mysterious background of this drink fails to answer many questions people have about Thai Tea. So, why is it called Thai Tea? No one knows. Perhaps it’s because it is one of Thailand’s most popular drinks. 

The Art Of Thai Tea

Now we come to the very thing that makes this tea a real beauty. Not only do you get a cup of yummy sweetness, but you get to experience firsthand how this tea is made. Thailand street vendors are famous for the art of pulling Thai Tea. Pulling, you say? What is that?

Well, when preparing this tea, it is poured back and forth five times between two vessels. An artisan tea puller puts on a show to exhibit their skills, mesmerizing the crowds watching. As they begin pulling (pouring back and forth), they may dance or do acrobatic moves with the pulling vessels. It’s a beautiful thing to witness!

Types Of Thai Tea

Thai iced tea (cha yen) and Thai milk tea (cha dum yen) are two versions of Thai Tea. 

Both have a black tea base with an infusion of spices, flavoring, and coloring. Milk is added to that black tea base to make a Thai Milk Tea. When ordering this tea, it’s important to remember to ask for “cha yen” if you don’t want milk and “cha dum yen” if you do want milk.

Thai tea has taken off being offered in various creative drinks such as a boba (bubble) tea, smoothie, frappe, or alcoholic cocktail. This tea broke through the barrier of a glass, making its way into all types of foods such as ice cream, frozen yogurt, puddings, mousse, pies, cakes, pastries, chocolate, and more. 

What Is Thai Tea Made Of?

The modern-day version of Thai Tea is made from a commercial pre-blended tea mix. This mix is much more convenient and easy to use than measuring out spices, tea, etc., as done with the traditional way of preparing it.

A base of black tea (typically Assam or Ceylon) is used. Spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, and star anise are added to the black tea, along with orange coloring and sugar. To make this tea a milk tea, condensed and evaporated milk are added. 

The authentic Thai Tea served throughout Thailand in cafes, tea shops, and street vendors is made from a mix. This mix has the right blend of black tea, spices, coloring, and flavoring.

Is Black Tea The Same As Thai Tea?

The ingredients are what sets these two teas apart. Black tea is nothing more than a type of tea (such as Assam, Yunnan, Ceylon, Darjeeling, Kenya, etc.), whereas Thai Tea has black tea as an ingredient. The black tea ingredient in Thai Tea does not make it a black tea.

Why Is Thai Tea Orange?

thai tea color

The distinctive orange color of this tea is one of the features that makes it well known. Thai Tea mixes contain orange coloring. A traditionally prepared cup of this tea is often tinted orange by adding either sugar syrup or orange food coloring.

Does Thai Tea Have Caffeine?

This tea will have caffeine because it contains black tea. It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact amount of caffeine in a Thai Tea because it varies according to how it’s prepared (mix or traditional.) 

The most common size of cup Thai Tea is served in is a 22-ounce cup. A 6-ounce cup of black tea can contain up to 70 mg of caffeine. With that in mind, a 22 ounce Thai Tea may have more caffeine because of the serving size.

Is It Okay To Drink Thai Tea Every Day?

If you have a medical condition, are taking medications, are diabetic, sensitive to spices, or are lactose intolerant, this tea may not be ideal for enjoying without consulting with your healthcare provider.

Thai tea is a very sweet tea because of the added sugar. Whether you opt to enjoy the iced or milk version of this tea, there will always be sugar if you purchase your tea on the street or in a tea shop. Condensed milk added to the milk tea version significantly increases calories, sugars, and carbs. 

We have broken down the ingredients to determine the number of calories, carbs, and sugars in a 22-ounce cup of Thai Tea. 

Plain Thai Ice Tea

  • Calories: About 50 
  • Carbs/Sugars: About 8 g

Thai Milk Tea

  • Calories: About 200-230
  • Carbs/Sugars: About 33-40 g

As you can see, the milk tea version may not be something you want to drink regularly, but rather enjoy it occasionally. 

Thai Tea Benefits 

Any benefit gained from drinking Thai Tea comes from the black tea. Unfortunately, the number of calories, carbs, and sugars just about cancel out any health benefits. It is possible to make a healthier version of this tea to reduce those calories and carbs. 

Having a chilly, delicious tea such as this to enjoy on occasion on those hot days is an added benefit. Those who love chai tea will find Thai Tea is just as good. There’s something beneficial for the soul when exploring different tea cultures from other countries. Many tea drinkers begin a tea journey trying different teas and preparing them in the comfort of their homes. 

How Do You Make Thai Iced Tea From Scratch?

Making this tea the traditional way isn’t difficult. You’ll have full control over every ingredient to make a Thai tea that is free from artificial flavorings, colorings, and amped-up levels of sugar. 

Iced Thai Tea Recipe

This is a straight-up Thai iced tea without the milk. We have included a few additional steps at the bottom of this recipe to continue on to achieve the milk tea.


Serving Size: about 24 ounces (3 cups)

  • 3 tablespoons of loose-leaf Assam black tea
  • 3 ¼ cups of water
  • Ice
  • 1” piece of vanilla bean 
  • A few drops of orange food coloring
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 whole star anise
  • ¼ teaspoon of whole cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar


  1. Slice the vanilla bean piece open and scrape out the inside; put it into a small pinch bowl and set aside.
  2. Combine the water, vanilla bean scraping, cinnamon stick, star anise, and cardamom into a pan. Bring to a boil.
  3. Remove from the heat.
  4. Place the loose-leaf Assam tea into a tea infuser.
  5. Drop the tea infuser into the hot water.
  6. Cover and allow to steep for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove the cover and the tea infuser.
  8. Strain the spices and discard.
  9. Add the sugar to the tea mixture and stir.
  10. Fill a large glass with ice.
  11. Pour the tea over the ice.
  12. Enjoy!

For Milk Tea

You’ll Need:

  • Condensed milk
  • Evaporate milk
  • 2 small pitchers
  1. Follow steps 1-9.
  2. Pour the tea mixture into a small pitcher.
  3. Add 2 teaspoons of condensed milk to the tea mixture.
  4. Add 2 teaspoons of evaporated milk to the tea mixture.
  5. Pour the milk tea mixture into a small pitcher.
  6. Using the other small pitcher, you will now pull the tea. This is accomplished by pouring the tea into the other pitcher and then back to the original pitcher. You’ll repeat this five times. 

Tip: The proper way to pull tea is to pour high and finish low. This movement encourages frothiness.

  1. After pulling, pour the tea into a glass full of ice.
  2. Top the tea off with a dash of evaporated milk.
  3. Add a straw and enjoy!

A Definite Yum!

Bring Thailand to you and try the art of pulling your very own Thai Tea right in your kitchen. This tea is so good it may cause your toes to curl!

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