Refreshingly sweet Thai Milk Tea made with condensed milk and brown sugar. This iced tea follows an authentic Thai recipe for the most amazing flavour. Topped with brown sugar tapioca pearls for extra chewiness. Recipe includes alternative for Thai Tea without food colouring.
I fell in love with Thai milk tea when I first visited Thailand many years ago. That’s when I had my first Thai iced bubble tea. I was amazed by the distinct flavour, creamy texture, and fragrant sweetness. Now I want to share this authentic recipe with you all, as it was taught to me years ago in Thailand.
Thai Milk Tea is traditionally made using Cha Tra Mue Thai Tea, the most celebrated tea from Thailand. This type of tea has a distinct orange colour and a very fragrant taste.
If Bubble Teas are your jam, you might want to try reader-favourites Okinawa Milk Tea and Tiger Milk Tea. For a more natural and earthy flavour, you might want to try Oolong Milk Tea. And for the creamiest and most silky bubble teas, have a look at Hokkaido Milk Tea and Taro Milk Tea.
What is Thai Milk Tea?
Thai Milk Tea is a sweet, caffeinated drink originating from Thailand. It has become a very popular drink abroad too, with Thai restaurant serving it across the globe.
Thai bubble tea is made with a Thai Tea base with brown sugar, then mixed with condensed milk and topped with evaporated milk. Tapioca pearls can also be added for extra texture and chewiness.
The drink is always served cold, so ice cubes are a must. Thai iced milk tea is incredibly refreshing on a hot summer’s day!
What flavour is Thai Milk Tea?
The flavour in Thai Bubble Tea comes from the Thai Tea Mix used to make it. The most famous Thai tea as Cha Tra Mue Thai Tea, also known as Number One Thai Tea Mix. This Thai Tea has a very distinct orange colour and a fragrant smell.
Thai Milk Tea tastes like black tea with spiced hints of star anise, cardamom, and tamarind. It’s essentially a celebration of beautiful Thai flavours in a cup! The tea base is then topped with condensed milk and evaporated milk, which give the milk tea a very creamy, milky flavour.
Lastly, the flavour palette also changes a little by adding tapioca pearls cooked in brown sugar syrup. This adds hints of deep, rich caramel, making this Thai Milk Tea one of the best tasting Bubble Teas out there!
Thai Milk Tea is the perfect accompaniment to spicy Thai foods. The milky sweet drink does wonders to calm down your burning tastebuds after having too much spicy food.
Why is it orange?
Thai Tea is traditionally orange because it contains red food colouring. Brewed on its own, the tea has a deep amber colour. Once you add condensed milk, the drink turns a vibrant orange.
It is believed that Thai chefs started dying the tea in order to give it a more distinct look. Perhaps this was also done to differentiate it visually from Thai Latte, as both drinks used to be beige-brown in colour.
Whatever reason Thai chefs had for dying the tea, it certainly makes for a very vibrant looking drink. The food colouring used is generally safe to consume. However, for a colouring-free version, you can find an alternative below for Thai Tea without food colouring.
Note: Thai Tea can stain any light-coloured surfaces, so make sure to wipe away drips immediately. Also, be careful when wearing white clothes.
Thai Milk Tea vs. Milk Tea
It’s probably important to note that not all Milk Teas are Bubble Teas. Bubble Teas also contain tapioca pearls, acting as the bubbles. This recipe for Thai Milk Tea is both a Milk Tea and a Bubble Tea.
Why this is the best Thai Bubble Tea
- Authentic recipe: I learned how to prepare Thai Milk Tea many years ago when visiting Thailand, so this recipe is as authentic as it gets.
- Fragrant aroma: Thai Tea is incredibly rich and fragrant, so this drink is an absolute joy! The condensed milk and evaporate milk add extra creaminess, making it one of the best milk teas out there.
- Easy to make: Although it sounds complex, Thai Bubble Tea is very easy to make and only takes minutes.
