How to Make Thai Tea (aka “Thai Iced Tea”): A Thai Tea Recipe from Arbor Teas

Thai Iced TeaThai Tea (also known as Thai Iced Tea) is a popular iced drink hailing from Thailand, commonly found in Thai restaurants across the US.  The deep amber color of the tea and its milk-tinted upper layer make this beverage really stand out on your table, and the combination of strongly-brewed tea, dairy and sugar make it a perfect complement to hot weather and spicy food.

Thai Tea is is made from strongly-brewed black tea, often spiced with ingredients such as star anise, crushed tamarind, cardamom, and occasionally others as well (often making this beverage a favorite among masala chai tea fans). This brew is then sweetened with sugar and condensed milk, and served over iced.  For the sake of flavor, consistency and visual appeal, glasses of Thai Tea are usually topped with additional dairy, such as evaporated milk, whole milk, half and half, or coconut milk (this last one, of course, is not actually dairy, but you get the picture).

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Sound good?  Well, here’s a thai iced tea recipe to help you get started!


  • 3/4 C black tea leaves (approximately 3 oz.)
  • star anise, ground tamarind, cardamom and/or other spices, to taste (optional)
  • 6 C boiling water
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/2 C sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 C evaporated milk (most traditional), whole milk, half and half, or coconut milk


  1. Steep the tea leaves (and any optional spices) in the water for 5 minutes, then remove the tea leaves from the water (either by removing the infuser you’re using, or by straining the water to remove the leaves if loose).
  2. While the tea is still hot, stir in sugar until dissolved, then stir in condensed milk.
  3. Allow tea mixture to cool to room temperature or colder.
  4. Fill tall iced tea glasses with ice, and pour in tea mixture until glasses are roughly 3/4 full.
  5. Slowly top off glasses with evaporated milk, whole milk or coconut milk, but do not stir (final dairy should remain primarily as its own layer at the top of the glass).


It’s important to make the tea very strong, since it is ultimately diluted with milk and ice.  Also, you can make a large batch of the sweetened tea in advance and keep it in the refrigerator, then you can just pour it over ice and top it with the evaporated/whole/coconut milk at the time of serving.  For a caffeine-free version of this iced treat, try our organic rooibos.

Makes 6 glasses of Thai Tea.

June 30 2009 07:45 pm | Iced Tea and Tea Preparation

89 Responses to “How to Make Thai Tea (aka “Thai Iced Tea”): A Thai Tea Recipe from Arbor Teas”

  1. Dunrie on 07 Jul 2009 at 7:44 am #

    Would I grind the star anise and or cardamom first? Or should I put them in whole? To make homemade chai, I’ve ground them in a “retired” coffee grinder…

  2. Jeremy on 07 Jul 2009 at 1:16 pm #

    I would just bash them a little bit with a mortar and pestle. Grinding them would give you a pretty strong spice flavor, I think. Worth a try, though!

  3. Cynthia Ivison on 26 Dec 2009 at 2:02 pm #

    Do you sell the spices necessary to make the THAI Iced Tea, already to mix with the black tea. Or what amount of spice does one need to add to a batch of tea( 6 cups) ?

  4. Timothy Collinson on 02 Jan 2010 at 2:24 am #

    A mortar is the best way to kick up the flavor but
    you probably will get some of the leftover grounded star anise. Hope it helps!

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  6. honychile on 20 Apr 2010 at 5:01 pm #

    Does thai tea contain a lot of caffeine?

  7. Aubrey on 21 Apr 2010 at 9:20 am #

    Because Thai tea uses a concentrate of black tea, it does contain a fair amount of caffeine. However, the caffeine levels will vary depending on how you make your Thai tea (ie do you use our recipe or a purchased mix). An average cup of black tea contains about 40-60 mg of caffeine, compared to an average cup of coffee which contains 80 -100 mg.

  8. Joanie on 16 May 2010 at 8:53 pm #

    One does not need to grind the star anise, it is easier to remove after steeping if it is kept whole. Brew the tea for a longer period of time (Giada deLaurentis suggests 1 hour), to take full advantage of the spice. This recipe is a great one! I highly recommend it..super yum!

