What Tea Is Thai Tea? Answered

Thai tea has a distinct orange color; that’s why you could probably recognize it once you see it. So, what tea is Thai tea? Keep reading to learn more.

What Tea Is Thai Tea
Thai tea is a refreshing drink made from strongly brewed Ceylon black tea

Thai tea, also known as Thai iced tea or “cha-yen” in Thailand, is a refreshing drink made from strongly brewed Ceylon black tea. Other ingredients may include added orange blossom water, crushed tamarind seed or red and yellow food coloring, and spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla bean, and star anise. 

Thai iced tea is sweetened with condensed milk and sugar. Before serving, evaporated milk, coconut milk, or whole milk is poured over the tea and ice to enhance the flavor and add a creamy look.

In Thailand, the tea is sweetened with condensed milk and sugar before being poured over ice and then topped with evaporated milk. It is served in a tall glass at Thai restaurants worldwide, although it is more commonly poured over crushed ice in a clear plastic bag in Thailand. Westernized versions made it into a frappe.

Thai iced tea is popular in Southeast Asia and even in many Thai restaurants in the United States. It is not the same as bubble tea; however, Thai tea with tapioca pearls is a popular bubble tea flavor.

Why Is Thai Iced Tea Orange?

Thai iced tea on a wooden table
Thai iced tea is orange because of food coloring and marketing strategy

The classic Thai iced tea is black tea, condensed milk, and crushed ice — so why is the drink orange in color? 

Thai iced tea is orange for two reasons: food coloring and marketing strategy. Food coloring and spices were included in the recipe when Thai tea became popular in Western cultures. The purpose was to make it different from other plain black teas, thus a part of a marketing strategy.

In the early years, chefs put orange food coloring in westernized Thai iced tea to give it a vibrant orange hue. Nowadays, you will find both the westernized and classic versions of Thai iced tea in Thailand.

Keep in mind that the Thai tea blend becomes dark red when brewed. When you add milk, though, you get the distinctive, vibrant orange hue. It turns orange in color since the Thai tea blend has food coloring in it.

How To Make Thai Iced Tea 

Now, we will show you how to make Thai iced tea in two simple ways — Real Thai Iced tea and Regular Thai tea. 

Most of the regular Thai iced tea blends often have syrup or low-grade powder. On the other hand, real Thai iced tea gets its flavor from black tea and spices, without any artificial ingredients. This means that your drink will not turn vibrant orange.

You will like Thai iced tea if you like masala chai and other milky or spiced black teas. If you do not have all the spices listed in this recipe, that’s alright. You can still make your Thai iced tea without the ingredients that are optional. 

If you want your drink full-flavored, you may find tamarind powder at your local Southeast Asian or Indian grocery stores, or purchase it on Amazon.

Tamarind Powder, 14 Ounce Jar
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You can use tea bags if you prefer, but we recommend using loose leaf tea, as it tastes better.

Real Thai Iced Tea


  • One tablespoon of sweetened condensed milk
  • One tablespoon of sugar
  • Two teaspoons evaporated milk, whole milk, or coconut milk
  • One cup of hot water
  • Two pods of cardamom
  • One pod of star anise
  • Two tablespoons of loose leaf black tea
  • Ice
  • Tamarind powder (optional)
  • One quarter teaspoon of almond extract (optional)
  • One eight of a vanilla bean (optional)
  • Half a cinnamon stick (optional)

Note: These ingredients are for two servings.


Step 1: Steep The Spices

Steep the star anise, cinnamon stick, loose-leaf black tea, tamarind powder, cardamom, vanilla bean, and almond extract in hot water for five minutes. Remember, you can exclude all of the optional ingredients if you don’t like them or you can’t find any.

Step 2: Strain

Strain the tea.

Step 3: Add Ice

Put some ice in your two tall glasses. Pour the tea over the ice, and leave a small space on top for the evaporated milk, whole milk, or coconut milk.

Step 4: Serve 

You can add more ice if you want, then add one teaspoon of evaporated milk, whole milk, or coconut milk to each glass. Enjoy your Real Thai iced tea!

Regular Thai Iced Tea With Orange Color


  • Six cups of water
  • One-third of a cup of granulated sugar
  • Half a cup of Thai tea mix
  • Four tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk 
  • Ice

Note: These ingredients are for four servings.


Step 1: Heat The Water

Boil water in a tea kettle or a saucepan. Remove the tea kettle or saucepan from heat after boiling.

Step 2: Mix

Combine Thai tea mix with hot water and sugar, then stir properly. Cover and allow the tea to steep for at least 15 minutes.

Step 3: Strain

Strain the tea and allow it to cool down completely. You can also put the tea in your fridge for about one week.

Step 4: Serve

When you are ready to serve, put some ice in your four glasses and pour the tea over them. Add four tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk. You can also use coconut milk or whole milk if you don’t like your drink to taste too sweet.

Thai Tea Variations 


  • Dark Thai iced tea: Dark Thai is Thai tea without any milk and sweetened with sugar only. The concept is based on classic Indian tea used as the main ingredient.
  • Lime Thai tea: Similar to Dark Thai iced tea, but sweetened with sugar and flavored with lime. You may also add some mint if you want.


  • Thai hot tea
  • Dark Thai hot tea: Thai tea served hot with no milk content and sweetened with sugar only.

Adjust The Sugar Level

Thai iced tea is too sweet for some people, but if you do not like it that way, you can adjust the sugar level according to your liking.

Use Other Types Of Milk

As shown in the ingredient list above, you can use other types of milk, including plant-based milks. You can use whole milk or half-and-half can; just make sure to add more sweetener if needed.

You may also be interested in reading our guide on the best non-dairy alternatives.

Add Citrus

Your Thai iced tea can be more delicious with a slice of orange, lemon, or lime. Adding citrus can make the other flavors stand out even more.

Thai Tea Health Benefits

two Thai iced tea on a wooden table
Thai tea can improves energy and focus, as well as reduces stress

Tea has many health benefits, which is why people from all over the world have been drinking it for millennia. Thai tea, in particular, is beneficial to the body and mind.

Improves Energy And Focus

Since black tea has caffeine, it is an ideal beverage for studying and working. Thai tea also contains caffeine and antioxidants that help stimulate your metabolism, which allows you to burn calories faster at the gym. Just make sure you keep drinking lots of water!

Reduces Stress

Drinking tea can help soothe your body and mind. So sit back, relax, and enjoy a cup of hot or cold Thai tea for instant bliss.

Decreased Risk Of Cancer

According to some research, drinking tea lowers the risk of having cancer due to the presence of antioxidants in black tea, which protect your cells from free radical damage.

Healthy Arteries

Drinking Thai tea can expand your arteries, which allows them to pump blood more efficiently throughout your body. As a result, it lowers the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
You may also be interested in reading our guide on turmeric tea.


  • Aisling O'Connor

    Aisling is an Irish food and drinks writer and journalist fueled by coffee and herbal tea. She followed up her journalism degree with nutrition studies. Find Aisling on LinkedIn.