Iced Tea

How to Turn Thai Iced Tea into a Full-Fledged Dessert

August 31, 2015

Thai iced tea is practically a dessert anyway—why not go one step further? 

When it’s hot enough to stir-fry on the sidewalk, it’s hard to beat a dessert that combines icy with creamy and spicy/bitter with sweet. And it doesn’t hurt if the ingredients might already be on hand in your pantry.  

Shop the Story

I have long suspected Thai iced tea is everyone’s favorite Thai restaurant beverage because it is actually a dessert pretending to be a beverage. The tea itself is a blend of black tea, dried pandan leaves, and dried lemongrass; some brands may include star anise, crushed tamarind, anise seed, cardamom, vanilla bean, and other spices as well. For Thai iced tea, the leaves are brewed to a strong reddish-amber infusion, then chilled and poured atop a layer of sweetened condensed milk. It comes to the table in a tall glass, two-toned, with a straw. Everyone customizes their own “drink” by stirring and sipping as they please.  

Why mess with a good thing? Because we can.  

Make your own sweetened condensed milk at home.

Reorganizing the elements creates a fresh new dish of dramatically contrasting flavors and textures. The strong, spiced tea becomes a refreshing icy granita—with a hint of welcome bitterness—served with a topping (or a moat) of thick sweet milk. Use a spoon to compose your perfect bite. Add more granita or milk as you go. Gorgeous to look at, heaven to eat. 

You can similarly reimagine Vietnamese coffee by substituting 1/2 cup finely ground French roast coffee for the Thai tea leaves and reducing the steeping time to 5 minutes.  

Note: Thai tea is available in Asian groceries and online. Look for it in loose leaf form rather than powdered or instant.

Thai Tea Ice With Sweet Milk

From Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts (Artisan 2012) 

Serves 6

2 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup Thai tea leaves
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup whole milk

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

First photo by Bobbi Lin, second by Stephanie Le

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).

1 Comment

Will N. May 6, 2020
Alice is the best! Definitely the chocolate truffle queen! Thank you for sharing another beauty. Thai iced tea is one of my favorites. I've been using this recipe using Earl Grey for a little extra bergamot kick ;-)