Just as Americans have refined their hot tea ritual, we are beginning to brush up on our iced tea skills as well. Pitchers of weak tea made with grocery brand teabags and sweetened with copious cups of white sugar have become passé.
Here are my iced tea suggestions that will leave your guests asking “How did you make that great iced tea?”
1. Think outside the box of grocery store teabags. Over 40% of the tea imported into America each year comes from Argentina where fields of tea bushes are mechanically harvested to make a bagged tea that is inexpensive, quick to steep, and light in color.
Consider starting with a full leaf tea that you would serve hot in a teacup. Your guests will taste the difference because Indian, Chinese, Sri Lankan, Kenyan, or Japanese specialty teas will infuse more tannins and deeper flavors into your brew.
2. Go green. If a light iced tea is what you crave, then green might be your cup of tea.
Iced tea in the late 19th century was as likely to be made with green tea as it was with black tea. Japanese Sencha or Gyokuro green tea combines easily with fruits, such as strawberry, cherry, lemon or lime. As is true for all green teas, don’t put boiling water on the leaves. Steep greens in 165° F. water for five minutes for optimum results.
3. Turn off the heat. You don’t always need hot water in order to steep tea. Simply infuse tea leaves into a pitcher of filtered tap water and place the pitcher in a refrigerator overnight. Remove the spent leaves and pour your fresh tea over ice. I find green teas, Sri Lankan black teas, or herbals yield the best results when using this cold-brew method.
And what about sun tea? The United States Tea Association began cautioning against using this method 20 years ago because of the possible growth of bacteria in longstanding lukewarm water. In other words, you’ve created a petri dish.
4. Steep it strong. I like to add an extra minute of steep time when making iced tea to make sure the beverage doesn’t weaken when added to an ice-filled glass.
5. Sweeten with fruit. One of the reasons for tea’s current rise in popularity is because tea is considered an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Copious amounts of sugar can negate those healthful properties.
The addition of citrus or frozen fruits can enhance the enjoyment, and appearance, of your iced tea without unending amounts of sugar.
If you must use sugar, offer a small decanter of simple syrup in order for guests to sweeten to their taste.
The recipe for making simple syrup: combine 1 cup of sugar with near-boiling water. Stir and allow to come to room temperature before storing in the refrigerator for up to a month. Add a mint leaf to make it more interesting.
6. Clear the clouds. What can you do if your black tea clouds after sitting for hours in a refrigerator? It can be salvaged. Clouding is caused by the solids from the tea leaves being forced out of suspension. Simply add a bit of boiling water to your tea and watch the clouds disappear.
Here is a collection of iced teas that are out of the bag!
This article first appeared in the June 2017 edition of TeaTime magazine.