- Perfect with spicy food: Thai Milk Tea is great for soothing your tongue after eating spicy Thai food. The cold and milky drink is the best combination for soothing your taste buds after eating flaming hot food.
- Great for hot summer days: If the weather gets as hot as Thailand wherever you are, this Thai Iced Tea is guaranteed to cool you down.
- Looks amazing: The vibrant orange colour of the tea makes a really beautiful milk tea!
- Thai Tea – for the most authentic flavour I recommend using Cha Tra Mue Thai Tea, also known as Number One Thai Tea.
- Condensed milk – Sweetened condensed milk adds the perfect amount of creaminess and sweetness. I like to use Nestle Carnation Condensed Milk because it has the best flavour.
- Evaporated milk – adds creaminess and makes the drink very smooth. Any type of evaporated milk will work well.
- Salt – A small pinch of salt with balance out the sweetness and make the flavour pop even more.
- Brown sugar – Needed to make the sugar syrup for the tapioca pearls. Any type of brown sugar will work.
- Tapioca pearls – I recommend using Brown Sugar Tapioca Pearls for the best flavour.
- Optional 1 – vanilla. A touch of vanilla will make the fragrant hints of cardamom and star anise pop even more. I recommend adding ½ teaspoon of vanilla bean paste into the teapot.
- Optional 2 – black tea. Adding 1 tablespoon of black tea can make the flavour a little more subdued, which a lot of people prefer. Personally, I like it without black tea, but the choice is yours!
Substitute for Thai Tea without food colouring
Cha Tra Mue Thai Tea can be found in most Asian supermarkets or online. Almost all Thai Teas contain food colouring, which some people might be allergic to.
Here’s how you can make your own Thai Tea blend without food colouring:
- Black Tea – I recommend using loose leaf tea for a more intense flavour. The best varieties to use are Ceylon Tea or Assam Tea. You can also use decaffeinated black tea.
- Star anise – with an intense liquorice flavour, this spice is essential in recreating the flavour of authentic Thai Tea. You can use either whole or powder star anise.
- Cardamom – adds a slightly spicy hint, with notes of citrus. You can use whole cardamom seeds or ground cardamom.
- Tamarind – bring a sweet and sour tanginess to the tea. I recommend using powdered tamarind for ease, but you can also use fresh sweet tamarind or tamarind paste.
- Optional: vanilla – a hint of vanilla can really bring out the flavours. You can try adding ½ teaspoon of vanilla bean paste.
- Orange food colouring – for a natural alternative, you can try either ground turmeric or beetroot powder. However, this will slightly change the flavour of the tea.
How to make Thai Milk Tea from scratch
- Prepare the brown sugar syrup and cook the tapioca pearls separately.
- Mix the tapioca pearls into the sugar syrup and cook on low heat for a few minutes. Set aside.
- Boil a kettle of water. Place the Thai Milk into a teapot with infuser, then pour the hot water over it. Let it steep covered.
- Strain the tea leaves and discard. Pour sweetened condensed milk into the tea, then mix well to combine. Let the mixture cool down until lukewarm.
Once the base components have been prepared, we can begin assembling the final drinks:
- In a tall glass, place tapioca pearls and sugar syrup at the bottom.
- Top with generous amounts of ice cubes.
- Pour the Thai tea mix over the ice cubes.
- Top with evaporated milk and serve immediately.
Success Tips & Tricks
- Balanced sweetness: Since we are adding tapioca pearls and sugar syrup into the drink, there is no extra sugar added into the Thai Tea mix. If you’re making this drink without sugar syrup, add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar into the teapot while brewing.
- Perfect brew: Thai Tea needs to be brewed for a maximum of 5 minutes. If left any longer than that, the flavour becomes overpowering, and it can pinch your tongue.
- Condensed and evaporate milk: Authentic Thai recipes always use both, so for the best restaurant-grade flavours don’t skip them.
