Cool and Refreshing Iced Tea - The Perfect Drink for Summer
When we finally wave goodbye to the cooler months and at last feel the warmth of the sun, what better way is there to enjoy an alfresco lunch, or balmy summer evening, than with a delicious glass of refreshing iced tea? Cooling, thirst-quenching, and easy to prepare, there are different ways to concoct this increasingly popular beverage, and a wealth of ingredients, flavours and choice of teas to experiment with.
Recipes for iced tea can be found in American and English cookbooks dating back to the 1870s. It's believed the drink became popular after the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904, when American tea merchant, Richard Blechynden, distributed free chilled tea to the public rather than hot tea as the weather was so warm. Iced tea was traditionally made by steeping black or green tea in hot water and leaving it to chill, adding ice, sugar, lemon, and sometimes alcohol. Many people still enjoy their iced tea made this way, either with or without the alcohol!
The perfect iced tea should be prepared with good quality tea and fresh ingredients; bottled or filtered water rather than tap water may improve flavour. The result should be a clean-tasting, flavoursome tea with no bitterness. It can be made the traditional way by steeping tea leaves or tea bags in hot water, allowing to cool to room temperature, then chilling in the refrigerator or just adding ice. It's worth remembering that ice will dilute the tea, so a little more tea should be used if ice is to be added. This method is good if you don't want to wait too long, but sometimes hot tea that has been chilled has a tendency to taste bitter from tannins released in the steeping process.
Alternatively iced tea can be cold-brewed, where tea leaves are infused in cold water and placed in the refrigerator to chill. Suggested times for green, herbal and fruit teas are 3 to 8 hours, and 6 to 12 hours for black or oolong. Although this method takes longer, it has its advantages, as there's no heat to produce those bitter, tannic effects. Flavours are extracted slowly and subtle tastes and fragrances develop. Cold-brewed teas are also thought to retain more antioxidants and contain less caffeine. There's no risk of bitterness by over-steeping with the cold-brew method, although it's important that enough tea is used for it not to taste weak, but not so much that it becomes bitter.
With so many amazing teas available, it can be difficult to decide which type to choose to make the best iced tea. Black teas have been the traditional choice for many years. Good quality ones, like Ceylon Orange Pekoe Tea, can produce good results. White teas are delicate and often beautifully aromatic, making them an excellent choice for a light, refreshing drink. Silver Tip Ceylon Tea is a good example, and White Peach Tea is delicious chilled. Green teas have the kind of fresh grassy flavours that make them suitable to drink chilled. Try Sencha Lemon Tea or Pomegranate and Hibiscus Green Tea for some wonderful fruit and floral notes. Oolong teas and blends offer a variety of wonderful flavours and aromas. Orange Blossom Oolong Tea or Formosa Fancy Oolong Tea are just two of many to try. Herbal and fruit teas and tisanes have their own unique flavours. Lavender de Provence Herbal Tea makes a lovely scented iced tea, complemented with the addition of lemon, and Tropicana Fruit Tisane is perfect served iced, being naturally sweet and fruity.
A number of ingredients can be added to the tea either after it's been chilled, or included in the mix beforehand. Suggestions include: freshly squeezed lemon or orange juice, pieces of fruit, fresh mint, cucumber, ginger and other spices, to name but a few. Some people like to add a splash of sparkling mineral water, or lemonade to sweeten. Cold-brewed iced teas tend to be sweeter than hot-brewed, but if a sweeter beverage is required, honey, sugar or stevia can be added. Below are a couple of simple recipes for inspiration, but you can use your imagination and favourite ingredients to create some amazing recipes of your own:
Earl Grey and Orange Iced Tea (serves 8)
14g of Earl Grey Tea
1 litre of boiled water
1 litre of cold water
180ml of pure smooth orange juice
30g of sugar (optional)
Thinly sliced peel of an orange and orange wedges
A few mint leaves
Steep the tea leaves and orange peel in the boiled water for 3 to 5 minutes. Cool, then strain through a fine mesh sieve (this can be lined with muslin or cheesecloth for finer straining). Pour into a large pitcher and stir in the orange juice and sugar until dissolved. Add the cold water. Cover, and refrigerate for about 2 hours. Serve with orange wedges and mint leaves. A large batch of iced tea like this can be kept in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Cold Brew Oolong Tea (serves 4)
8g of Formosa Fancy Oolong Tea
1 litre of filtered or spring water
Sliced peaches and raspberries
Place the tea leaves in a clean container or mason jar. Add the water, cover the container and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours. Strain into a pitcher through a fine mesh sieve. Serve with sliced peaches, raspberries and ice. Sugar syrup can be added to taste if required.
So, whether you're basking beneath blue skies or gazing at glorious sunsets, pour out a measure of delicious iced tea, and raise a glass to summer in all its glory!