So a big thing here in Japan is milk tea. If you go to any local grocery store or combini, you can get several kinds of milk tea, most of which is fairly uniform in taste and quality, though there are some variations like “Earl Grey Milk Tea” or “Smoky Milk Tea” (which, in case you are wondering, tastes rather odd, and not in a good way.) You can also get it in powdered form, though I usually don’t bother with those. However, a friend here once gave me two packs of “Milk Tea Powder” from Thailand, explaining that she had gotten it as a gift, but didn’t really like it.

I quickly devoured the entire pack. It was different than other milk tea I had tried, though it had a bizarre orange color. I have since learned that the orange color was probably food coloring, but that the milk tea they serve in Thailand is distinctly different from its equivalent in Japan. Looking up various recipes for “Thai Ice Tea”, I have noticed that it looks a lot like a standard chai with evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk.  That’s in the  better recipes. Most recipes just call for a mystical ingredient called “Thai Tea”, with vague intimations that it is possible to purchase it in some Asian food grocery stores. I detest recipes like this. It’s like if I saw a delicious-looking recipe for Butterfinger Brownies, but when I look at it, it’s like this-

Lame Butterfinger Brownies

Butterfinger Bars
Box of Brownies

1) Crush Butterfingers Bars. Mix Brownies according to directions. Add crushed Butterfinger Bars to brownie mix and combine thoroughly. Bake according to brownie box directions.

-and I’m all like, wtf? If I see a recipe for Butterfinger Brownies, I expect to find a delicious recipe for made from scratch brownies that are reminiscent of Butterfingers, perhaps involving peanut butter and chocolate chips. But no. You get stuff like this. Why would you even need a recipe? By the way, I have not googled Butterfinger Brownies, but I would bet money that there is a recipe that looks almost exactly like this. I am not going to check my theory however, because I see no point in making myself angry.

Thai Tea might be a slightly different case. Perhaps it is sold in bags with no instructions, or the instructions are written in Thai, and one is thus reduced to googling preparation instructions. But would it really be so difficult for more of these instructions to link to actual recipes for Thai tea, in case you can’t just buy it?

Anyway. As I said before, I was able to find some recipes (here and here, for example) for making Thai tea without “Thai tea”, and it looks like it is just strong black tea with some spices added. As I said, it looks alot like a chai blend, though I’ve never seen tamarind in a chai recipe. Well, I’ve been making chai since I was a sugar-crazed adolescent. I used to drink gallons of this stuff, though now that I’m an adult who has become accustomed to real tea, I’m not sure how I ever stomached it. So I basically put together a standard chai with a little bit of tamarind paste and added sweetened condensed milk. (I’m light on pictures this time, though. I thought I had taken a lot more than I apparently did.)

I boiled water, adding in a cup of tea and whole spices, then combined it with the other stuff and added ice.

It’s perfectly decent masala chai, but I can’t help but feel like I’m missing something. Ah well. Call it a half-win. That brings my score back to integers anyway.

A couple of notes on making milk teas:

An important thing with any kind of milk tea, spiced or not, is that the tea you use needs to be strong. This is why black or oolong teas tend to be better for milk tea-it has a strong enough flavor to survive being diluted by milk.

More specifically to spiced teas, you will notice if you look at recipes that they usually call for whole ingredients- cinnamon sticks, crushed cardamom pods, vanilla beans, slices of ginger etc. If they call for whole ingredients, you should try to use whole ingredients. If you try to substitute powdered or liquid versions, you will probably change the flavor profile of the recipe. In fact, this applies to all cooking. If you substitute extracts or crushed versions of the spices, the balance of flavors and taste of those flavors will change.

Also, you can expect an update to this recipe in my newly created “Recipes” Page in the near future. I’ve created this page because often I make a recipe more than once with changes, in keeping with my ideas about learning and experimenting with drinks. I could go back and change the original blog post, but that seems rather counterproductive. People should be able to see what worked and what didn’t if they want to, right? So I will have another page with links to the relevant blog posts and references to any recipes that I may have referred to or modified.

Also, I made Taiwanese Noodles to eat with my Thai iced tea, which turned out well. They were delicious, and all the ingredients were so pretty! (I meant to take pictures of my ingredients to show just how pretty they were, but it was apparently not to be.) Have I mentioned how much I long the selection of mushrooms in Japan? I bought a pack of fresh shitake mushrooms and they were big and beautiful and earthy-smelling and pleasantly chewy. Also very cheap.

Thai Iced Tea

2 cups water
3 tablespoons of black tea
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
2 cardamom pods, crushed
1/4 vanilla bean
3 tbl sweetened condensed milk
extra milk and honey to taste

1) Bring water to a boil. Add tea and all spices and boil for no more than 5 minutes.
2) Strain fluid into a cup and add sweetened condensed milk. Taste it, and add honey while it is still warm if you want it. Pour over ice. Add milk.


Me: 4


Next week: Back to Boba with Hot Bubble Tea