  9. Dia on 03 Jun 2010 at 2:05 am #

    This looks lovely! I was surprised when a galfriend & I got Thai Iced Tea ‘to go’ & our server put in half & half – I always assumed they used coconut milk (which I would) . . . love the addition of cardamom & star anise, which I keep on hand for making Chai. Making this with rooibos or honeybush (& perhaps a bit of black tea) appeals to me. Thanks for the suggestion

  10. AJ on 13 Jul 2010 at 3:49 pm #

    Hello. I just made the “tea mixture” part of the recipe and something doesn’t look right. I put the condensed milk and sugar while the tea was hot, but the mixture turned into a white/beige color. I followed the recipe to the exact measurement. What happened here? I am so confused. Help me!!

  11. Aubrey on 14 Jul 2010 at 11:32 am #

    Hmmm, it sounds like you might not have used enough tea or brewed it long enough. I just want to double check, did you use a full 3 ounces of dry tea leaves (this could be more than three quarters cup depending on the density of the tea) and did you brew it for a full five minutes with boiling water? If not, try again and you will get a stronger brew that will retain more of its color when you add the sugar and condensed milk. If you did do all these things, you might need to brew the tea for a longer length of time. Try brewing for 10 minutes and see if that helps. Also, what type of tea are you using?

  12. Annie the Tea Maven on 05 Aug 2010 at 12:28 pm #

    I like mine with smoky undertones, so I use lapsang souchong, and then I add in spices. If you like it sweet, add the sugar to the boiling water before steeping your tea…. this is how they do it in Thai restaurants. To get the milk to sit on top it’s a little like making a black & tan- all about the relative temp & densities of the two liquids. You want your iced tea to be really cold and poured over ice, and then add room-temp sweetened milk to the top.

    You can also make any tea “decaf” by brewing it as usual for 30 seconds, removing the tea, and then re-brewing with the same bags. Most of the caffeine will leach out and get poured away in the first pot.

    @ AJ: thai iced tea is often orange because restaurants use a mix that has food coloring in it. If you’re doing a loose-leaf from scratch version you probably won’t get that same vivid color…. beige is okay as long as it tastes awesome :)

  13. leah on 26 Aug 2010 at 7:37 pm #

    is the condensed milk a must i just got coconut milk could it still work?

  14. Aubrey on 27 Aug 2010 at 9:55 am #

    HI Leah! I would recommend using the condensed milk as it adds sweetness and thickness to the drink. The coconut milk will work (and probably make a delicious drink!), but it will result in a very different beverage that will not be as close to the traditional Thai Tea.

  15. Ted on 03 Sep 2010 at 9:37 pm #

    Hi everyone!
    My girlfriend and I just tried this recipe and It taste nothing like Thai Tea. Did we do something wrong?
    What is the measurements for the star anise, cardamon, and tamarind anyways?

  16. chocomania on 09 Sep 2010 at 11:44 am #

    actually thai tea as you see in orange because the different of tea, some leaf tea can’t give an orange so that why sometimes you get a white instead but the taste is same.

    Anyway, I also like orange in my thai tea because this is the traditional thai tea.

  17. damian c on 05 Oct 2010 at 1:24 pm #

    well, you can also buy Thai Tea bagged, which is a blend of black tea with all necessary spices, in Thai store …..

  18. Joshua on 10 Nov 2010 at 4:48 pm #

    How much anise, cardamom, and tamarind are recommended? i guessed, but it didn’t turn out right.

  19. Catie on 17 Mar 2011 at 4:49 pm #

    Great Recipe! Tastes just like it’s from a Thai restaurant. :)

  20. Shirley on 14 Apr 2011 at 11:40 am #

    What is the difference between putting star anise versus clove? I have seen some recipe calling for cloves and others calling for star anise. What happens when we put both? Would the spice flavor be too strong?

  21. Brigid on 19 Apr 2011 at 8:57 am #

    What would be the best brand of condensed milk & half & half to use?

