Thai Tea Limeade, called "Cha Ma Nao" in Thai, is a lesser-known drink than the popular Thai iced tea. It's another version of Thai iced tea with more zest and tanginess. This recipe is quite simple and only requires 4 ingredients, including water.
For more tasty Thai drinks, try these popular recipes; Tamarind iced tea, Thai limeade, Cha Manao, How to Make Authentic Thai Iced Tea (Cha Yen), Butterfly flower pea tea, น้ำอัญชัน, Butterfly flower lemonade and Hibiscus tea recipe.
- What is Cha Manao?
- Cha Ma Nao vs Cha Yen (Thai limeade vs Thai tea)
- Why you'll love Cha Manao drink
- Ingredients for Cha Manao
- How to make Thai tea limeade
- Garnish options for your Thai tea limeade
- Helpful kitchen notes and tips
- Helpful kitchen tools for this recipe
- Frequently Asked Questions
- More Thai drinks you'll love
- Thai Iced Tea Limeade (Cha Ma Nao)
What is Cha Manao?
Cha Manao is a cold tea drink made from the same tea mix as the well know Thai iced tea, but it's another version of Thai iced tea that uses freshly squeezed lime juice instead of the sweet Thai iced tea. This Thai limeade drink has less of a creamy, rich flavor but offers more of a refreshing taste with sweet and sour flavors.
Cha Ma Nao vs Cha Yen (Thai limeade vs Thai tea)
Here's my best analogy for these two drinks.
Thai iced tea is the creamy drink, the sweet popular big sister, while Thai tea limeade is the lesser known but sassy younger sister drink. And the limeade is my favorite of the two! (; If you like sour and sweet drinks, this is your new favorite Thai tea too.
Those who know Thai food know this drink well. You will likely not find this drink at most Thai restaurants in the United States. In Thailand, this dark Thai iced tea drink is a common drink to order from street vendors on the streets of Thailand.
Why you'll love Cha Manao drink
- It's a great summery drink at BBQs and large gatherings, especially during the warmer months.
- Cha Manao is an excellent drink to pair with your spicy Thai dish. The sweet, tangy, and cold drink helps cool the spicy taste!
- You can make a big batch and freeze leftovers for later. Super convenient.
- Minimal ingredients. Only 4 ingredients are needed, water being one of them!
- It's a refreshing drink! It's sweet, sour with a touch of spices from the Thai tea mix.
Ingredients for Cha Manao
- Thai tea mix. I used the same Thai tea mix as my Thai iced tea (Cha Yen) for the main ingredient. Find these at your local Asian grocery stores.
- Sugar. White sugar is used for this recipe, but cane, coconut, or monk fruit sugar can work.
- Fresh lime juice. Fresh lime juice adds an extra sharp and tangy flavor. Never substitute other citrus juices like grapefruit, pineapple, or orange juice.
- Salt. Just a little bit to round out the sweetness. Skip if you like your tea extra sweet.
- Water. Use hot water to make Thai Limeade.
How to make Thai tea limeade
Here are two easy methods for making your Thai tea limeade.
French press method
Step 1. Boil 6 cups of water in a teapot or stock pot. Add Thai tea mix to a French press while waiting for the water to boil. Once hot, pour the hot water into the French press, and set the timer to 8 minutes. It takes longer if you like your tea strong. Don't brew for 5 minutes, or the tea will turn bitter.
Step 2. In a heat-safe medium-sized pan, pour the sugar and salt into it while waiting for the water to boil. Have a whisk or wooden ready to stir.
Step 3. After the timer goes off, plunge the tea with the French press. Use a tea sock or add a cheesecloth to the glass bowl with the sugar and salt. Carefully pour the hot tea over a cheesecloth-covered glass bowl (with the sugar and salt in the bottom).
Step 4. Remove the tea sock and cheesecloth. Whisk the hot tea until the sugar is dissolved. Let the tea cool to room temperature.
Step 5. Once the tea is cooled, add lime juice, stir, take a small sample, and adjust with more lime juice or sugar as preferred.
