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How to Make Thai Tea (Cha Yen)

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Find out how to make Thai tea at home, also known as chan yen – it’s easier than you think! I’ll show you how to brew the perfect cup for a creamy, sweet, and aromatic Thai beverage that’s perfect for the family.

Thai tea, cha yen, in a tall glass with ice.

This recipe is always a winner – you can warm up with a hot version during chilly winter evenings, or chill out with a homemade Thai iced tea perfect for summer.

Refreshing drinks are a must-try at Thai street food markets, and cha yen is the most beloved Thai drink out there. Unlike butterfly pea milk tea and nom yen, you can easily find Thai iced tea at just about any Thai restaurant, even in the West!

What is Thai tea

Thai tea, known as cha yen in Thailand, is a sweet and aromatic drink made from brewed tea. The steeped black tea is mixed with sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk, making it creamy and sweet.


It’s an orange drink that can be served hot or chilled, making it an all-round drink that’s popular in Thai cuisine and around the world. In Thailand, you will never find any spices like star anise and cardamom added to your tea, even though some online Westernized recipes include it.

Cha yen, Thai tea, served  in a tall glass with ice.

When we visit a Thai restaurant, I always choose an orange Thai iced tea, while my husband goes for a cold Leo beer or coffee. I don’t only enjoy this tea when we’re eating out; I also love preparing it at home with this traditional Thai tea recipe, especially during Thailand’s hot days.

This is my easy recipe for cha yen that replicates the rich, creamy, and sweet flavors you’d get at Thai street food markets.

Before we jump into the brewing process, let’s quickly look at what makes Thai tea so special.

Cha yen

In Thailand, this orange tea has a variety of names: Thai tea (ชาไทย) and iced tea (ชาเย็น), and milk tea (ชานม) and iced milk tea (ชานมเย็น). Cha manao, a Thai lime iced tea, is made with the same black tea.

What makes it orange

Thai tea gets its orange color from red food coloring added by manufacturers. In Thailand, the tea naturally turns a bit orange when brewed.

From my time living in Belgium, I remember that the tea would be red once steeped. I learned that this is because the specific food coloring, which changes it to orange, is banned there. However, when you add milk to this red tea, it turns orange.

Does Thai tea have caffeine

Yes, Thai tea does have caffeine because it’s brewed from strong black tea. The exact amount can change based on how it’s made and the type of tea used, but it usually gives you a decent caffeine kick.

Thai iced tea ingredients

Ingredients can be sourced at Asian grocery stores and Asian markets.
The exact measurements are in the recipe card at the end of this post.


Ingredients for making Thai tea labeled: evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, water, Thaai tea mix.
  • Thai tea mix – I used ChaTraMue brand, which is popular in Thailand for its rich flavor and authentic taste.
  • Sweetened condensed milk – This is a must for its creamy sweetness that perfectly balances the strong tea.
  • Evaporated milk – Adds a creamy texture to the tea without sweet flavor.
  • Hot water
  • Crushed ice (optional) – For a chilled drink.

How to make Thai tea

Sifting Thai tea leaves through a white cloth strainer.

Step 1: Place your Thai tea mix into a cloth strainer. Hold the strainer over a glass for brewing.

Hot water added to Thai tea mix.

Step 2: Pour your hot water over the Thai tea leaves in the strainer, allowing the tea to steep directly into the glass. Allow the tea to steep for about 2–3 minutes. Avoid steeping for too long, as this can make your tea bitter.

Orange Thai tea in a plastic cup.

Step 3: Once the tea has steeped, remove the strainer with the leaves. While the tea is still hot, add sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk, stirring until fully dissolved.

Step 4: To serve, fill glasses with ice to the brim. Pour the brewed tea over the ice, leaving some room at the top for additional milk if desired. Top off with evaporated milk and stir.

Kitchenware

Chatramue Thai tea mix

In this Thai iced tea recipe, I used the Chatramue Thai tea mix. It’s the most popular brand in Thailand, and it’s my go-to for making this delicious drink at home. You can find it at any Asian grocery store or order it online at Amazon.

A bag of Chatramue Thai Tea mix in a store.

Thai milk tea Serving suggestions

You can make your cha yen, or Thai milk tea, as sweet as you want to. Before serving, drizzle with some extra evaporated milk to make your drink creamier. You can add cooked tapioca pearls to your drink to turn it into a Thai tea boba.

I think a refreshing drink like this is perfect with spicy Thai food like pad kra pao, som tum Thai, and authentic Thai red curry.

Keep it fresh for days

To store your homemade Thai tea, let it cool to room temperature and keep it in a clean glass bottle in your fridge. It’ll stay fresh for several days.

Frequently asked questions

Is Thai tea healthy?

Thai tea can be a part of a healthy diet in moderation. It contains antioxidants from the black tea leaves. However, traditional Thai tea can be high in sugar and calories due to the sweetened condensed milk.

Is Thai tea vegan?

No, condensed milk and evaporated milk are not dairy-free. To turn it into a vegan drink, you can try replacing both with a dairy-free milk like almond milk or soy milk. Alternatively, you can enjoy the tea without milk and simply add some sugar to sweeten.

What is in Thai tea?

Authentic Thai tea is made with just 4 ingredients: black tea leaves, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and water.

What does Thai tea taste like?

The traditional Thai tea is known for its orange color and sweet, creamy flavor. It consists of strong black tea and is sometimes sweetened with sugar, with added sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk.

Thai drink recipes

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How to Make Thai Tea (Cha Yen)

Thai tea, cha yen, in a tall glass with ice.
Learn how to make Thai tea at home with this easy and traditional recipe.
Praew
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Cuisine Thai
Course Drinks
Serving Size 1

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons Thai tea powder see notes
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
  • crushed ice for a chilled drink

Instructions

  • Place your Thai tea mix into a cloth strainer. Hold the strainer over a glass for brewing.
  • Pour your hot water over the Thai tea leaves in the strainer, allowing the tea to steep directly into the glass. Allow the tea to steep for about 2–3 minutes. Avoid steeping for too long, as this can make your tea bitter.
  • Once the tea has steeped, remove the strainer with the leaves. While the tea is still hot, add sugar, sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk, stirring until fully dissolved.
  • To serve, fill glasses with ice to the brim. Pour the brewed tea over the ice, leaving some room at the top for additional milk if desired. Top off with evaporated milk and stir.

Notes

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
  • Thai tea mix

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7 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I purchased the tea mix you recommended from Amazon as well as the strainer. It was absolutely delicious. I am trying one new recipe from you every week. I love the detail, and Videos you show. It gives me lots of confidence when I try something new.

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