Homemade Cha Yen

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Thailand. It feels like my second home, and ever since I have been there in 2016, I make it a habit to visit every year. With the coronavirus situation, I don’t think there will be any Thailand, or international trips, for me this year.

My last visit was last year, during the last week of May up until the first week of June. It’s been a complete year since I have been to land of smiles and needless to say I’m missing it. A lot.

Whenever I go to Thailand, I make sure to stock up on Thai souvenirs to bring home. From my recent trip, I still have enough stalk of Poysian inhalers, make up, and skin care so I am good in that front. What I am terribly missing though, is their thai iced tea!

Thai iced tea or cha yen is an orange milky drink that’s sweet with hints of vanilla and tea. It can be bought pretty much anywhere in Thailand. It’s the perfect drink to aid you with the heat from walking around.

Powdered cha yen can be bought in grocery stores and I have tried my fair share of buying different brands. I try to make them at home but it’s just not the same. It either tastes too much of tea, too sweet, or just really artificial.

I had the luck of being sent over Cha Tra Mue tea which is commonly known as the “thumbs up” brand. It’s used as the base for the milk tea. I gave up buying powdered thai milk tea because the taste is just not the same. This time I’m making authentic cha yen!

Cha Tra Mue is a famous Thai tea brand. Apart fro selling tea powders, they are also stalls which you can buy made tea already. It’s so delicious and my go-to tea store.

I have been trying to make my own cha yen for now. It’s a little tricky to find the perfect balance between the ingredients, and I don’t have the thai sock that they use as a filter, so I think that’s why the tea taste is still pretty strong. However, I think I pretty much have perfected the combination.

How to make Cha Yen


1 tbsp Cha Tra Mue Thai tea powder

2 tbsp Condensed Milk*

1 tbsp white sugar*

2 tbsps of milk (optional)

*Condensed milk and white sugar are used to taste, so you can add more or less depending on your sweetness preference. Personally I use stevia as we don’t have white sugar at home.

1. Boil one cup of water and steep the tea. Thais use this cloth like filter to help steep the tea. I don’t have that and the tea is actually very fine so using a strainer can sometimes cause it to not be filtered properly. I put my strainer over the mug and pour the water first and then steep it for a little bit. This makes the tea dark brown/orange in color.

2. Add the condensed milk and sugar up to your preference and stir. Making it extra sweet is okay because this will be watered down later on. You can either mix the condensed milk and sugar in a different mug or just add it to the tea mix.

You can use any brand of condensed milk but Carnation is the most common brand used in Thailand.

At this point the tea will turn more orange which is the perfect color of the tea. Taste it a bit and feel free to add more sugar. Condensed milk will make it a bit creamier. The tea is not thick in consistency so use sugar to make it sweeter. Again, a little bit sweeter is better.

3. Pour the hot tea into a glass of ice — crushed ice is the recommended. Add a bit more milk or evaporated milk to add more taste, and enjoy!

I used huge chunks of ice for mine because we didn’t have an ice crusher. Since I didn’t have the proper strainer, there are some flecks of Thai tea into the mixture.

All my attempts have resulted to different tastes of the tea, so it’s still a hit or miss for me. One thing is for sure though, Thais have a special way of making it that is just hard to emulate. Or maybe it is the combination of the Thai food, heat, and the walking that makes it taste so different.

Fun fact: Cha yen is made from either strong brews of Ceylon tea or Bai Miang (a local version of Assam). There are red and yellow food coloring in the tea powder which is why it’s orange. The tea mix itself smells of vanilla and can be drank with water only.

I recommend watching HotThaiKitchen’s and MarkWien’s videos on how to make authentic cha yen/Thai milk tea. Enjoy!



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