This week my blog is about a drink. (Hey, there’s first time for everything.) I’ve actually been holding this one back for a long time now. I hope my friends didn’t get discouraged—I couldn’t find enough information and history about this, so I put it in the back of my mind for quite a while.
If you ever been to a Thai restaurant, I bet you must have ordered a “Thai Iced Tea” at least once, right? It’s the best antidote for the heat of Thai chili. Hence, it’s a perfect drink to pair with the spicy dishes.
I was searching, asking around, Googling, Yahooing—both in Thai and English—to find out about the history of Thai Ice Tea, the magical orange drink that is so well-loved, and found NOTHING! So frustrating!
I’ve known this orange tea all my life, but I never knew why it was orange, where it came from, how it was grown, etc…This failure can make me lose my erection, you know. No, don’t remind me that I don’t have anything to erect! It’s that same feeling of loss—no discount!
I haven’t drunk Thai tea myself for a long time, but I make Thai tea for my guests quite often. I haven’t been able to handle caffeine for longer than 10 years now because I developed insomnia, and five years ago I also was diagnosed with osteoporosis, so caffeine is clearly my enemy.
Anyhow, that’s not going to stop me from making Thai tea for my friends or cooking with Thai tea. Let’s start with the little knowledge I have about this orange drink.
What exactly is Thai tea?
First of all, it is Thai black tea leaves mixed with food coloring (FD&C Yellow #6).
Do you know exactly what Black Tea is?
It is the large and older tea leaves that have been picked, dried, rolled and abused until the leaves are torn and bruised, and then left to oxidize or ferment, then dried completely before being packaged. Some additives could be added like, in the case of Thai tea, flavors and colors.
Let’s start from the flavor first. The flavor in Thai tea is similar to the flavor of “Dok Nom Maew”, translated as “cat nipple flowers”, or the official English name “Siamensis”, (which sounds like a Thai girl having her period) or by the scientific name “Rauwenhoffia Siamensis Scheff.” This is a true tropical flower that in the old times Thai people extracted the oil from to use in many desserts. These days the synthetic flavors are all over the markets in Thailand, almost as easy to find as vanilla extract, but to find the flower itself is really difficult. You would probably have to go outside of the Bangkok city area to find it.
This is a quite common flavor in Thailand. It’s s no wonder people keep putting vanilla in tea leaves, but you don’t get the same flavor. It’s not quite vanilla or jasmine, but something in that zone. Frankly, I don’t know if they really put flavoring in the tea leaves. It just smells like it to me. (Floppppp…)
The color of the Thai tea before the coloring is added is already red. In China or Korea, black tea is called “red tea” because the color of the tea produced from this type of tea will be red to dark red, instead of brownish yellow like regular green tea. Even though “red tea” in the Western world refers to African Rooibos, Asians don’t care. I guess the Chinese and Koreans called their black tea red tea way before the Westerners called rooibos tea by the same name. I have no idea about the real history (again…flopppppp).
Some old document that I found said that Thai tea used the Assamese plant and was called the “Assam Tea”, which explains why the color is such bright red and the flavors are quite different than regular black tea. These days, all tea leaves grown in Thailand are from the highlands in the north, so they are not from the Assammese plants. Maybe that’s why the color was added. This is just my assumption, not any scientific fact. Remember, I lost my erection over this…FLOPPPPPPPP!
Alright, alright, I need to relax and get over this and focus more on the question: How to make the Thai tea?
First you need to buy a bag of Thai tea leaves. I have never been successful with any other type of tea. Once you’ve got your Thai tea leaves, then you need to NOT follow the instructions on the side of the bag! Trust me on this. I bought three loose-leaf bags and one instant tea in pre-packaged bags.
On one bag, Asian Chef brand, it called the product “Cha Thai” and claimed to be “The best Thai Tea”. The instruction on the bag said to use 2 teaspoons (4g) with 1 cup of boiling water, 200-240cc. Ahem…totally cow dung! Weakest Thai tea ever!
Another bag, “Pantai Norasingh” brand, called the product “Thai Tea Mix”. The instruction said to use 4 tablespoons of the tea mix with 1 cup of boiling water! Yikes, the cup was almost full with the tea leaves alone. Once you add the water, the whole thing turns into MUD.
