Did you know that tea is a relatively new phenomenon in Thailand? Considering that iced tea, bubble tea, and milk tea are such a staple part of the popular street-food culture in the country, it’s a surprising fact.
Tea was brought into Thailand by the Chinese in the 1980s to supplant opium as a cash crop. It's unclear when Thai tea (known in Thailand as Cha Yen)—a mixture of black tea, condensed milk, and sometimes ice — was invented, though most tie it to the influence of Field Marshal Pibul Songkram, a Thai leader with a penchant for western culture.
As Thai food became familiar throughout North America, so did Thai-style tea. To distinguish Thai Milk Tea from an Americano with milk, for example, Thai chefs started spiking the drink with bright orange food coloring (the same one, it is said, used in Kraft macaroni and cheese), adding a heavy dose of spices to distinguish it from a standard American iced latte, and including tons more sugar.
Over the years, the distinction of its taste has caused a move away from the orange hue and to healthier and cleaner options. And we have the perfect twist on this favourite.
If you try this recipe, be sure to tag @firebellytea on Instagram or TikTok.
4 cups water
4 heaped teaspoons of The Champion premium black breakfast tea
3/4 cup sugar or agave syrup
2 anise stars
1 green cardamom pod, smashed
2 whole cloves
1 cup (240 ml) your choice of half and half, plant-based milk, or condensed milk
A cup of ice
- Bring water to boil in a pot.
- Add The Champion tea, and boil for 3 minutes.
- Add sugar, star anise, cardamom pod and cloves.
- Stir until all the sugar dissolves.
- Gently boil for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
Allow the tea to steep for at least 30 minutes, then allow to cool. The more concentrated the tea flavor, the better the Thai milk tea tastes. We prefer to let the tea steep for about 2 hours for maximum flavor. During this time, the Thai tea can cool.
Strain out the tea leaves, star anise, cardamom pod, and cloves. You can make this ahead of time and have your organic Thai tea chilling in the fridge, or serve now.
When you're ready, fill glasses with ice and pour in Thai tea, leaving enough room to fill in your milk. For an 8 oz. glass we like to add about 2-3 tablespoons of milk for a creamier flavor.