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Good day. Come on in, kick off your shoes and be comfortable. Do you recall last week, my coffee share about tea 101. If not, you can click on the link to review it in a second window. Sure, go ahead, I’m in no hurry and will just relax with glass of one of my favorite topics for today, Ice Tea.
From that essay I had several requests for information about making ice tea. Really? I thought. What is there to know? But I thought about it and decided that I was being too presumptuous and should simply answer the question.
- First, don’t try this from a mix. It’s not necessary and, hold on, you may not have been told this, but tea is a naturally occurring plant and left alone for any amount of time after being dried and ground up into a powder, it decays quickly into something that is moving towards a normal return to, did you guess already? Yea, you got it. Ground tea leaves quickly decay into soil, returning to its roots you might say. So if you really, really, really must do a tea mix. Buy something fresh and then do not expose it to open air or humidity. Both cause it to oxidize at every broken edge and humidity, being just water which is which is a mild acid, does what any acid does and accelerates the tea breakdown, hastening its return to soil.
- No – no. It is much better and classier, to brew your own fresh tea from loose leaves. Yes, the bags work too, but they are so processed that they never will have the rich deep flavor of real loose leaves. If you do any tea research, you’ll learn that most tea bags are made with the leftovers of tea processing, the dust left on the floor if you will. Brewing your own fresh ice tea also so easy to do, but there are a few tricks to make it work better. So here’s my short list of making guest-quality iced tea.
- Select your favorite black, black flavored, green or green flavored tea and brew it as normal as recommended only start by adding 1/4 to 1/2 more tea than you would have used if you were just going to drink it hot. Black tea, start with about 1/4 more, but green teas need more umph so go closer to 1/2 more tea into your infuser.
- Resist the urge to brew it much longer. Most black and green teas will give you more taste if you brew them longer, but that taste will be a nasty bitter taste that will not leave you wanting more.
- Once brewed, you can let it cool (with the infuser and soaked tea leaves removed) or you can pour it straight over a tall glass full of ice. If you let it cool, you’ll need less ice so just cover it and let it sit until your guest arrive or you just can’t wait for your own refreshing drink.
- Add some citrus to suit your tastes and more ice as needed and enjoy.
- Special note for green teas: Don’t drink the very last sip of a green iced tea. There does not seem to be anything you can do about the small bits of tea leaves swimming around the bottom of your cup and drinking them won’t add anything pleasant to the experience so, I know we all love them, but for green ice teas, I advise you to pass on the straw. This will save you and your guest from taking a big draw and then wanting to spit it right out and spend the rest of the afternoon digging small leaf chunks out of the gaps in your teeth. It is not a good look for any of us.
- So this is the classic method and once tried, you may never go back to a tea bag. It’s also classy and, well, that’s really all there is to it, unless you’re still using your college days kitchen protocols and in this case I insist you wash the blasted glass before even starting. And since you’re doing that much, go ahead and do the rest of the dishes because you’re not in college any more.
But what tea should you use? And this was the #1 question I got from last week. My answer is start with what you like hot, unless it’s a tea bag, then I offer to just use 1/3 more tea bags than you would have for the amount you’re brewing and enjoy it if you can.
We all are likely to have different hopes and dreams for what’s in our glass of ice tea. For me, I’ve chosen to buy most of my tea from one respected tea vendor who covers all the bases of tea types well and maintains a high degree of quality and sophistication about the whole process.
I use (US based) Harney & Sons as my vendor of choice but you can find good teas almost anywhere. Did you see that photo of the SpaceX rocket with the Amazon Prime logo pulling up to the International Space Station . . . ? I did wonder if delivery for that was included in the cost of Prime.
So what teas work well iced? Here’s my results from taste testing many.
First for plain, unflavored black teas I love Darjeeling for it’s classic black tea taste. There’s a good reason darjeeling is so popular – it’s just that good. It has a very pleasing classic aroma and fills your mouth with all the reasons you like tea. Darjeeling is almost a staple in our kitchen it’s rich flavor is affordable and tastes in line with what you get with restaurant ice tea only much better. As something of a tea-snob, I give you permission to sip, close your lips without swallowing and just bath your tongue in the wonderful experience of either hot or iced darjeeling. This is the tea for when you just want to push your concerns aside and let your spirit breath and settle. It will lower your blood pressure and make you feel lighter. Take care not to fall asleep as your whole mind and soul unwind. Dumping the half full glass into your lap is not a good way to finish the experience.
If you want something with a bigger flavor but is still an unflavored black tea, try any of the assam teas. H&S calls theirs Irish Breakfast and I even use a bit less and brew it for a full minute less than recommended. When enjoying Assam-based teas you’ll find they stand up to (and sometimes need) a bit of milk or cream to calm it down to taste. If you have a big day ahead and need to be aware, Irish Breakfast will help you rise to the occasion if if you really to just sit and contemplate taking revenge on someone or picking a fight.
It is strong enough and rich enough that if you add lemon or sweetener, you can dial this tea right into comfort zone or use it to sooth a much needed coffee withdrawal. Irish breakfast has been accused of causing extra body hair growth.
