A couple of years ago, after our attempts at making milk tea were successful, Michael and I decided to try to make homemade Thai tea. We scoured the internet in search of a recipe, but everyone said to just buy the mix. That's not what we wanted. We wanted to know exactly what ingredients to use to give black tea that orange color and that fragrant aroma.
In December 2011, we were visiting Michael's Thai aunt who lives about an hour outside of Bangkok. She spends her days cooking in her outdoor kitchen and tending fruits and vegetables grown all over her large property. Thailand has some of the best food in the world and the best food we had in Thailand came out of her kitchen. If anyone knew how to make Thai tea from scratch it would be her.
Via my mother-in-law's translation, we asked her, "How do you make Thai tea?" She answered, "You buy the mix." Oh, the disappointment! It was then that we realized that our question was the equivalent to approaching a Brit and asking how to make Earl Grey tea.
Our disappointment was eased when we found out that Thai tea "mix" is actually Thai tea leaves brewed properly and mixed with the right amount of sweetened condensed milk. Without further ado, here is how to make a large pitcher of Thai tea, restaurant style, at home.
Thai Tea (ชาเย็น, "cha-yen," literally: "cold tea")
1) Buy a bag or two of these Thai tea leaves and a can of sweetened condensed milk.
2) Brew 9 tablespoons of the tea leaves in 8 cups of boiling hot water. Let the leaves steep for a very long time to get the tea nice and strong.
3) Mix in 2/3 cup of sweetened condensed milk. Stir thoroughly as it tends to settle on the bottom.
4) Let it cool. Put it in the fridge for a few hours.