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The Sweet and Refreshing Taste of Thai Iced Coffee

Dave Carter

April 21, 2021

Thai iced coffee is a deliciously sweet and refreshing drink that you can find in most Thai restaurants and any upscale coffee shop. It's similarly prepared to Thai iced tea, boasting unique flavors. Its recipe varies, with some calling to 'lighten' the coffee with sweetened condensed milk or half-and-half cream, with others suggesting serving it alongside evaporated milk or syrup. But regardless of the method used, you'll get a unique and delicious brew at the end. But, you may wonder, what makes this drink so unique?

What makes iced Thai coffee so uniquely different from other coffee drinks you've had before is the infusion of cardamom into the brew, giving the resulting beverage a warm and spicy flavor. It perfectly balances the bitterness of strong coffee, the sweetness of the milk—and the hint of cardamom adds the perfect amount of spice to each sip. Although you can get one from an upscale coffee shop's menu or pick up a glass in the streets of Bangkok or anywhere in Thailand, nothing beats making it at home.

To help you out, here's everything you need to know about the drink—from its origins, traditional ingredients, strength, calories to the best recipes to try.

The Origins of Thai Iced Coffee

Oliang is the original name of the traditional Thai iced coffee, which consists of the words "O," which means black, and "Liang," meaning cold. This drink is what the Korean coffee community refers to when they say iced Thai coffee. This expression originates from the 'Teochew' dialect spoken by Thai people, indicating the drink's origin. Unlike most iced coffees in Western nations or Australia, Oliang doesn't only consist of plain brewed coffee poured over ice cubes. Instead, it's a uniquely warm and decadent drink that's a distinct blend of coffee and other ingredients.

The original Thai iced coffee recipe calls for a unique brewing method, where you make the brew using a muslin bag as a filter, pour it over ice, and serve black or with condensed, evaporated, or regular milk.

In case you've heard of Vietnamese iced coffee, you may wonder what makes the Thai version different, especially since more coffee shops within and outside the countries began making iced coffee with regular coffee instead of 'special' blends. For Thai, it uses a muslin filter instead of a 'Phin,' a metal filter pour-over, and while Thai blends come with seeds and spice, the Vietnamese version uses chicory. Now that you have a background on the drink, it's time to make it at home.

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What is Thai Iced Coffee Made Of?

Thai iced coffee is predominant throughout its origin country, alongside Vietnam and other countries around the Pacific Rim and Thai food establishments worldwide. The traditional Thai iced coffee recipe calls for strong-brewed coffee (dark roasted), sweetened condensed milk, and different spices. This way, it adds more warmth and 'kick' that can help start your days right—adding to the creaminess, body, mouthfeel, and overall unique flavor of the

Additionally, you enhance the brew with cardamom, clove, nutmeg, mango, tamarind, and orange. However, if you want to stick with the basics, you can also use the best coffee creamer to enhance its sweetness, giving you a perfect beverage to sip on during the hot summer months. Whether the variation is bottled or frozen, the recipe typically sticks to the original.

What Does Thai Iced Coffee Taste Like?

When it comes to the taste, the iced Thai coffee often gets compared to its Vietnamese counterpart thanks to its similar compositions and cuisine. They both contain strongly brewed coffee mixed with milk and sweeteners. However, their tastes significantly differ, especially for the coffee used and their additional signature ingredient—like cardamom for Thais and chicory of the Vietnamese. So, this leaves you with a considerably sweetened yet potent coffee. However, despite its generous amount of condensed and regular milk, its robust coffee flavor is still dominant.

In essence, Thai coffee still has a lot of sweetness from the milk and sugar, but you get a potent coffee taste that's smooth and creamy.

Variant Thai Iced Coffee Recipes

Authentic Thai iced coffee is often better than most modern coffee shop concoctions. The best part is you can make one at home, giving you the freedom of choosing your favorite blend or brand of ground coffee. The iced coffee is robust, creamy, and sweet. You can whip up a jug of the brew using the best home coffee maker or your classic Moka pot. If you're looking to satiate your caffeine and sugar fix, below are variants of Thai iced coffee recipes you can try making.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of brewed coffee or instant coffee
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup of heavy cream

Instructions:

  1. Pour the two cups of brewed coffee into a glass.
  2. Slowly pour the sweetened condensed milk to taste and stir until it gets dissolved. Place a couple of ice cubes and refrigerate for one hour.
  3. After the allotted time, place a handful of ice cubes on each glass and pour the coffee over it. Top off each serving with 1/4 heavy cream.
  4. Serve and enjoy.

Recipe Variations:
Now that you know the 'basic' Thai iced coffee recipe, below are some recipe variants you may want to try.

  • Add 1 teaspoon ground cardamom to the brew.
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract.
  • You can make a Boba Thai bubble tea using the coffee base and adding black tapioca balls.
  • Make a cocktail version by adding a shot of Baileys Irish Cream, Amaretto, Cointreau, or Kahlúa.

Diet Check: Thai Iced Coffee Calories

You can cool down during the warmer days better with the refreshing take of Thai iced coffee, made using brewed coffee, condensed or evaporated milk, and spice. It's a great brew to enjoy, giving you the caffeine kick and sweetness you need. The best part is, Thai iced coffee calories are relatively low—if you stick to the traditional Thai coffee recipe and mostly use natural ingredients.

