Thai Iced Tea (Tra Thai in Vietnamese)
Thai iced tea (trà Thái in Vietnamese) is my favorite drink whenever I go to a phở house. I really like the contrast of flavors and temperatures between the hot broth and the cold tea.
The procedure for making trà Thái is similar to cà phê sữa đá (iced coffee). The tea is brewed for a long time to achieve a strong flavor, then sweetened with Asian rock sugar and condensed milk. It's served chilled with a lot of ice and a splash of evaporated milk.
Yields: 25 teaspoons loose Thai tea (see tips)
1 star anise , slightly crushed
1/2 teaspoon tamarind seeds, crushed
2-1/2 cups water, nearly boiling
5-6 tablespoons condensed milk, to taste
1-2 tablespoons evaporated milk, to taste
1 piece Asian rock sugar, about 2 inches
2 cups ice cubes, or crushed ice
To start with, always use filtered water. You don't want a chlorine taste. Add the star anise, tamarind seeds. Heat up the water, but don't bring it to a full roaring boil, around 200-212°F. The water should basically be bubbling. Add the black tea and rock sugar. Steep for about 12 minutes, no more than that. The brewing time shouldn't take too long otherwise it will alter its flavor and might bring a bitter acidic taste. Filter the tea through a fine mesh sieve or fine muslin cloth.
Add the condensed milk; it'll turn the tea into a nice caramel color. Stir well until everything is dissolved. Let the tea completely cool to room temperature.
Pour into 2 tall glasses filled with ice cubes. Top with evaporated milk.
Relax and enjoy!
I buy Thai tea at Teavana in the Stanford Shopping Center, in Palo Alto, California. It's a blend of Thai black tea and Rooibos tea with coconut, almonds, and vanilla beans. It smells and tastes great. You can also buy it online. Another great option is to find whatever neighborhood teashop you might have. I love Lisa's Tea Treasures, 1175 Merrill street, Menlo Park, California. They have tons of varieties of black teas (yes there is more than one) and many of the shops I've been to have a tea sample of the day so you can try new flavors whenever you go. You can also buy Tazo (Starbucks) tea, or for a more reasonable price the San Francisco based tea company Ten Ren Tea. They're all great options, and the most expensive one may not be the best for you.
You can find Asian rock sugar in any Asian stores. If you don't have any, you can replace with regular granulated sugar. You may want to oversweeten the tea a bit because it'll taste less sweet when it's chilled.
I use Longevity brand sweetened condensed milk, the one with the picture of a white bearded old man. You can easily find it in Asian stores.
I added ground tamarind seeds to the water to imbue a natural orange hue to the tea. If you don't have any, you can always add a combination of a hint of red food coloring and double the amount of yellow food coloring. You can also add beet powder as a sweetener and natural food coloring.
Always start with cold, fresh filtered water to avoid that off-taste because of the presence of chlorine in regular water.
I mentioned in the instructions to use nearly boiling water. Plain water boils at temperatures from about 200°F to 212°F. The temperature for brewing black tea is about 200°F (208°F for an optimal taste).
For a richer mouth feel, you can substitute the evaporated milk with half and half. Some people also use coconut milk.
Some people like to add a hint of orange blossom water, a pinch of clove powder, a stick of cinnamon or even licorice to their Thai tea, but I don't.
Published By: on August 20, 2009.