  22. brittany on 22 Apr 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    I am in the 8th grade and i am making this drink for a class potluck on the country we have selected and i choose Laos because it is part of my haritage

  23. lauren on 01 May 2011 at 1:51 am #

    Thanks for this recipe! I went to a thai place just today and had some thai iced tea and thought it was the best! after coming home I wanted to see if I’d be able to make it myself and stumbled upon this website. I’m hoping to try this recipe out soon!

  24. Natalie Moore on 08 May 2011 at 10:34 pm #

    i just made my first glass and it was watery and a dirty cream color. I am going to steep the tea overnight to see if this works. Any suggestions?

  25. Sanford Seyer on 02 Jun 2011 at 12:36 am #

    My partner and I stumbled over here coming from a different page and thought I might as well check things out. I like what I see so i am just following you. Look forward to checking out your web page again.

  26. Juan on 03 Jul 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    I still don’t understand where the amber color comes from. Anybody care to explain?

  27. Aubrey on 06 Jul 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    Juan -

    Sometimes the intense Amber color in a Thai Tea served at a restaurant or created from an “instant” Thai Tea package is often attributed to food coloring. A Thai Tea created with loose tea and spices usually has a less vivid, lighter colored body.

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  29. Suzan B on 20 Aug 2011 at 11:46 pm #

    Regarding the question of the color, I would guess that it comes from the tamarind and then the combination of the other ingredients. Some use food coloring, but I think that’s gilding the lily.

  30. Donnie M on 29 Aug 2011 at 10:51 pm #

    I have been researching this for a long time.
    I love Thai iced tea! The tea used is strong Black tea, unfortunately the vivid orange color usually is from food coloring. I did not want to use food coloring so I found out annatto is a natural source of red when added by seed or extract. I found “Thai tea” tea at an Asian grocery store, the ingredients; black tea and star anise, so the original posted recipe is good but add “tamarind” and if you want it really orange add the annatto :)

  31. melanie on 29 Sep 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    Keemun is my new favorite black tea thanks to this page. the recipe does not taste exactly like in a thai restaurant but a great variation. The taste is bold and kind of piney, which helps the tea lend itself well with cream/condensed milk. I might try adding a pandan leaf or jasmine essence next time.

  32. Food! Glorious Food! | dailyorangejews on 06 Oct 2011 at 11:05 am #

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  34. wells on 18 Nov 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    from all the reviews and comments I couldn’t detect the quantity of spices should be added.Can anybody help?

  35. Bonnie on 19 Nov 2011 at 11:05 pm #

    I see people are still asking questions about the color. It comes from the tamarind pulp, and its what gives thai tea its distinctive color and flavor. You need to sqweeze all of the liquid out of the pulp.Alternately you can by tamarind juice an dadd it to the tea after you have brewed it. Make sure you brew your tea in something that is non-reactive or the tea will taste acrid.

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  37. Jennifer on 05 Jan 2012 at 7:30 pm #

    I tried making my first homemade Thai tea with this given recipe today! I put the exact measurement of ingridients and the result was delicious! Thanks!!

  38. Olivia Wilde on 09 Jan 2012 at 6:33 pm #

    Wonderful recipe! I’ve made this several times and each time seems to be better than the last. I know it says the spices are optional, but without them it truly isn’t the same.

  39. The Tolkienist on 18 Jan 2012 at 10:53 am #

    I’m trying this out right now, and am very excited! Thank you so much for posting this!! =D

  40. All For Tea on 23 Jan 2012 at 7:56 pm #

    I just bought a box of thai black tea and was looking for directions on how to prepare. Thank you for the recipe!

  41. Twyla on 19 Feb 2012 at 6:36 pm #

    ^^ Ohh awesome, I was trying to figure out how to make this! :) Add tapioca if you’re a fan of some texture, it’s awesome with thai tea (iced). ^^ I use to get it from a little place called Quicklys with the tapioca!