My regular brand is the “Chicken Brand”, which calls the product “Cha Thai”. This brand has no instructions at all!…Great!
I mentioned that I bought another one in a box, AC brand, with all the tea leaves already in bags, each bag containing about two teaspoons. The instructions said to use one quart of water and 4-5 bags of tea, roughly estimated at one cup per 2 teaspoons or one bag.
These are all NOT how I would make my Thai tea.
Before I tell you how to make a perfect Thai tea, let me explain the many ways you can drink Thai tea.
1) Cha Yen – Thai Iced Tea that you already know and love, with milk or cream and sugar over ice. Actually, it’s usually made with sweet condensed milk.
2) Cha Ron – Hot Thai tea with milk.
3) Cha Dum Yen – Thai tea with sugar, no milk, over ice.
4) Cha Ma Naw – Thai tea with sugar and lime but no milk.
5) Cha Khai Mook – Thai tea #3 with tapioca beads or boba.
6) Cha Nom Khai Mook – Thai tea #1 with tapioca beads.
7) Cha Chuck – Thai tea prepared with a special method, making it more fragrant by adding more oxygen into the tea. The vendor has to pour the tea from one container to another many, many times. The way this is done is by holding one container about 3-4 feet above the other and pouring. They usually pour about 20-40 times in 5 minutes.
Cha=Tea, Yen=Cold, Ron=Hot, Dum=Black, Ma Naw=Lime, Khai Mook=Pearl, Nom=Milk, Chuck=Pulling
Alright, now here is my personal method. I’m not that picky about the brand of Thai tea. This is the same method I used with ALL three brands:
Ingredients for making all variations of the Thai Tea drinks:
1 cup of water (temperature between 195-210 F) 8 oz.
2 tablespoons of Thai tea
2-4 tablespoons of sweet condensed milk (I use organic sweet condensed milk from Trader Joe’s in the squeeze bottle)
Milk, Sugar, Cream, Lime or Lemon
Method for Cha Yen #1 (Thai Tea with Sweet Condense Milk over ice)
1) Put the tea leaves in a tea bag or tea strainer.
2) Pour hot water over and steep for 5 minutes. If you steep more than five minutes, you get a bitter tea. If you steep less than five minutes, you get a weak tea. (Okay, that’s kind of obvious, but I’m trying to give you the best timing.)
3) Strain the tea leaves out.
4) Put the sweet condensed milk (or sugar) in a cup and pour the tea over; stir until well-mixed. (see Note #2)
5) Serve over ice cubes.
You can add more milk or cream on top too, but we NEVER add coconut milk on top…Eewwwwww…gross! Please, don’t think that Thai people use coconut milk in place of milk in everything. Thai kids grew up on real milk, just like the rest of the world, okay?
For Cha Dam Yen #3 (Thai Tea with Sugar over ice, NO MILK)
Follow steps 1-3
4) Put 2-3 tablespoons of sugar at the bottom of the cup and pour the hot tea over, stir until well-mixed. (see Note #3)
5) Serve over ice cubes.
For Cha Ma Naw #4 (Thai Tea with sugar and lime, NO MILK)
1) Make Cha Dam Yen and add a tablesoon of lime or lemon juice
1) Before you add hot water to the tea leaves, wash the tea leaves first by adding room temperature water to the leaves and let sit for a minute or two, then pour the water out. This will wash all the dirt off and prepare the leaves for the best situation to release their flavor.
2) I don’t like overly sweet tea, so I use only 2 tablespoons of sweet condensed milk, but I’ve found that my friends like it sweeter than I do since they’re used to the tea made by the vendors in Thailand, or made by the Thai restaurants here in the US. I use 3 tablespoons for my friends, and for the sweet-tooth types you could go for 4 tablespoons, but taste it first before you add the last tablespoon of sweet condensed milk.
3) Using sugar, I use 2 tablespoons and it is already sweet–very sweet–but over ice, I can tolerate it. Three tablespoons is a little overkill, but for a sweet-tooth, go for it. But don’t forget to taste it before you add more sugar than 2 tablespoons.
4) After you make the first round, you can still use the tea leaves to make more tea out of it. I would add 50-60% more tea leaves to make another round, just to get the same strength tea.