This next review needs background music so click here for the full effect. For flavored black teas, Almost everyone loves the classic Bergamot-tinted British taste of Earl Grey. Some are surprised to learn that Earl Grey is not a separate species of tea and that is a flavored tea at all but rust me on this, it is. It holds up just fine to being iced or decorated with tiny slices of lemon and served in fine china while sitting in straight backed chairs in lacy dresses or collared shirt and slacks. Dainty cookies, scones or tarts are good pairings as long as you can arrange for a live string quartet playing Vivaldi’s Four Season in the background somewhere. Fun Fact: in some countries, it is still illegal to serve earl grey outside of a garden setting.
If you’re game for flavored teas, then you need to try one step beyond the classic bergamot taste and jump across the channel over to France for a taste of H&S Paris tea. This taste is much less serious and more playful. Think of Earl Grey with a carefully metered dose of vanilla and caramel flavoring. If you are serving a 2 or more courses of tea, use Paris right after the Earl Grey to stop everyone from arguing about who is going to win at Wimbledon. Paris does as well iced as it does hot. You can be excused if you want to check the tin to see if it is sweetened and then smile when you hold the evidence that it is not. The taste of Paris even works with thick plastic colorful glassware on sunny days with the kids around a pool with people in hot air balloon high overhead.
Last week I also mentioned an unflavored tea that is so mild that I can literally drink all day long. H&S Formosa Oolong is prepared in some secret way that leaves it so mild and mellow that you can serve it hot or iced and find that it’s soothing enough sit with and stare at the fireplace or take to that deadly dull meeting at work and it folds right into the moment and keeps you focused and calm regardless of the tone of the room. The rich flavor stands up to ice and I think there is a verse in the Bible about not serving it with milk or sweetener.
Oolong also goes great with Vivaldi – are you still listening to it? Ha, me too. This is also the only tea I know of that allows and even encourages you to not immediately throw out the used leaves but to use them a 2nd, 3rd and even 4th time as the flavor just hangs in there. I’ve tried this but really like the richness of each first brew so yea, you can, but when there is more in the tin, why would you want to. . . ?
Okay, I know some of you have tolerated my tour of black teas hoping that I find my way back to green teas. How do they do iced? The answer is that they do well, but very different.
My go-to straight up normal loose leaf green tea is H&S Yanagi Green. It has the classic Japanese green tea taste, but do pay attention to it’s different brewing temperature and time as it can turn bitter if brewed as you do black teas. Iced, it maintains almost exactly the same taste but I found it oddly less pleasant than served hot. I think it’s because green tea is not as strong a taste to begin with and ice quickly dilutes the tea, so if you want a chilled tea with all the flavor, you need to add more loose leaves to your brew. I also cheat a tad and use a slightly higher temperature 185 F rather than 175 F but don’t let it sit any longer than the recommended 3 minutes. The result is good, but I still like it hot better.
A personal favorite flavored green tea called Cherry Blossom. This cherry flavor-tinted green tea is also so smooth and easy on the taste buds as to lend itself to being your night time sipping drink. For this review I realized I’d never tried it iced, so, for you I took the plunge and brewed up a double pot. The first mug, I enjoyed hot early in the morning and that faint cherry aroma is always delightful without overwhelming the light taste of the green tea. I worked my way through the morning while the pot cooled and then before lunch, I filled a mug with ice and poured the rest of the cheery green tea over it. The result surprised me. The full taste of the green tea was still there, but the cherry taste was so faint as to almost gone. I think it was just the aroma. The steam of a hot cup carries the aroma to the nose where the olfactory nerves pick it up and add to the sense of enjoyment. Without the steam, there is precious little aroma and in this case, the cherry background is gone. I think Cherry Blossom is best served hot – period.
For a much more satisfying iced green tea experience, I really think you should try H&S Genmicha. which uses toasted rice as a flavoring for a green tea. It is unusual but I was amazed at how good it is. You can get lots of different brands of it but I’ve only tried H&S’s version.
But how does it ice? I’d tried it before and liked it. I tried it again for this review and still liked it, but, but, I think the aroma thing is happening here too. The toasted rice flavor really plays a part in this drink but it does not work as well when iced. I could see some preferring it, but I’m going to stick with enjoying it hot. BTW – yes, that photo shows what the tea looks like and while you can see the toasted grains of rice, you might be wondering about those white chunks of something. What are those? I smiled when I read that the toasting process causes some of the grains to pop – yes, just like popcorn. and they leave those in for both looks and taste.
I have another flavor of green tea that I like hot and tried it to with the same results: great hot – mild and relaxing taste but iced, kind of dull in comparison especially in regards to whatever the additional flavoring might be.
Hmm, perhaps if I added my own fresh citrus. Yes, I must try that next.
So once again, tea iced, as often experienced with serving it hot provides a spectrum of flavor. Black teas are where the real action is while green teas are much more subtle and dependent on your sense of smell. Well, that’s one man’s opinion.
For some of us, coffee is our main drink and that’s never going to change, but let’s say you enjoy going to a restaurant and ordering ice tea. You’ve given up on soda because there are fewer calories in the sugar packets sitting in the little trays on each table. Anyway, you’ve come to expect a certain taste and fulfillment from that tall glass of ice tea and now you can more than enjoy that same or much better experience at home by brewing your own and can even experiment to find a tea that really works for you.
For your guest, you can make up a big batch of your best and float some slices of lemon or limes. Add a sprig of mint and you are the god or goddess of the backyard BBQ.
Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be around to visit your share real soon.