A cup of sweet, milky iced Thai tea on a hot day - it's one of those simple pleasures that are hard to beat! But what exactly goes in a Thai tea? Did it actually originate in Thailand? And how can you make your own at home?
This guide to Thai tea has all the answers, including how much caffeine is in Thai tea and how to make this delicious recipe with your favorite Zest Tea teabags.
Thai iced tea was once only popular in Southeast Asia, but now it can be found across the world, served on the menu of Thai restaurants and street tea stalls.
It's a cold tea drink prepared with sugar, ice, tea, and dairy that originates in Thailand. It's traditionally consumed from tall glasses but is frequently sold in plastic cups with straws.
You'll find it among the iced drinks, close to bubble tea (see below), and milk tea. What separates Thai iced tea from other tasty iced drinks, is its bright orange color.
There are many variations on Thai iced tea too. We like ours with spices, like star anise, cinnamon, and cardamom served over crushed ice and a little coconut milk. We have a recipe for Thai tea using our Spicy Masala Chai blend below.
The sugary, sweet boba tea also originated in Southeast Asia, in Taiwan rather than Thailand.
But a classic Thai tea won't contain "bubbles". Those chewy tapioca bubbles at the bottom of a bubble tea are delicious, but they aren't typically added to a creamy Thai tea - unless you ask for them.
Thai iced tea is usually made with a rich black tea which gives it that distinct tannin flavor. However, the very creamy dairy that's used in Thai tea creates the strongest flavor.
This drink is sweet and heavy (kind of like a tea-milkshake) and is sometimes flavored with vanilla or mild spices.
We've analyzed the nutrition, calories, and ingredients of various tea types and herbal teas, including black tea and matcha, on the Zest Tea blog. But unlike those teas, Thai iced tea is much higher in calories thanks to the added sweetened condensed milk.
Thai iced tea contains black tea made with water and tea leaves, plus dairy - usually condensed milk, but not always. Other common ingredients added include sugar or syrup, and spices. As for nutrition, it depends on how you make the Thai iced tea or which brand you use.
On average, one 8oz serving of black tea contains just over 2 calories1 and provides water for hydration and antioxidants with some great health benefits.
100g of condensed milk contains 321 calories, including 54 grams of sugar.2 While the condensed milk is a great source of calcium, vitamin A and numerous other minerals, it's also a high source of cholesterol and fats.
Tea, milk, and sugar will always contain more calories than a simple cup of tea.
Thai iced tea can be made with numerous tea types. Black tea is the most common, but decaf black tea is also widely available. You might even find rooibos and matcha Thai iced tea specialty drinks.
A standard cup of black tea (8oz) contains 47mg of caffeine.3
In a traditional Thai tea, there's a higher ratio of milk to tea, so there may be less than 8oz in your serving. Furthermore, to make Thai iced tea, the leaves are steeped longer, for a stronger cup - this can also impact the level of caffeine in your cup.
So, a great Thai tea could contain anywhere from 20-60 mg of caffeine, depending on how it is prepared.
Whole, condensed, or evaporated milk won't add any caffeine.
Although a sweet iced coffee looks similar to Thai iced tea and is prepared in a similar way, the flavor and caffeine levels are drastically different.
If your iced coffee is made with 2 espresso shots (2oz), it will contain up to 128 mg of caffeine! If you use ordinary brewed coffee, your drink will contain 96 mg of caffeine per 8oz of coffee.
Of all our caffeinated drinks, our black tea blends contain the most caffeine. A brewed 8oz cup of Zest Spicy Masala Chai, for example, contains up to 150mg of caffeine.
That's a lot!
One of the great properties of tea is that it contains an amino acid called L-Theanine. This amino acid interacts with caffeine to slow the onset of your energy and smooth over the jitters.
So, even a high-caffeine Thai iced tea made with Zest Tea will provide a steady, calm boost of energy for your day.
Everyone's favorite high-caffeine spiced chai is the perfect base for a sweet Thai iced tea. The strong black tea base (with a great caffeine boost) and the smooth flavors of cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger are delicious with sweetened condensed milk.
Discover Spicy Masala Chai energy tea at Zest.
Thai iced tea is made from tea, mixed with dairy, and sweetened with sugar.
There are a few notes to make sure your Thai iced tea is a success.
First, make sure your black tea is completely cool. If it's hot when you pour it over the ice, you'll melt the ice, dilute the tea, and won't have enough space for all your milk and sugar.
If you want to get that bright orange color that Thai iced tea is known for, add a few drops of food coloring to the cold tea.
If you're using whole milk, evaporated milk, or other creamy lactose-free liquid, you may need to play around with the ratios. For condensed milk, we like 2 parts tea to 1 part milk. The lighter and less sweet your milk is, the more you should add to combat the strong tea.
Avoid using a tea mix rather than brewing your own tea. Many Thai tea mix products already contain excess sugars and preservatives that you just don't need.
And finally, if you're desperate for a little more spice in your tea, try brewing the tea leaves with star anise and other whole spices on the stove for 5-10 minutes. Strain the leaves and spices out before cooling.
Thai iced tea is primarily made with strong black tea, which has numerous health benefits. However, the rich, fatty dairy can counter these health benefits, so only drink Thai iced tea in moderation.
Black tea, without milk, can reduce your blood pressure. It's not just the calming effect of holding a hot cuppa in your hands that does this. Researchers have found that L-Theanine in black tea, which is used for Thai iced tea, can reduce anxiety and high blood pressure.4
Whether you drink your tea hot and black or cold and milky, it's still a great source of L-Theanine and caffeine.
Black tea contains polyphenols that can help you to lose weight. They reduce your calorie intake, reduce oxidative stress, and promote lipid metabolism.5
To make sure that the dairy element of your Thai iced tea doesn't completely outweigh the weight-reducing properties of black tea, select a low-fat and unsweetened alternative. Many plant-based kinds of milk that you can use to create a Thai iced tea are high in fiber too.
Black tea is a rich source of antioxidants in the form of polyphenols. This is promising news, as antioxidants can inhibit free radical generation and "scavenge" free radicals.6
And that's really important, as the damage that free radicals do to our DNA can cause some types of cancer.7 So, although more research is needed to create a definitive link, the antioxidants in your Thai iced tea could prevent cancers caused by free radicals.
Thai tea has a medium amount of caffeine. A typical Thai tea made with black tea will contain 47 mg of caffeine per serving (if it's made with 8oz of black tea). Decaf Thai tea and other tea types can be used instead, however, which will alter the caffeine levels.
Yes, Thai tea is an energizing drink. It's usually made with black tea, which contains caffeine, and added sugars. Both of these substances can keep you awake and energized.
When consumed as a rare treat as part of a healthy diet, Thai tea isn't necessarily bad. We wouldn't recommend drinking it regularly, though, as it contains high amounts of fats and sugars! Only the black tea component used to make Thai iced tea is "healthy".
Black tea contains 47 mg of caffeine per 8oz serving, on average. So if there's 8oz of black tea in your cup before the sweetened condensed milk is added, then there will be 47 mg overall.
Yes! Sweetened condensed milk is a very sweet form of dairy, but you can easily substitute it in other dairy forms. The best alternatives are thick and creamy too. Half and half, whole milk, evaporated milk, or coconut milk/cream if you need to avoid lactose.