When I was in India we were not offered iced tea. Upon our arrival at each estate, we were served hot tea. I found it to be true, that even when in such a hot and humid climate, a cup of freshly brewed hot tea was very satisfying. There is a theory about this. "The hot drink somehow has an effect on your systemic cooling mechanisms, which exceeds its actual effect in terms of heating your body," says McNaughton, a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge.
Our Indian friends were very interested to hear, however, just how popular iced teas are in Canada. I think it is fair to say, that iced teas are much more appealing than a hot cup to many tea drinkers on a hot summer day. At the Farmers' Market we have had, without a doubt, the busiest summer for our iced tea recipes which for the most part are created out of curiosity. I will share some of our most popular and hope you try them at home!
For a start, here is a basic recipe: Bring 4 cups water to a full boil for black teas and herbals but less than boiling for green teas. Pour over 3 tbsp of tea leaves. Brew 10 minutes. Add sweetener at this point if desired. Strain over 4 cups ice cubes in a pitcher. Refrigerate.
Each week from late May to October at the market, we choose a black tea, a green tea and an herbal to feature as our 'iced teas on tap.' We made the decision not to add any sweetener since the preferred taste is without for most of our tea friends. But on hand, I keep honey and if sweetener is requested, I make a honey syrup which is approximately 1 tbsp. honey to 3 tbsp boiling water. This blends well in the iced tea whereas honey on its own will not. Most of my tea patrons are not purists and so surprising them with different fruity additions is a fun project for me. The most in demand is our addition of homemade, fresh lemonade.
Here is my basic recipe. It is used as a 'topper upper' for the iced tea: The lemonade mixture is 2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice with pulp and 3 cups of sugar. Bring it to a boil and let it gently boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. This is your syrup to store in the fridge. The lemonade is ready to make anytime using 1/2 cup syrup and 3-1/2 cups of cold water. Now you can 'top up' your iced tea with a lemony twist. I suggest approximately 12 oz. iced tea with 2 oz. lemonade and a lemon slice!
Late in June, we have an abundance of rhubarb which on its own is excruciatingly tart! It is actually a perennial vegetable and only the stalks are eaten. But if you cut it up and add sugar and bake in a pie crust, you have a Maritimer's favourite pie! So here is a great iced tea recipe using this 'fruit.'
Put 4 cups rhubarb cut in 1" pieces in a large pot and barely cover with water. Bring to a boil and let simmer about 15 minutes until the stalk is mushy. Cool slightly.
Put in a blender and make a puree. Pour puree back into the pot through a strainer to remove all the pulp. Add 1 cup sugar for each cup of strained puree. Heat until sugar is dissolved. Cool. Now you have a delicious and attractive rhubarb syrup!
Make iced green tea (see recipe above). I prefer my Sencha or Green Explosion (gunpowder tea). Cool. To 12 oz. tea, add 2 oz. rhubarb syrup. To be even more adventurous, add some sparkling water or club soda. It is so, so good!
Watermelon is so refreshing and served at every July social here on PEI. I like to buy a seedless one and cut it up in the blender and make a puree once again. I like to strain it twice right into a pitcher. Usually one watermelon yields about 8 cups puree. To these 8 cups, I add 1 cup of white grape juice and 1/2 cup grenadine syrup. Again, to 12 oz. green tea, add 2 oz. of the watermelon mixture. For an extra Watermelon boost, try it with our Watermelon Twist white tea!
For all of the above ideas, don't be afraid to adjust the amounts to satisfy your taste buds.
When serving your iced tea to friends, make it extra special by pouring the libation on ice cubes made with tea. The drink does not get diluted this way and your company will be very impressed. Another thoughtful treat is to serve on flowering ice cubes. My dear friend, Ariana owns Red Roots Flower Farm, and shares her edible flowers with us for that special treat. Before freezing, put an edible flower petal into each cube. This definitely gets a response that every hostess loves to hear!
My flavoured teas are always especially good with a piece of frozen fruit added with the ice cubes. Adding local flavours to your tea servings brings out the best of both worlds - the world of teas and the world of your very own fruit orchards and gardens!
If you have a recipe I should try, let me know.