- Make ahead of time: You can brew Thai Tea and store it in the fridge for up to 4-5 days. Add the condensed milk and evaporated milk into the drink before serving.
- Perfect tapioca pearls: Prepare them right before serving the drink. Tapioca pearls will remain chewy for a maximum of 2 hours after being cooked. Afterwards they go hard and unpleasant.
- Watch out for stains: Thai Tea can stain any light-coloured surface. Make sure you wipe down any drips immediately to avoid stains. The same goes for clothing.
- Use a bubble tea straw: Tapioca pearls can be quite large and cannot pass through regular straws. I recommend getting some reusable bubble tea straws.
How to store
Thai Tea is great because it can be prepared ahead of time. After brewing the tea, let it cool down completely then store in a glass bottle in the fridge for up to 4-5 days. Add the condensed milk and evaporated milk before serving.
Tapioca pearls need to be cooked fresh right before serving and consumed within 2 hours.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, Thai Milk Tea contains black tea, which is caffeinated. For a decaffeinated version, see my section on Thai Tea substitute.
No, Thai Milk Tea doesn’t contain any coffee. It contains Thai Tea, which is made with a black tea base and is caffeinated. However, the caffeine levels are much lower than coffee.
Yes, authentic Thai Milk Tea contain dairy in the form of condensed milk and evaporated milk.
Thai Tea contains food colouring which can stain light-coloured surfaces very easily. Make sure to wipe off any stains immediately.
This recipe can be made vegan by replacing the condensed and evaporated milk with plant-based alternatives. I recommend using coconut milk or cream. In the absence of sweetened condensed milk, you will have to add 1-2 teaspoons of sugar to make up the sweetness.
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Thai Milk Tea Authentic Recipe
- ½ cup light brown sugar (100 grams)
- ¼ cup water (60 ml)
- ¾ cup tapioca pearls (100 grams)
- 3 cups water (700 ml)
Thai Tea Base
- 3 tablespoons Thai Tea
- 2 cups water, filtered * (450 ml)
- ¼ cup sweetened condensed milk (75 grams)
- ⅓ cup evaporated milk (80 grams)
- ice cubes
- In a saucepan place the sugar and syrup. Cook over medium-high heat until it starts to bubble.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low, then cook for 4-5 minutes or until the syrup becomes thicker.
- Cook the tapioca pearls as indicated on the packaging.
- Drain, then add the cooked pearls into the hot sugar syrup. Mix to coat them in syrup and cook for 2-3 minutes over low heat. Set aside while preparing the tea.
Thai Tea Base
- Boil a kettle of filtered water to 208°F (97°C). Place the tea leaves into a teapot fitted with an infuser or very fine mesh. Cover the tea leaves with the hot water.
- Cover the teapot and let the tea steep for a maximum of 5 minutes. Afterwards remove the tea leaves and strain if needed to remove any leaves.
- Pour in the sweetened condensed milk directly into the teapot and mix well to combine. Set aside to cool down until lukewarm, around 30 minutes.
Assembling the drink
- Prepare two large bubble tea glasses. Add 1-2 tablespoons of tapioca pearls and 1-2 teaspoons of sugar syrup into each glass.
- Add a generous amount of ice cubes. Pour the Thai tea over the ice cubes, filling the glass about 1 inch from the brim.
- Top with evaporated milk and serve immediately. Mix the drink before consuming and enjoy with a bubble tea straw.
- Sugar syrup can be replaced with runny honey.
- Sweetness can be adjusted according to personal preference.
- Filtered water can be replaced with bottled still water.
- Use boba pearls within a maximum of 2 hours after cooking them.
- Tapioca pearls and sugar syrup can be left out. Add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar to the hot tea to adjust the sweetness.
- Nutritional value is estimative and is calculated per serving (this recipe makes 2 large servings) with tapioca pearls and 1 tablespoons of sugar syrup.