by Cassandra Vincent
Though not created in America, iced tea became popular at the 1904 World’s Fair and has remained a major fave for US summers since.
I don’t drink iced tea often but when I do I like messing with it…a bit. Here are some ways to play with your iced tea this summer.
CHANGE UP THE SWEETNESS
I really prefer more natural sweeteners like raw honey and unrefined cane. They add flavor in addition to sweetness that makes for a very different drink. Here are a few ideas:
The type of honey can make a big difference in tea. One of my favorite raw honeys that seems to pair well with many teas is Orange Blossom honey – it doesn’t have an overwhelming note like eucalyptus honey or neem honey, but is still rich in flavor and adds that almost caramel-like aspect. It is really great with black teas, but I have also found it to be delish with bolder oolongs and matcha blended teas. Some of the more herbal honeys like eucalyptus and sage go well with select herbal teas and more basic black teas which let the herbal aspects shine.
Brown sugar, sugar in the raw type cane also adds caramel-like notes in addition to sweetness. I like making ice cubes with a simple syrup made from this and using a decorative ice cube mold. My Doctor Who ice cube tray holds 1 cup of water (nod to fellow Who fans out there). I mix 2 Tablespoons of the sugar in the raw with 1 Cup water and gently melt the sugar over low heat and fill the tray with that. The slow release of sweetness in the cup creates a changing flavor experience while drinking.
Sometimes I just don’t want the calories or glycemic jump of any sweetener and this is where stevia is great. It can be bitter, but for some reason it works exceptionally well with citrus fruit. So I like using stevia in my iced tea with lemon or in a half-n-half of tea and lemonade. All the sweetness, none of the spike.
The natural sweetness of fruit is sometimes all you need. I like putting strawberries, blueberries and lemons in ice cube trays and freezing the fruit in the ice. As the cubes melt the fruit thaws and releases flavor into the tea all while looking festive doing it. You could do this with herbs and fruit also. I like blackberries and sage together in a black tea and lemon and mint in green or black. I’ve also used blueberry and sage in a Sencha green tea with great results.
CHANGE UP THE TEA
Use a Different Type
Though the standard basic black makes great traditional iced tea, you can try any tea iced. It is really just a matter of preference. I made iced tea with an organic puerh that made a rich, mellow and earthy drink that was bold enough to take honey really well without losing its nuances.
Flavored teas can excel iced also. A friend gave me an iced lychee oolong that bowled me over as I usually don’t like flavored oolongs. The balance was just right and good alone or sweetened.
White teas make a delicate twist on the iced experience whether flavored or plain. So switch it up and see what works for you.
Change the Amount
Some people use the same amount of tea per volume of water to make their iced tea. I tend to like mine a bit stronger especially if I am going to be using a lot of ice. Using loose tea gives a lot of freedom here to discover what pleases your palate.
CHANGE THE WAY YOU BREW
Though I like the traditional hot brew – made strong and cold water or ice added after – cold brewing changes the game. I use the same amount of tea per volume of water that I would use for a regular hot brew, put it in filtered room temp or cold water in a closed container in the refrigerator for between 8 and 24 hours. Cold brew releases minimal amounts of the harsher compounds that can make tea feel like it could exfoliate your stomach. Without those compounds the flavor is much mellower. I particularly like cold brew green tea. Sencha is glorious cold brewed. Here is more on cold brew with links to the science of it if you are interested in taking this fun plunge.
Nothing like a quality alcohol laced iced tea. Beyond the wonderful classic mint julep here are a couple of my favorites:
Sencha green tea with vodka and muddled blueberries and sage and a bit of sweetener
Russian caravan black tea with bourbon and either a touch of unrefined sugar or honey
However you shake, brew, sweeten or spike it I wish you a cool and delicious holiday and summer tea – Happy Independence Day America!
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