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Thai Tea - Cha Yen

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#1 loki

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 05:03 PM

I wanted to see if anyone has any more info about making Thai Tea or Cha Yen, not from pre-mixed and flavored tea, instant powder, or liquid.  There was a start years ago http://forums.egulle...-thai-iced-tea/ but it never really answered the question.


None of the recipes I've found on the internet seem to capture it.  The post from a person from Thailand was not helpful either, as I know that Thai Tea in a restaurant is not made from Jasmine tea in canisters.  I have used this tea and it's not 'Thai Tea'. Maybe the poster did not understand the question and was thinking iced tea and not cha yen?


Thai tea, at least in my opinion, is related to Masala Chai - the Indian spiced tea.  It's tea with other flavors from spices, herbs, and ?.  Not sure which came first, but, tea in India is not that old a custom.  Maybe someone knows the history of this, but at least some information leads me to think it's from India as some people say the basis of the tea used to be Assam or Ceylon black tea.


I've not really found the perfect recipe.  The tea - or cha you buy in a Thai grocery simply says tea, flavorings, spices, and artificial coloring.  I don't need the artificial flavoring buy the way. If anyone has a great recipe that tastes like the restaurant one, please post.

#2 Michael L.

Michael L.
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Posted 20 July 2014 - 08:12 PM

It's usually made from very strongly brewed Ceylon tea and you can spice it with some Star Anise and maybe other spices. Usually the pre packaged tea you buy had yellow food coloring in it to get that color so if you make it from scratch it will look differently. You can put sugar in the tea before it starts to cool if you plan on using evaporated milk otherwise you have to use condensed milk. I sometimes combine loose Ceylon and some prepackaged thai tea and star anise and have gotten very close to what you get in Thailand. My main recommendation is to make the tea much stronger than you think and sweeter than you think. 

#3 loki

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Posted 21 July 2014 - 05:53 AM

I've made the recipes with star anise and it's just not there. I have a bag of the Thai tea mix here in front of me, and it does not smell of star anise at all - I think there might be some in there but it's really muted and a minor component. It's the same with the other suggested ingredients like cinnamon (cassia) and clove - maybe in there but not in high proportions.  The aroma does suggest vanilla - but lots of non-vanilla things can smell like vanilla too. I've heard that tamarind seeds are involved, but I'm a bit skeptical of the sources of this info - as tamarind seeds are not used much, whereas the pulp is, so I think they might be misinformed and really mean the pulp.  The roasted seeds are said to produce a coffee substitute.   Alton Brown's version for Thai Tea (he made popsicles with it though) is close, but no cigar.  I know that strong tea is the key too.  I have made it with strong Kenyan black tea, which is sort of Indian in origins actually, gets me close. Indian teas work pretty well this way too, but the nearest for me have been Kenyan (not expensive kinds). The color is even nearly the same  - without any artificial ones added.  But the taste is not.  Maybe there is no new information?  Maybe I have to sneak into a Thai Tea factory... 


One thought I've had about this quest is that it may be like someone outside of US culture trying to replicate something like Root Beer.  Nearly everyone drinks it occasionally, but we just don't make it from scratch , and if we do it's almost always with a root beer extract. I think the Thai Tea mix (you have to brew it kind) may be a cheap substitute (it's pretty cheap - much cheaper than other teas) for what was made from scratch once - made with cheap tea artificially colored to resemble more expensive black tea, with spices added. So maybe I'm looking for something that is pretty silly really.

#4 turtle_hermit

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Posted 21 July 2014 - 07:17 PM

loki, I am not affiliated in any way with the site, but I have used importfood.com a couple of times.

Their site is full of good pictures and videos of vendors in Thailand and has given me good results with Thai food.

Here is a link to their page about Thai tea along with videos that might help your search.


Is the package of tea you have from Thailand?

Also, you mentioned wanting a recipe that tastes like in a restuarant. Can you get the tea you desire in a restaurant around you? If so, try asking them what they use/how they make it. Most cooks in restaurants have no problems talking about this kind of thing.

#5 loki

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 01:56 PM

The restaurants use the pre made tea mix.  They look at me like I'm from Mars when I ask about it.  Again - it's probably like asking a US restaurant about ketchup or mustard - hardly anyone makes it from scratch. But the site you mentioned is actually useful.  Lemongrass, hmm.  Pandan - I actually think that is one of the flavors in there!  It's sort of Jasmine-like with some vanilla. I am thinking black cardamom too - the Thai or Vietnamese kind.