The History of Thai Tea
This tasty drink has a diverse background
My mom recently brought home a pack of Thai tea. She wiggled the orange bag in front of us and expressed her excitement to try this brand. The next I knew, the whole family was making Thai tea with boba.
Thai tea has always been my favorite drink since I was a kid. It’s creamy, has a strong tea taste, and the color is really pretty too. So, as I was slurping my drink and working on some writing, a random question popped inside my head:
Where in the world did Thai tea even come from?
And the next thing I knew…I was doing a 30–40 minute research on this topic. Here’s what I got from my research:
1. Traditional Thai Tea
According to Food and Wine, Thai tea was brought over to Thailand by the Chinese in the 1980s. This tasty drink was (and still is) made with a black tea called Ceylon. Ceylon tea was originally from Sri Lanka.
At the same time, there are many cases where Thai tea was also made from Assam which is a black tea produced in India.
To continue, Thai Tea would also include, “orange blossom water, crushed tamarind, star anise, red (and) yellow food coloring. Along with vanilla and cinnamon” for flavor and taste. (via Taste of Thailand).
As for the sweetness and additional flavors, you can add sugar or condensed milk to your likings. However, you don’t have to drink Thai tea with milk or with too much sugar. It depends on your preference.
Even though the fun orange color is nice, it’s actually not the “original” way to drink Thai tea. In fact, original Thai tea doesn’t have a sweet flavor and much color to it. If anything, it’s served in a very simplistic way like how we drink a basic black tea.
2. What Kind of Variations Can You Serve Thai Tea?
Interestingly enough, you don’t have to drink Thai tea with ice even though that’s the most popular way to drink it.
According to Teapedia, there are many ways to serve Thai tea:
- Cold Dark Thai tea (ชาดำเย็น)
- Lime Thai tea (ชามะนาว).
- Hot Thai tea (ชาร้อน)
- Dark Hot Thai tea ( ชาดำร้อน)
In the western world and (sometimes internationally), Thai tea can also be served with boba, pearls, jelly, and/or other toppings. These days you can see Thai tea turn into an ice cream, a filling for a sweet bread, donut, and other creative ways to serve as a dessert.
3. Is It Part of Thai Culture?
Thai tea is significantly popular in the western culture. You’ll usually see it served in most Thai restaurants as a dessert or a sweet drink. However, Thai tea is actually not glamorized in Thailand. In fact, Thai tea is equivalent to how we see our snacks and junk food (Food and Wine, 2017).