Thai Tea Culture

Thai tea culture

Thai tea has long been enjoyed with milk and sugar added, producing what is commonly referred to as Chaaaithy or Chaanmaithyeyn in Thai.

Thai tea was first popularized under King Rama 9 as an attempt to replace opium poppy fields in his region with tea, however today there has been an explosion in sophistication within Thai tea culture.


Thai tea, famed for its orange color and zesty flavor, is widely believed to have first been introduced by Chinese immigrants who settled in Thailand as part of trade relations between these two countries.

Tea made in this manner is typically prepared using a combination of black tea leaves from Assam and Ceylon as well as sometimes oolong and green varieties; Assam black tea is usually preferred, and often spiced with crushed tamarind seeds or star anise seed for flavoring, with red or yellow food coloring for color boosting effects. Evaporated milk or condensed milk is often added for sweetness or consistency purposes before being served over ice with a squeeze of lime for decoration.

Thai tea has quickly become an international phenomenon in recent years and can now be found across many countries worldwide. Its appeal lies mainly in its delicious flavor and refreshing beverage qualities; plus it provides a caffeine boost without harshness of coffee.

Thai tea resembles its regional counterparts such as India’s chai in many respects, yet has its own distinct flavors and preparation methods. Thai brew is heavily brewed before being mixed with sugar and milk from either cow or coconut sources before being served over ice and often spiced up with star anise, tamarind or cardamom spices for extra flair. Furthermore, its mesmerizing brewing can even be pulled back and forth between cups – an art form many street vendors have learned and now compete over creating the best chai for themselves.


Tea first came to Thailand around the 1980s when ethnic Chinese communities introduced it during an effort to replace opium with cash crops as part of an attempt by Thai authorities to curb drug trafficking. They brought their traditions, culture and knowledge about growing tea at higher elevations with them.

Tea is now flourishing in Thailand. A vibrant community of tea farmers and shops exists throughout the country that cultivate a wide array of varieties from both lowland regions as well as mountainous areas in the north, such as black, green, oolong, and herbal varieties. Many small tea farms produce their own brands which are sold at numerous Chinese tea shops found across major cities like Bangkok.

Small tea vendors in Thailand are making waves by offering distinctive beverages like iced lemon tea and herbal blends featuring Thai herbs and spices. Some teapreneurs are even experimenting with pour-over techniques and adding ingredients like ice cream in order to make their product more desirable among young consumers.

Numerous tea projects have been initiated to revitalize the tea industry in northern Thailand and make it a globally acclaimed tea destination. The region enjoys ideal conditions for producing high quality oolong and green tea varieties; major commercial operations are well known domestically as well as internationally for producing exceptional brews. There are also numerous small family producers renowned for producing excellent tea products domestically as well as internationally.


Tea is relatively new to Thailand, introducing by Chinese traders in the late 80’s as an alternative cash crop in Thailand’s part of the Golden Triangle in an attempt to replace opium as a cash crop. Although initial results from cultivating Yunnan-like tea species showed promise, none have become established among more popular world class varieties.

Change came with the introduction of cultivars developed in Taiwan, such as Four Seasons tea (or Maocha) in 1994. This hybrid plant species stands out by not experiencing quality decline after spring harvest like most other tea varieties do, while also performing equally well at both higher and lower altitudes.

Early 2000, other cultivars from Taiwan became popular. Tea farms that specialize in growing Oolong tea were established in northern Thailand, prompting an explosion of modern, specialized cafes that offer wide selections of high-end loose leaf teas.

Thai tea culture offers much to explore, yet retail availability of this exquisite drink remains limited. Three shops that specialize in selling high-end Thai teas include Double Dogs in Chinatown, Luka Cafe in Sathorn and Seven Suns in Ekamai.

Thailand is famed for its wide availability and accessibility of iced tea, easily found at most street corners. Iced tea is typically strongly-brewed and sweetly-flavored before being chilled with condensed or evaporated milk for flavoring; other flavors may include crushed tamarind seed or red and yellow food coloring to give additional dimension.


Tea is one of the world’s most widely consumed aromatic beverages. After collecting leaves from tea trees, they undergo different processing and fermentation steps in order to produce its signature aromas and flavors. Tea has become widely promoted as both an antioxidant and health drink.

Thailand began producing tea through a joint government and Royal initiative around 25 years ago to replace opium cultivation with tea production, adopting cultivars from Taiwan that thrived best in Northern Thailand in exchange for cultivars from Taiwan that thrived elsewhere. Most Thai production currently is light oxidised rolled oolong tea produced using TRES cultivars #12/Jin Xuan or #17/Bai Lu.

Oxidation is an integral step in tea production, dictating whether its finished product will be green tea, oolong tea or black tea. Through this process, juices in the leaf react with oxygen to form new compounds like caffeine, catechins and catechin gallates that provide unique characteristics of their own for each type of tea produced.

To minimize oxidation, withered leaves are formed into needles, curls or granules and dried by hot air or boiled briefly – an essential step in tea processing that reduces oxidation while producing lighter colored, less bitter tasting teas.

Raming Tea of Chiang Mai, Thailand is the sole producer of black tea in Thailand and employs an intricate, careful, traditional hand-picking process which has been employed for over one hundred years. Their teas have long been acclaimed for their health benefits and unique, delicate flavour, making their visits well worth their while as visitors can watch production take place and purchase Thai speciality teas as well as unique pieces like complete sets, Chinese tables and knitted cosies at this plantation.


People often imagine Thai tea as an indulgent beverage made with black tea and milk brewed to an intense concentration, then spiced with star anise, crushed tamarind seeds, cardamom or other aromatic ingredients for flavor and cooling effects. Sometimes served over ice to enhance its distinctive taste further.

Thai milk tea is an enjoyable beverage enjoyed by both locals and visitors. Sold by street vendors and available at most Thai restaurants, this drink provides a refreshing alternative for cooling off in Thailand’s tropical heat.

The exact origins of this beverage remain elusive; one theory suggests it was developed as a means to temper the intense spices found in traditional Thai food for Western palates. Another idea suggests it brought Western tastes into Thailand by incorporating milk and sugar into traditional English tea; perhaps its characteristic orange hue also made it more pleasing.

Nowadays, Thai tea comes in various variations; some versions use black or green tea while others incorporate herbal blends. Ceylon or Assam varieties of tea are commonly flavored with other ingredients; for an extra burst of flavor iced Thai teas may even include tapioca pearls and crystal jelly boba!

Modern tea shops may offer exotic varieties of Thai tea, yet traditional styles remain in high demand. This demand can especially be seen in areas where Thai culture has grown increasingly popular – like Bangkok’s Chinatown district where small businesses attempt to add modern twists with unique takes on this classic drink – like Fire Tiger Bubble Tea Chain with their spicy brown sugar version.