And now, just to make up for my impotence—not knowing the origin of the Thai tea—I am giving you a recipe for Thai tea brownies. I hope this will make you very happy.
Ingredients for the brownies:
Thai tea leaves 45 g (weight BEFORE washing. Remember, you need to wash and soak the leaves with room temperature water for 1-2 minutes AFTER you weigh them) about 1/2 cup
Water 100 g
Milk 100 g
Heavy cream 100 g
2 eggs at room temperature
Granulated sugar 125 g
Butter 85 g
Salt 2 g
Baking soda 1 teaspoon
All purpose flour 40g
Roasted chestnuts, already peeled 100 g
Ingredients for the topping:
Cream cheese 110 g
White chocolate 110 g
1 egg at room temperature
All purpose flour 25 g
Method: (Read this carefully. The topping and the brownie mix are prepared so that they are both ready to be baked at the same time.)
1) Put the tea leaves, water, milk and cream together in a pan and bring to a boil. Let it boil for a few minutes and then let it steep for another 5 minutes. Strain the leaves out with the strainer, making sure you get at least 110 g of liquid. If not, squeeze or add a bit of hot water to the mix and squeeze again. Set aside.
If you have a large tea bag, you can stuff the washed tea leaves in the bag and boil the whole bag like this. This way you can squeeze, push, punch and abuse the bag. I get a stronger tea this way, but you are welcome to add more tea leaves if you don’t have a bag.
2) Melt the blond chocolate and butter together in a microwave.
Do it in an increments of 30 seconds until they are all melted. You can use a double boiler if you like.
3) Mix the flour, salt and baking soda together.
4) Cut the chestnuts into big pieces.
5) Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F
6) (This is the topping part) Melt the white chocolate in a microwave. At the same time, fluff the cream cheese in the mixing bowl, using the paddle head attachment.
7) Once the white chocolate is melted, add it to the bowl and mix until fully blended.
8) Add an egg, mix well.
9) Add 25 g flour, mix well and put aside; these steps 6-9 are your topping.
10) Now, for the brownie mix, put the eggs and sugar together in the mixer and use the wire whisk head to beat the mixture at high speed until it’s light and fluffy. When you lift the wire whisk off the bowl the mixture should run down like a ribbon.
11) Change the mixture head back to the paddle and start pouring the mixture from #1 to the mix. Mix until they are well-blended (30-45 seconds).
12) Add mixture from #2 in the mixing bowl, mix (30-45 seconds).
13) Add mixture from #3 in the mixing bowl, mix until it’s all well-blended.
14) Pour the brownie mixture in a 9”x9” lined pan.
15) Add the chestnuts to the mixture in the pan. Make sure that the chestnuts are spread evenly over the surface.
16) Pour the topping mix on top of the brownie mix and chestnuts…
and use a toothpick to make a swirl pattern.
17) Bake for approximately 30 minutes. Test it by inserting toothpick in the middle of it. If the toothpick comes out clear and dry, then it’s done. Cool it in the pan on a rack.
ADDITIONAL NOTES: I’m still developing this recipe. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s already delicious, so I thought I would share with you now! Here are some variations to consider:
1) Sugar issue: If you following my blog for a while, you might already know that I don’t like my dessert sweet. In fact, I wouldn’t mind, if my dessert is “salty”!…Sorry, I’m kinda upside down that way.
Therefore, this is not a very sweet brownie. You can add more sugar to the brownie mix, up to 150 g, instead of the 125 g that I suggested. My friends reported that 165 g is a little too much, but this is up to your taste.
2) Flour issue: You can also add more flour, up to 60 or even 75 g to the brownie batter, if you like a more cake-like texture. You can even add the baking powder to help it fluff even more in the oven if you don’t like dense brownie, no more than 1/2 teaspoon.
3) Butter issue: You can reduce the amount of butter to 65 g if you have that health issue.
4) If you don’t like chestnuts, you don’t need to put them in. I made one without chestnuts before and it was still delicious.
5) Since this recipe has a lot of eggs to help the brownies “fluff”, you need to be careful AFTER you add the oil (butter, chocolate) in the mix because oil deflates the bubbles that the egg trapped. Work quickly, measuring and planning ahead, or your brownies will be very dense.