A standard serving of 10 ounces usually has 155 calories, 26 grams of carbs, 4 grams of saturated fat, and 4 grams of protein. As long as you don't add sugar on top of the condensed or evaporated milk, its nutrition information remains the same. For bigger servings or 16 ounces, you'd get around 220 calories, 5 grams of saturated fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 36 grams of carbs, 34 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of protein. The sugar and fat content largely depends on what you add. For instance, if you use coconut milk instead of the regular one, you'll get more saturated fat in the brew.

Keep in mind that the calorie-count will depend on which coffee shop you buy it from or what recipe you use at home.

Is Thai Iced Coffee Strong?

Thai iced coffee recipe calls for dark roasted coffee bean types in its base brew. Whether you brew it manually using a French press or automatically with a Jura coffee maker, you get the same potent beverage. Although the sweetened condensed milk or cream can help tone it down, it's naturally 'strong' coffee, like cold brew. However, just like how Thais like their sweet food, boasting a unique cuisine preference, Thai iced coffee tends to be very sweet, offsetting coffee's intensity. Additionally, its unique addition of corn, sesame seeds, cardamom, rice, and soybeans make the brew more 'drinkable.'

How Much Caffeine is in Thai Iced Coffee?

The traditional Thai coffee recipe calls for dark roasted brewed coffee, water, milk, and sweeteners—making it a caffeine-rich beverage that anyone would enjoy. Plus, it's usually served cold in a tall transparent glass or plastic bag with crushed ice inside. So, how much caffeine does it have? A single serving of Thai iced coffee typically contains 20 to 60 milligrams of caffeine. However, that's a rough estimate since it considers several factors, including liquid content, amount of paper bag coffee used, and sweeteners added. But, generally, the more diluted it is, the lower the caffeine.

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What Makes Thai Coffee Different

When browsing Pinterest or asking any coffee lover, you'll notice that the iced Thai coffee recipe often gets compared to Vietnamese coffee because of their similar flavors and appearance. However, like any other beverage, Thai iced coffee has its unique components. Its three ingredients generally make it a unique brew, consisting of dark brewed coffee, condensed milk, and added flavors. Plus, the name itself indicates that the beverage is robust in taste. However, this specialty brew has many renditions. Yet, most recipe variants typically include a unique blend of dark roasted coffee beans with a mix of corn, sesame seeds, rice, soybeans, and cardamom.

However, what makes it truly different is the use of cardamom. It's the secret ingredient behind every great glass of authentic Thai iced coffee. It usually gets infused in half-and-half or heavy cream. This spice gives the brew a warm-spice flavor. You can use green or black cardamom or ground cardamom. However, if you don't like using this ingredient, you can also alter the original Thai iced coffee recipe and use vanilla extract or almond extract to enhance its sweet flavors. Plus, no matter the variation, you enjoy several black coffee benefits since the brew uses dark roasted strong coffee—giving you a way to enjoy it tailored to your preferences.

The Essential Thai Coffee Recipes

When brewing regular coffee, you'd probably ask yourself how much coffee per cup should you use? However, when it comes to Thai coffee recipes, the main ingredient is canned sweetened condensed milk. This now-essential ingredient was initially used in the mid-twentieth century when the American military bases' commissaries were in Thailand, selling the thick, sweet, and concentrated treats. The locals quickly embraced the sugary concoction and added it to their iced coffee and tea, making them luxuriously decadent—and sweet.

Below is the traditional recipe—and several variations you can make at home. This recipe can yield up to 4 cups of coffee.

What You Need:

  • 1 cup of brewed coffee grounds.
  • 1 cup of condensed milk.
  • 3/4 cup of milk.

Instructions:

  • Brew coffee using 4 cups of water in your coffee maker, producing four cups of robust coffee.
  • Place the glass inside the refrigerator until chilled.
  • After it becomes cold, in a small bowl, stir together the dairy products until smooth—and refrigerate. If you're vegan, you can also use coconut milk for this recipe.
  • When you're ready to serve, fill four tall glasses with ice cubes and divide the chilled coffee among them.

A crucial essential ingredient in any good Thai iced coffee recipe is spices, and you can use traditional cardamom and other ingredients like almond extract or vanilla extract. Thai iced coffee is spiked with the use of spices.

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Conclusion

Whether you're looking to spice up your morning brews or want to have an excuse to drink a deliciously sweet and energizing cup of coffee, look no further than iced Thai coffee. Thai iced tea is a monster drink that you should try. It's a beverage that you can find on any street corner in Thailand. We've established that a traditional version of the brew only consists of three ingredients, making it uniquely delicious, including coffee, condensed milk, and different flavorings, with cardamom being the most common one. Remember that the coffee needs to be strong so that you can enjoy its perfectly balanced caffeinated kick and sweetness.

The beverage often gets mixed with creamy and sweet condensed milk. Plus, its texture needs to be semi-thick or creamier than an iced latte. Plenty of traditional recipes use spices like cardamom into their coffee to balance out its bitterness, sweetness—adding its unique warm-spice flavor. You can also skip the spices if you're not into that and use vanilla extract instead, enhancing its uniquely sweet taste.

We hope this post helped you learn more about Thai iced coffee. If you haven't made one, consider trying any recipe we featured to create a unique, refreshing, and delicious brew at home. You won't regret it!

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