Recipe: DIY Thai Iced Tea

There's nothing like a sweet, cold Thai iced tea to cool off the heat from Thai curries. Making your own Thai iced tea is economical and easy! The tea used in Thai iced tea is a red-leafed variety that only grows in Thailand; its pretty orange color is really brought out by the addition of condensed milk. The Thai people call it cha-yen and drink it hot in the mornings and cold in the afternoons.

Real red Thai tea leaves can be somewhat hard to find outside of Thailand; usually in Thai restaurants in the US, the Thai iced tea they make is made with regular black tea that has red food coloring added, so read your labels carefully. The dried tea leaves are very small and almost powdery, so a regular tea strainer won't do; for Thai tea, you need to strain it in cloth. I purchased this Thai iced tea "sock" from, but one could easily make their own with some cotton squares! I also purchased my Thai tea leaves from Amazon - I got this package, but discovered too late that it's not the real thing; it's black tea with yellow food coloring. It was still good.

Sometimes in Thailand they add orange blossom water, star anise, or tamarind. Anyway, Thai tea is very strong and concentrated. To make, you just brew 1 tablespoon of tea leaves in 2 cups of water and let steep for 5 minutes, and then you add sugar, condensed milk, and if you desire, tapioca balls. And that's it - Thai iced tea!

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(Images: Kathryn Hill)