Refreshing Thai Tea Recipe

There are fewer things more refreshing than a glass of iced tea on a hot summer day, and even better yet if it's a little bit sweet. Well, now you can enjoy iced tea that's refreshing, sweet, and creamy thanks to recipe developer Michelle McGlinn and her Thai tea recipe, which combines fresh black tea with flavors like cinnamon, cardamom, and a hit of sweetened condensed milk. "This tea is sweet and as someone who loves a coffee with cream and sugar, it's perfect for my sweet tooth," McGlinn describes. So, if you also have a sweet tooth, this is most definitely the recipe for you.

Aside from the sweetness, there's quite a bit of flavor complexity going on in this tea. "The taste is like a sweet tea, but with warming cinnamon spices and sweet cream," McGlinn says, adding that it tastes both "refreshing and decadent" and pairs especially well with spicy foods. McGlinn also notes that traditional Thai tea is made with sweetened condensed milk, and this recipe uses it as well, but also provides a little relief in the form of half and half. "Using half and half will make the drink less thick and sweet and more creamy and diluted," she explains. "It's only a splash, as you still want to taste the tea!" 

Gather your Thai tea ingredients

To make this Thai tea, you'll need water, granulated sugar, black tea bags, star anise pods, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, tamarind pods (with the shells removed), sweetened condensed milk, and that optional splash of half and half. 

McGlinn explains that Thai iced tea is typically made with a tea mix, which dyes the tea red and gives Thai tea that orange hue once milk enters the equation. "This version is homemade and naturally dyed using tamarind, a sticky fruit that is sweet and slightly bitter," she explains. "Paired with cinnamon, star anise, and cardamom, you can achieve the same sweet taste and unique orange coloring using tamarind pods." If you've never used tamarind before and don't know where to find it, don't sweat it! McGlinn says that you can find it in the refrigerated section of a grocery store, and you'll have even better luck looking in an Asian grocery store. 

Steep the tea, sugar, and spices

The first thing you'll want to do is get that water boiling, then add the sugar right in and allow it to dissolve. Remove the sugary water from the heat, and add in the tea bags, star anise pods, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, and tamarind. Allow the tea and spices to steep for 5 minutes, then remove the tea bags, allowing the now-steeped tea and spices to cool down. To expedite this process, transfer the liquid and spices to a jar and leave them at room temperature. Once they reach room temp, transfer the jar to the fridge and allow the spices to continue steeping for 2 to 8 hours. During this time, the tea will turn a cloudy orange color.  

"Don't oversteep the tea; remove tea bags from the water within 5 minutes," McGlinn advises. Additionally, "steep the tamarind for at least 2 hours for the brightest color." But, the longer you steep, the more depth of both flavor and color you'll achieve.

Strain tea and combine the milky mixture

When the tea/spice mixture is reaching the end of its refrigerated steeping period, add the sweetened condensed milk to a small bowl. Whisk it until loosened, and if you're using it, whisk the half and half in, too. You'll notice that the half and half helps cut the condensed milk's thickness a little bit, which is the goal.

Now, strain the spices out of the tea, and pour the tea into a glass over ice (1 cup per portion, and this recipe makes four portions). Whisk 1 tablespoon of the milky mixture into the tea, and stir it all up. "There is always going to be a little bit of natural separation, especially when adding ice," McGlinn describes. So, if the milk looks slightly curdled, don't fret — it's normal, and it's not going to affect the taste or quality. 

Serve your refreshing Thai tea

It's time to enjoy your smooth, sweet, and refreshing Thai iced tea. "This tea is best drank with hot, spicy Thai curries and noodle dishes like pad Thai," McGlinn suggests for pairing options. "It's meant to cool down the palette while eating spicy foods." That said, there's nothing stopping you from enjoying the sweet beverage after a meal, like a dessert, which is what McGlinn herself likes to do. She also suggests enjoying this tea "with a snack of dumplings or steam buns." Essentially, there's no wrong way to enjoy this tea, so do just that — enjoy it! 

Refreshing Thai Tea Recipe
5 from 24 ratings
Learn how to make this Thai tea with condensed milk, cinnamon, and cardamom flavors that is perfect for anybody with a bit of a sweet tooth.
Prep Time
Cook Time
spoon stirring iced tea glass
Total time: 2 hours, 5 minutes
  • 4 cups water
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 4 black tea bags
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 2 whole sweet tamarind pods, hard shells removed
  • 4 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
Optional Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons half and half
  1. Bring the water to a boil. Dissolve the sugar by whisking it into the boiling water, then remove from the heat and add tea bags, star anise, cinnamon sticks, cardamom, and tamarind.
  2. Steep the tea and spices together for 5 minutes, then remove the tea bags and allow the tea and spices to cool down. For faster cooling, transfer to a jar and leave at room temperature until cooled.
  3. Once cooled, store in the refrigerator and steep spices for 2 to 8 hours. Tea will turn cloudy orange.
  4. In the meantime, whisk the sweetened condensed milk until loosened. If using, whisk in the half and half.
  5. Strain the spices out of the tea. Pour the tea into a glass over ice, 1 cup for 1 portion. Pour the whisked milk into the drink, using just over 1 tablespoon per serving.
  6. Stir the tea and milk together to serve.
Calories per Serving 123
Total Fat 1.9 g
Saturated Fat 1.1 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 6.5 mg
Total Carbohydrates 26.5 g
Dietary Fiber 1.7 g
Total Sugars 23.3 g
Sodium 34.7 mg
Protein 1.9 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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