Restaurant Style Thai Iced Tea from Scratch – No Artificial Dye

Thai Iced Tea

No petroleum based dyes for me, thanks!

Every once in a while I get hooked on something that is really, really awful for me. Hot wings, deep fried pickles, honeycomb ice cream, boba tea….The list is endless. This past week I’ve been hooked on Thai Iced Teas. Seriously hooked. I must have had at least one a day since coming home from vacation last Tuesday. And I know why I can’t stop. Sugar + caffeine is making it possible for me to stay awake.

As much as I despise my quick sugar pick-me-ups, I absolutely cannot stand that I am ingesting dye when giving into these cravings. (FYI, FD & C Yellow No. 6, the dye that gives Thai Iced Tea its orange hue is a petroleum based dye and banned or restricted as a food additive in Norway, Finland and Sweden.) So, when I awoke yesterday morning to find that there was no more milk in the fridge for a cold-brewed coffee, I did what any half crazed mother who needed a jolt and happened to have evaporated AND sweetened condensed milk on hand for an emergency such as this–I made Thai Iced Tea sans dye and congratulated myself on averting a crisis.

INGREDIENTS – makes 6 large glasses

  • 6 cups filtered water
  • 6 Tbsps (heaping) of strong, loose black tea such as Keemun** or Assam (I used Keemun)
  • 12 cardamom pods, slightly crushed
  • 2 star anise, whole
  • 1 ½ tsps star anise powder
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 4 Tbsp sugar
  • 6 Tbsp sweetened condensed milk
  • 6oz. (½ can) evaporated milk for topping
  • ice


Bring 6 cups of water in a pot to a full boil. While you are waiting for the water to heat, fill 2 tea sachets each with: 3 heaping Tbsps strong loose black tea**, 6 crushed cardamom pods, and 1 full star anise. Fold the sachets so nothing can escape.

When the water has come to a full boil, turn off the heat and carefully add the sachets to the water, using a spoon to slightly press them down until they are fully submerged. Cover the pot and leave the sachets to steep for 20 minutes.

Remove the sachets and add sugar, star anise powder, vanilla extract, and sweetened condensed milk. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Let cool to room temp, or, if you are as impatient as I tend to be, pour the liquid into a large bowl or heat proof jar (like a Bell jar) and throw it into the freezer for 10 minutes to quickly cool.

**If you use a high quality Chinese black tea, like Keemun, you can resteep this sachet 3 or 4 times. The tea will not be as strong, so you may want to readjust the amounts of sugar. Put 6 new cups of filtered water into a container and place the used sachets in it. Keep in fridge steeping for at least 24 hrs. When you are ready to make your next batch, remove sachet and place aside. Take a cupful of tea out, heat it up and add the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Add this hot sugar tea back into the cold tea with the vanilla extract, star anise powder, and sweetened condensed milk.


Fill a tall glass with ice. Pour the tea mixture on top of the ice leaving about 1” of free space from the top of the glass. Add a few large spoonfuls (4 or 5) of evaporated milk and stir (or leave it alone and let your guest stir it if you’d like the tea to look very ‘restauranty’).

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