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Feb 13, 2008 01:17 PM

Thai Iced Tea Origins?

Does anyone know where Thai Iced Tea originated? It seems like an an Americanized recipe, but all searches for it lead me back to Thailand. According to Wikipedia, it's called Cha-Dam-Yen. When did the use of sweetened condensed milk in Thailand become popular? Was dairy used in authentic Thai Tea? If so, which kind? How long has it been served cold? I have two Thai cookbooks, and only one of them (Keo's Thai Cuisine), has a recipe for it, but no historical info.Any info about Thai Tea, iced or not iced is helpful. Thanks!

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  1. Sweetened condensed milk is also popular in Vietnamese coffee. Both sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk have popular in the tropics, since they keep without refrigeration. In the Vietnamese case the use probably can be traced to French colonial days. Thailand wasn't ruled by any of the European powers, but there could have been influences from the English in India, Malaysia and Singapore, French to the east, and the Dutch. Another thought - milk with tea is common in India as well as England. Milk with tea is not particularly common in the USA.


    1 Reply
    1. re: paulj

      A variant on this, 'pulled tea', is popular in Malaysia

    2. sweetened condensed milk is also used in some regional versians of South Asian tea and coffee, notably in Bangladesh for tea, and also for "South Indian" coffee (I am not sure if it is Tamil or what).

      Also, in Singapore and Malaysia there is kopi susu or Coffee with Milk which also requires sweeten condensed milk.

      And as mentioned above there is VN's cafe sua da.

      I agree with the theory that sweetened condensed milk was introduced during the colonial era in these regions and grew in popularity because of the keeping power of canned rather than fresh milk.

      I never use sweetened condensed milk for Thai iced tea though. I use star anise Thai tea, sugar, and cream.

      2 Replies
      1. re: luckyfatima

        The wiki article says that condensed milk was developed before the American Civil War, so there has been plenty of time for it spread around the world.

        Asian groceries are the cheapest place to buy sweeten condensed milk. I've seen brands from a number of different countries. I check the content label, looking one that lists just milk and sugar. Some list powdered milk - though I don't know if these taste any different.


        1. re: luckyfatima

          Is using cream a more authentic recipe? Was cream used in Thailand for this recipe before sweetened condensed milk was introduced?

        2. It's not Americanized at all -- you can get it served in plastic bags on the street pretty much anywhere in Thailand for about 20c.

          Cha-Dam-Yen is without milk (tea black cold). What you are looking for is Cha-Nom-Yen (tea milk cold). There's also a Cha-Manao (tea lime) black or orange iced tea with sugar and lime juice.

          On the street they have these giant steamers to heat the water with a large sock-like thing filed with orange tea powder. They make a very condensed tea and put it in a small cup. Add condensed milk (and sometimes white sugar too!) and mix. When mixed, pour over ice and top with evaporated milk.

          My guess on origin is from India. I think it's a Thai version of masala chai. And yeah, the reason canned milk (both condensed and evaporated) is used is due to the heat. (82 degrees out as we speak, and it's 11pm)

          4 Replies
          1. re: cee

            cee, what causes
            1. the bright orange color?
            2. the mysterious and delicious flavor?

            1. re: alkapal

              1. food colouring
              2. spices. i believe star anise, cloves, and some other ** TOP SECRET ** ingredients (read: I'm not sure).

              I'll ask around today and see if anyone knows what spices go in.

              1. re: alkapal

                The orange color is sunset yellow #6. Thai tea does not contains star anis as so many food expert guessed. And the mysterious and delicious flavor is the way Thai tea leaf were fermented and roasted.

            2. There's a wiki article on Hong Kong style milk tea

              and a thread on the same

              1. Hi Adamhgraham
                See if this make any sense to you.
                Thailand niether a tea grower nor tea drinker country however tea plants were growing in the Golden Triangle area where Thailand, Lao and Burma are met. The local eat fermented tea leaf.

                Tea drinking was introduced to Thailand during King Rama IV and King Rama V (1804-1854). The British and other foriegners who were in Thailand at that time also brought with them their own tea, presumably English tea. Tea was drank in Thailand during that period.

                After the tea were brewed and served to the master, instead of discard the tea leaf, the domestic workers decided to brew some tea for themselves using the same tea leaf that were brewed. The flavor and color of tea began to fad out after the first brew. Thai workers decided to add orange color and flavoring to make the no flavor tea drinkable again. thus, adding orange color and flavor to the tea became the traditional of Thailand tea.