  42. Alexandra Fimbres on 05 Mar 2012 at 8:57 am #

    I used tamarind extract and 1 1/2 oz. tea. 1 1/2 oz. was exactly 3/4 cup… so I figured someone had goofed with the measurement if it was off by half of the cup measurement. Dunno. It turned out well! I lived in Flagstaff, AZ for awhile where there are some truly excellent Thai restaurants (we’ve got 3 in about a two block radius downtown, and all three are really amazing). Anyway, it’s been longer than two years since I’ve had Thai tea, and my version recalled the restaurant version I had then. Pretty impressive, I would say.

    I used whole cardamom in the pods–about 18 of them. And perhaps two heaping tablespoons (kind of no other way–those star pods don’t exactly sit flat!) of star anise–whole and in pieces. I used a teaspoon of the tamarind extract as it was suggested on the jar (1 teaspoon for 12 people) I figured a little error on the side of pucker would be just fine. It’s wonderful.

    There really isn’t a substitute for condensed milk. As for preparation and actual drinkage, I’ve got evaporated milk in my pantry. I suppose we’ll try that out, though I’m kind of a fan of half and half, and I also have cream and milk in my fridge!

    As for all of you trying to figure out the flavor: Star Anise is licorice-y, Cardamom is more… spicy than anything; and tamarind is sour. Go back to your favorite Thai restaurant, and perhaps ask that they bring your tea uncombined with the half and half so that you can see which flavors stick out the strongest to you. Base your experiments on that–it really should be made to your own preferences!

    Happy drinking!

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  44. khanh on 18 Apr 2012 at 10:06 am #

    I’m trying this out but for some reason, every time I did it, it doesn’t have that beautiful orange color… mine is like a between a light brown and orange…how did you get it to be so orange like that? can someone help me? thanks in advance

  45. Aubrey on 18 Apr 2012 at 10:14 am #


    The beautiful orange color that you find in commercially produced Thai Iced Tea is usually a result of food coloring (Yellow #6). The recipe listed here does not incorporate food coloring and will result in a beautifully natural light brown!

  46. Anonymous on 18 Apr 2012 at 6:58 pm #

    Thanks so much! I am glad i found this recipe

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  48. colt45 on 09 May 2012 at 12:53 am #

    for anybody wondering why it turns amber…..u take a dark orange tea n mix in sweet condensed milk which is white, it will brighten it up just like if u mix paint. here. this is how thai street vendors prepare the tea …

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  50. Katie on 08 Jun 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    Yum! I love this idea. One of my favourite breakfast joints makes an iced Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk, but I’ve never had a tea version. I’ll definitely be trying this out!

  51. LP @dishclips on 09 Jun 2012 at 12:56 am #

    One of my favorite drinks. Thanks for sharing!

  52. Melissa on 09 Jun 2012 at 11:41 pm #

    I ended up buy loose Chai tea and worked out pretty good. I will look for Thai tea, not sure I can find it here where I live. Maybe will order online. Loved it. Thanks

  53. Boba. « All the World's a Salad on 10 Jun 2012 at 1:21 am #

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  54. Barbnara on 03 Jul 2012 at 7:53 am #

    Does Thai Tea also contained some Thai fruit juice from a Thai Fruit of some kind?

  55. Aubrey on 03 Jul 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    Our Thai Tea Blend does not contain Thai fruit. However, I’m sure there is a non-traditional Thai Iced Tea blend in the marketplace that might include a Thai Fruit juice!

    Arbor Teas

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  57. dina on 24 Jul 2012 at 5:20 am #

    The first time i tried thai tea i just loved it .thanks for posting your recipe on line,im going to make it for sure.

  58. J.J. on 26 Jul 2012 at 1:44 am #

    I wanted to taste how the “official Thai tea” tastes like, without artificial flavors or colors, After looking for “Organic Thai Tea” and came across your site! I saw your ingredient list in how to make it from scratch, and also saw the ingredient list of your Thai Tea blend, (the Vanilla bean is a perfect touch). I see the site mentions about Star Anise, Tamarind, and Cardamom; My question is: Even though there are multiple mentionings of the ingredient Tamarind, what was the reasoning to not include Tamarind your Organic Thai Ice Tea Blend?