Step 6. Prepare tall drinking glasses with cubed or crushed ice in them. Pour the limeade over the glasses and garnish with pinched mint leaves and lime slices.
Stove top method
Step 1. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a medium soup or stock pot. Remove the pot from the heat, then add the tea mixture to the hot water. Set your timer for 8-10 minutes.
Step 2. In a heat-safe large bowl or medium pot, add sugar and salt. Wait for the tea to steep. You can squeeze your lime juice while waiting if you'd like or prep your sugar mixture bowl with a cheesecloth or tea sock.
Step 3. Once the timer goes off, pour the hot tea over the cheesecloth or tea sock into the sugar mixture bowl. Remove the cloth and whisk the tea until the sugar and salt dissolve. Let cool.
Step 4. Add the lime juice and stir once the tea is cooled to room temperature. Give it a small taste and add more lime juice or sugar. Prepare a tall glass with ice and serve cold with lime or lemon slices and fresh mint leaves. Enjoy!
Garnish options for your Thai tea limeade
Add slices of lime or lemon to serve with your Thai Limeade. Mint of any type is excellent with it too. Kaffir lime leaves add a herbaceous touch to the drink. Smashed lemongrass is also amazing.
Helpful kitchen notes and tips
- If you have a heat-proof pitcher, use that instead of a glass bowl. It's more convenient for serving and has fewer dishes to wash!
- To jazz it up, make a fizzy drink by adding bubbly or tonic water to your tea.
- Make an easy adult beverage by adding 1-2 ounces of Gin or Tequila, then top off with a bit of bubbly or tonic water.
- Freeze your leftover Cha Manao in ice cube trays. Once frozen, remove them into a glass jar, and use the cubes as needed when you want a refreshing drink.
Helpful kitchen tools for this recipe
These are the helpful tools recommended for making this delicious Thai Limeade.
- French press. I used a 51-ounce French press to make this large batch of tea.
- Tea socks. They are a cloth white bag that strains tea leaves to make Thai tea or iced coffee.
- Cheesecloth. Use to strain the tea.
- Ice cube trays. Use to store any leftover tea in the freezer
- Metal whisk. For whisking the tea mixture together with the sugar and salt.
- My Cha Manao recipe uses the same measurements as my Thai iced tea recipe, the original version of this Thai iced tea recipe. To quickly change up the recipe, omit the lime juice, add sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk, and you are set. I usually make two of these drinks for my BBQs and dinner parties—one for those with a sweet tooth and one for those wanting a refreshing drink.
- For a lighter variation of this tea, instead of the Thai tea mix, use plain black tea, black tea bags, Oolong tea, or Ceylon tea. Green tea is not recommended.
- If the orange food dye scares you, make your tea a bit healthier by using the above tea suggestions, then add orange blossom water for the orange color essence. It also adds a lovely orange smell to your tea!
Lemon juice works, too, but traditionally, only lime juice is used for this drink. We want lime tea and not lemon tea. (;
Store your leftover Thai Cha Ma Nao (if there's any!) in a glass jar, like a mason jar, in the fridge for up to 3 days. Turn your limeade drink into ice cubes in ice cube trays for later use. For your next glass of Cha Manao, add a few ice cubes to a tall glass and let them thaw out to melt in a glass. It'd be nice, chill, and ready for your enjoyment. (:
Frequently Asked Questions
Thai iced tea has sweetened condensed milk, making it sweet and creamy, while Thai limeade has fresh lime juice added to it, making it a sweet and sour drink. Both use the same Thai tea mixes to make the drink.
Thai tea mixture has an orange-yellow food coloring added to the tea leaves to make Thai tea more appealing to consumers in Western culture.
There's about half the caffeine in Thai tea than in regular coffee. The longer you steep your Thai tea, the stronger the coffee and has slightly more caffeine.
More Thai drinks you'll love
- Thai iced tea, Cha Nom Yen, is the original version of this tea with a creamy appearance.
- Tom Yum Cocktail
- Butterfly flower lemonade
- Thai Tom Yum cocktail
- Creamy coconut lime mojitos
- Blood orange with Seville orange gin
- Roku gin with orange blossom syrup