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Thai tea is a spiced Asian tea that can be served iced or hot, and with or without milk. The tea itself is usually a mix of black or oolong tea and various spices. When choosing Thai tea, there are several factors to consider. Many tea proponents believe the tea should be loose and as fresh as possible. The same often goes for the spices, the fresher they are, the more potent the flavors. Cooks should also consider all of their milk and sweetener choices before putting Thai tea together.
One of the most important factors in Thai tea is the quality of the tea leaves. Even if the rest of the ingredients are premium and fresh, off-tasting tea leaves usually throw off the flavor of the drink. Loose leaves are often best because they allow the cook to customize the amount of tea he adds to the recipe. Many loose leaf teas are also fresher than bagged teas. Local tea shops often allow customers to smell and look at their teas before choosing an item to purchase.
High-quality oolong or black tea should be a rich walnut color and have a slightly sweet, fruity scent. The scent should not be cloying or contain sour notes. The leaves should also be very crisp and dry. These are generally the hallmarks of good quality tea. Thai tea is usually twice as strong as other brews, so the cook should typically purchase enough tea for eight cups if he or she plans to make four servings of Thai tea.
Next comes the choosing of the herbs. Here, the cook is looking for tastes he likes in addition to freshness. Star anise, cinnamon, vanilla, and orange flowers are among the spices traditional to this recipe. Whether whole or ground, each spice should have a strong scent and a bright color. Vanilla paste, scraped from the bean, often works best, but cooks may use powdered vanilla instead. Star anise has a strong licorice flavor, it can be replaced with a dash of cloves if the cook doesn’t like its taste.
The other two ingredients the cook must choose are the milk and the sweetener. Some Thai tea recipes don’t use milk, so cooks may omit it if they like. Those that enjoy milky tea may choose from half-and-half, heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and non-dairy milks. The first three choices generally make the recipe very rich and thick. Non-dairy milks give the tea a nutty flavor, but usually don’t add a high amount of creaminess. This choice mainly depends on the cook’s caloric concerns and dietary needs.
Almost all Thai tea is sweet. White granulated sugar is the usual sweetener of choice, but it may be replaced with raw sugar or sucralose. Dark honey and brown sugar are also options. Those using brown sugar may want to add just a little at a time since the molasses in this sugar often makes it extra sweet.
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