  59. Aubrey on 30 Jul 2012 at 12:08 pm #

    Hi J.J. -

    Thanks for the comment. Unfortunately, we were not able to add Tamarind to our Thai Iced Tea blend because we were not able to source organic tamarind. We really (really!) wanted to include tamarind in the blend, but we could not maintain the organic integrity of the blend. Darn!

    All best,
    Arbor Teas

  60. Person on 14 Aug 2012 at 1:43 am #

    Because everyone is arguing about the color and some people actually think food coloring is the source. IT IS NOT. I’ve lived with a thai family before. The orange color is natural in the traditional thai iced teas, but you would need one hell of a strong tea for that and the milk most often used in ASIAN tea shops like Quickly or Tapioca Express in what I call Asian City aka San Francisco (jtown, chinatown, thai restaurants, thai families)…tend to use half and half and so much sugar. By hells…so much sugar. The color is the result of the tannins in “red” black tea and the milk. It is Naturally orange…but depending on how strong your tea is, you probably won’t get that color as it takes at least an hour to brew and mind you the Thai family has perfected this tea making exquisitely.
    It is not a food coloring in San Francisco. I don’t know where you drink… but here that color is natural…and the drink is almost always gone too… “We’re out.”
    But I can’t say where they get their black tea leaves…considering almost every product in SF is Asian- it’s safe to say local over there. If you live in a different state, different city… find that asian shop and sea if their is anything that stands out. Otherwise…Teavana is the closest and most expensive thing to it without buying the materials separate (well the milk has to be bought separately obviously)

  61. Dori on 30 Sep 2012 at 7:41 am #

    This comment string is making me want to dash off to the local Thai restaurant and get a Thai iced tea! My daughter is a recent convert to Thai iced tea and I’m so happy to have found both a recipe and this blog. I’m going to attempt to make this myself for her as a surprise (hopefully a good one). Thanks!

  62. Tim on 12 Oct 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    If you do use red tea leaves or “rooibos” tea it will help with the light orange color

  63. Daliah on 09 Dec 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    My best friend always makes this for me, and I love it so much. Thanks so much for giving me the recipe!!

  64. Acaacia on 09 Dec 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    Thanks so much!! Ill try both black and red leaves!!!

  65. Donita on 31 Dec 2012 at 4:19 am #

    I love Thai food and Thai iced tea. I finally figured I just HAD to find the recipe online. Thanks for the recipe, and thank you all for your comments/suggestions. I will be trying this very soon!

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  74. Stacy on 07 May 2013 at 11:49 pm #

    Iced milk teas are very popular right here in the Philippines, but I prefer our home made Iced Milk Thai Tea, I have recipe too in my website. Too bad the Thai Tea Extra Gold, the black tea, is not locally available out here. This Thai tea brand has a nice scent and taste, unlike other teas out there that smell and taste like flowers.

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  77. Graham on 22 May 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    Anybody have a source for ground tamarind? I’ve looked everywhere and tried using tamarind paste, but it made the tea kind of pulpy and didn’t improve the flavor any.

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    Been ordering Thai tea at the local Thai restaurant every time I go and for some reason, making it myself never occurred to me! I’m hoping to try this soon!

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    I am Thai and Thai ice tea is one of my fav drinks. I have never heard of any Thai restaurants or street vendors who would put any spice in Thai ice tea. If we are taking about Indian Chai – Yes, they put spices like cardamon and anise star. Interesting conversation of how to make Thai Ice tea the way Thai people don’t do it.

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  87. dani on 09 Jun 2014 at 12:09 am #

    Every other recipe i’ve read says to have the tea alone, and then the sweetend condensed milk is the cream that’s added on top to make it sweet. This one says to add SCM and then add normal dairy on top im not quite sure which is more accurate since this one has so many people who are happy with the results

  88. Aubrey on 09 Jun 2014 at 10:16 am #

    Hi Dani -

    Thanks for the comment and sorry for the confusion! You can make your Thai Iced Tea either way. You can simply mix in dairy with the sweetened tea and stir to combine -OR- top off the sweetened iced tea with condensed milk to create a layered look. Or do both! All of the above works. It just depends on the “look” you want, how much dairy you want to use, and how sweet you want your tea to be.

    Arbor Teas

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