Thailand, a land of culinary creations that have always been able to captivate its neighboring countries, us Indonesians included, with delicacies that are not always completely different than ours yet almost always addictive.
The latest trend imported directly from The Land of Smiles is the Thai style Mango smoothie that has resulted in long lines and ‘knock off’ brands just about everywhere.
But the real OG Thai style drink that, we’d say, will never go away and has passed the test of time is: Thai (Iced) Tea, a refreshing drink the color is brownish-orange, almost teracotta color. It is made from a mixture of black tea (ceylon tea, to be precise if you want to get that deep orange color), condensed milk, and sometimes infused with orange blossom water, star anise, crushed tamarind seed or other spices.
In Thai restaurants, it is served in a tall glass, but when sold from street and market stalls in Thailand it may be poured over the crushed ice in a plastic bag or tall plastic cups. In Thailand, it it may even be made into a slushed milkshake or frappe. Sometimes, the drink is served with tapioca balls or popularly called ‘bubbles’, than topped with (usually) lots and lots of ice.
If you must you can compare the drink to the Malaysian version of Teh Tarik or ‘pulled tea’ where a similar mixture is poured vigorously from one glass to another to get that iconic froth. But Thai Tea is usually more thick, sweet, and heavily spiced. Kind of like Masala tea in India.
In Jakarta, the drink has made it into almost any restaurant’s drink menu. A number of stalls that specializes in the drink, can now be seen virtually everywhere. Stalls like Dum Dum Thai Drink, Think Thai, and Chapayom, Tuk Tuk Cha, are just to name a few and will give you a glimpse of thai street food experience.
But to take it another level, some creativity mixed into Thai Iced Tea can take you somewhere else. Like the homemade Thai Tea Gelato served at Pullman Jakarta’s Sana Sini Restaurant’s buffet dessert bar, among the many flavors that they have.
The restaurant’s dessert kitchen whips this dessert fresh from quality ingredients, without any preservatives or coloring. Similar dessert can also be found in Shirokuma, and North Pole Ice Cream. also We say it’s a perfect way to enjoy the flavor of Iced Tea without filling you up, as sweet drinks sometimes can be.
Another interesting take on Thai Tea is Greyhound Cafe’s (a Thailand cafe franchise) simply refreshing, yet light Thai Tea Granita. Granita is the most basic of iced desserts, where usually flavored water, be it fruit or in this case milk tea, is frozen and then crushed into melt-in-your-mouth texture. This is what you want to get if you want something iced, without the richness of milk to weigh you down.
Some even transform it completely into baked goods; Moivel Cakes in Pluit serves not only Thai Tea drinks, but also a decadent with melted Thai tea & dark chocolate cake. The sweetness from the thai-tea flavored filling, is balanced by the bittersweetness of the dark chocolate cake.
So, how do you like your Thai Tea? Whatever your preference on this unique flavor profile, one thing for sure is that it’s not going away anytime soon. Just like Tom Yam Goong or Pad Thai, it has grown the Indonesian palate to stay.