Spicy Summer: Thai Iced Tea

star anise pods for thai iced tea

As we head into summer, most of us are craving beach time, outdoor markets, and clean, fresh food. There is a certain crispness to this time of year – the tartness of a ripening berry, the sting of the first sunburn of the season. With my shoulders the color of a strawberry stain, I am guilty of the latter. I have to admit it feels a little indulgent – the mark of a weekend well-spent.

Amidst all of the pre-summer revelry, though, I sometimes crave a spicy apple cider or a slice of buttery, toasty pecan pie. Thai iced tea strikes the perfect balance between summer and fall. Star anise and clove impart their smokiness to hearty black tea, and the sugar from sweetened condensed milk lends a toffee flavor.

When you prepare this tea, take your time. The recipe is simple, which affords you the time to slow down and enjoy the process. Few ingredients have as beautiful a shape as star anise. Select the most beautiful from your spice jar. Pepper them with the cloves and cardamom pods. Your kitchen should be smelling pretty wonderful by now, and once you start heating everything up, you will be tempted to make this recipe over and over just for the scent.

Certain recipes seem to make you enjoy your home more. But if you want to be transported to a more exotic place, try a tall glass at the beach. Close your eyes, let the salty air wash over you, and take in the spicy sweetness.


4 cups water
6 black tea bags
4 star anise pods
4 cardamom pods
3 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sweetened condensed milk
Half and half (optional)

Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add all ingredients except the vanilla extract and sweetened condensed milk and allow to steep for 10 minutes over low heat. Remove saucepan from the heat and then remove tea bags. Add the vanilla extract and allow spices to continue infusing for 10 more minutes. Strain into a large pitcher. Allow tea to cool to room temperature and then finish chilling in the refrigerator.

Serve in tall glasses filled with ice. Pour enough tea to fill about 3/4 of the glass and add sweetened condensed milk to top off the rest. If you desire an added bit of creaminess, add a splash of half and half. Stir to gently combine or serve with long iced tea spoons so guests can enjoy swirling it themselves.

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