Many people assume that Thai iced tea is an essential element of Thai cuisine. In reality, that delicious pink-orange drink you can find at almost every Thai restaurant is a fusion of Asian and Western influences. By learning more about this drink’s ingredients, origins, and rise to popularity, you’ll be able to enjoy this delicious drink even more the next time you order it.

An Introduction to Thai Iced Tea

What It Is

Thai iced tea begins with a base of strong black tea. One popular brand is Number One Hand, which uses crushed spices in addition to the tea leaves. Once the tea has been extensively brewed for its ideal strength, condensed milk and crushed ice are added. 

Thai-restaurantThe version you probably see at your local Thai restaurant, which was made specifically for American consumers, adds orange food coloring to give it its signature color. Evaporated milk, spices and sugar may be added for flavor. Some of the spices used may include cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla, tamarind, or star anise.

How It Began

Tea was brought in bulk to Thailand relatively recently. It was first imported as a cash crop from China in the 1980s. It’s believed that Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram, a former Thai leader and prime minister with an eye toward Western culture, was the inventor of Thai iced tea. The beverage became popular in street food culture. Few other flavorings were added to the initial version, although spices such as star anise were used.

How It Became Popular

As Thai food made its way to North America, the tea became popular in the United States as well. The chefs at Thai restaurants started using food coloring and additional flavorings to appeal to Western preferences. Although Thai iced tea isn’t considered an essential part of culinary culture back in Thailand, it’s become a hit among American foodies. It’s interesting to note that although strictly traditional Thai iced tea doesn’t make use of coloring or additional flavorings, many restaurants in Thailand now serve the Western variety of the tea due to this version’s international popularity.



Whether you’re in the mood for iced tea or any other delicious Thai or Vietnamese offering, you’ll find what you’re looking for at Mamasan’s, located in the heart of Rochester, NY. This Vietnamese and Thai restaurant has a full range of authentic dishes available for dine-in lunch, dinner, or carry-out. See their menu online or call (507) 526-3033 for more information.