Traditional Style VS American Style Thai tea

Traditional Style VS American Style Thai tea

I grew up in Bangkok, Thailand where Thai tea can be found on pretty much any block; it is common as coffee in America. Thai tea is delicious and refreshing on a hot day - which, in Thailand, means every day! Since it is cheap and convenient to get Thai tea from a vendor in Thailand, my friends and I would get Thai tea regularly - I can still visualize the whole process. First, scooping the tea leaves into a straining sock (which is different from socks for your feet!). Second, pouring the same hot water over the leaves multiple times so they could extract maximum flavor and color. I always associated a deeper, brighter orange color with a better taste. After numerous pours, the vendor would stir in sugar, powdered creamer, and condensed milk. Finally, the tea was poured over ice and topped with evaporated milk. That's a traditional style Thai Tea! Delicious!!

When I first moved to America and began working at a Thai restaurant, I was shocked at how different the Thai tea was made! The tea is all pre-made, not brewed on demand. It’s boiled in a big batch and stored in the fridge. When a customer orders a Thai tea, the pre-made, pre-sweetened tea is poured over ice and topped with half-and-half. Half-and-half is not common in Thailand so this is a particularly big change in the flavor. However, it is understandable why it is made this way in America. It's a practical compromise, offering customers a taste of authentic Thai tea in a fast-paced environment. That's I called, American style Thai tea!

I have worked in Thai restaurants for years in America and have nothing but respect for how much work the owners and chefs put into giving American customers the best experience possible because Thai food requires a lot of ingredients and the process can be complicated. Not only Thai tea but all other Thai dishes that need to adapt based on local ingredients available. So, the restaurants compromise to give customers the Thai experience, even if it’s not fully ‘authentic’; it hasn’t stopped me from eating at Thai restaurants and drinking Thai tea here! 

Keeping things authentic is great, but adapting has helped Thai tea and Thai food become famous all over the world for how good they taste. 

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