Thai Iced Coffee: Becoming Yai & Recipe


When I was 16 years old, I saw a flyer in the hallway of my high school advertising a free trip to Thailand. I tore off the little perforated paper and showed up at a meeting of at least a dozen other students who were looking for the same thing as me: adventure. After a year of fundraising, an ex-Peace Corps volunteer and mother of a student led the group to Thailand. She took us to caves to meditate, villages to sleep and meet families, and introduced us to local health care programs to learn about the country. The experience changed the trajectory of the next 10 years of my life. A few years later, I returned for a longer six-month work stint where I worked for an NGO in a town north of Chiang Mai. It was during this time that I developed certain habits, like stopping for Thai iced coffee every morning before work. I'd take my motor bike into town and park outside the coffee stand. I waited in line and the coffee man laughed when I always ordered a yai - large. When I learned enough Thai, he joked that I would get fat if I kept this habit up. I laughed too, because it definitely came true.

You try arguing with sweetened condensed milk!

Since then I've only had a handful more Thai ice coffees, mostly to reminisce about a time when I was hungry to explore and live big in the world.

If you have never tried Thai Iced Coffee, then you haven't lived big. Check out Equal Exchange's awesome and simple recipe:

  • 2 Tbsp of sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 shots of espresso or double brewed Equal Exchange coffee
  • Ice
  • Half-n-Half

Pour 2 Tbsp of sweetened condensed milk into a 16oz glass. Add 2 shots of espresso or double brewed coffee. Stir until mixed. Add some ice and stir until espresso mixture has cooled, then add more ice. Top off with cream or half and half.

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Photo credit Emily Turner. On the way to work in Phrao, Thailand.