by Cassandra Vincent
I appreciate a high quality single origin tea – the fragrance of a High Mountain Oolong or the depth of a good vintage puerh, but I am all for innovation, play and fun too! Tea is a multi-faceted piece of deliciousness. I would never confine it to only a few methods of experience when it is in the nature of humans to create. Tea is an ingredient too! Like a spice or a beautiful fruit – there are many kinds from many places with many applications. This thought made me wonder if tea was ever a secret ingredient on the Iron Chef. It was! I had to find the episode even just to hear the Chairman say ‘TEA!!” with his customary unique power delivery. It is from Season 11 Episode 4, Forgione vs. Kittichai.
Recently when the weather became blisteringly hot (we’re talking record breaking) I dabbled in some tea ‘trends’ like the tea float. Based on the soda/ice cream float, it is an iced tea with ice cream in it (make variations at will). I used Irish breakfast tea and caramel praline ice cream and it was bliss. I also had what is probably the best milkshake I have yet encountered: Earl Grey ice cream with a bit of Thai iced tea to blend it with. It was sweet, it was creamy, it was cool and it was memorable.
Then I tried the salted cream tea thing. If you are not familiar it is taking an iced tea and placing a salted whipped cream layer atop it. Kind of like the cheese tea idea but to my knowledge this one only uses cream and salt. I decided to try a version at home before plunking down $5-$8 for one at a specialized tea shop. Plus I like experimenting – like a mad scientist of tea or something. If you’d like to try it for yourself at home here is what I did:
1. Make an iced tea of choice – I used an English Breakfast blend. If using bags I suggest 2 bags for a 16 oz. tea. As I like my tea strong I used a tablespoon of a loose broken leaf blend. You can use the quick steeping in a small amount of boiling water version then adding ice/cold water to make 16 oz. or do the cold brew overnight thing – leaving the leaves/bags in the 16 oz. of water in the fridge to steep for 8-12 hours or to taste.
2. Add sweetener of choice – honey, sugar, whatever suits your taste. You can leave the sweetener out if you prefer but then you will be without the salt/sweet mélange that this bevy is aiming for.
3. Make the salted cream - Whip 1/8 to 1/4c. COLD heavy whipping cream with a few pinches of sea salt. I suggest sea salt or a good mineralized salt. Regular table salt is too meh. I used my blender to do this and just kept checking to make sure I didn’t go too far. You are looking for a pudding-like whipped texture not stiff peaks or butter. You can also shake it in a container with a tight fitting lid. The key is for the cream to be very cold or it will not achieve the desired texture.
4. Layer the cream atop the tea and finish – I used a spoon to layer the cream. You can then add a sprinkle of a black or pink salt, sea salt or a spice to the top for extra panache and flavor.
I tried sipping it layered and stirring the cream in. I think I preferred sipping it layered. Using a straw didn’t allow for both flavours to blend unless it was stirred and then it lost something. I have heard it compared to a salted caramel latte when using a black tea, but I did not taste that myself. Maybe with a maltier blend or a flavoured blend. I thought it was more like a tea version of a breve just cold. I think a toasted oolong may be another tea that would be good or even a rooibos that has caramel pieces in it if you’re feeling the herbal vibe. I suggest starting with less cream as I found with too much it was just cloying on the tongue rather than satisfying and creamy. But everyone has their unique taste sweet spot so I say use this as a base and test out what works for you.
To the purists: None of these experiments will stop me doing gongfu style brewing of Formosa Ali Shan and the like in my Yixing teapot. I haven’t been corrupted or anything I just had a different bit of fun. I’ve had nitro tea, put matcha in my smoothie and have plans to try this cheese tea thing I keep hearing about which has made its way Stateside from Asia. Tea is fun and I encourage you to have fun with it too!
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