Part of my spring “let’s fire up the grill and bring out patio furniture” cleaning ritual is getting the iced tea glasses and pitchers ready for the barbecues and outdoor meals that are on my entertaining horizon. Serving iced tea instead of soda (or pop for those of you with regional linguistic preferences) when the temperatures soar and the humidity climbs is my idea of fancy food. For a little extra effort, quenching your thirst can become a culinary treat.
To be clear, when you’re drinking tea, you’re making an infusion of the dried leaves and buds and sometimes even the twigs of the Camellia sinensis plant. Depending on how the tea is processed, the flavor and color of the tea will vary. Be warned, however, there are lots of quasi teas on the market. These concoctions of fruit, flowers, spices and other “stuff” are also steeped in boiling water, but if it doesn’t contain actual tea leaves, it aint’ actually tea.
That being said, you can call the beverage whatever you want, especially when you go beyond the conventional sweetened tea concoctions and create cool summer drinks by blending them with crushed fruit, fruit juices and spices like cinnamon and ginger. Just about any fruit can be added to iced tea. Pineapples, apples, lemons, peaches, strawberries, blueberries and even mangoes add a full-bodied summer flavor to the most mundane teas. Add a few tablespoons of the chopped fruit or juice per cup of hot tea and let it steep until room temperature. Add ice and voila, beverage nirvana.
If you prefer a less sweet beverage and an earthier brew, add a tablespoon of fresh mint, ginger, cinnamon or even rosemary to 2 cup of boiling water and 1 cup sugar. Let the water/herb mixture boil for 5 to 7 minutes and then let it cool to room temperature. Strain the liquid and then add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the liquid to your hot or cold tea. You can add some fruit to the herb mixture for an even more complex taste.
Regardless of what type of tea you choose or what flavors your want to add, the method for brewing the perfect cup of tea will remain the same. Start with cold water and bring it to a boil. Warm the teapot/container/pitcher with a little hot water for about 1 minute before you then empty it. Use one teabag for each 12 oz of hot water you pour into the container. Cover (to maintain the heat) and let steep/set for 3 to 5 minutes.
To give my iced teas a special flair, I like to use honey to sweeten it and then to garnish it with fresh fruit slices, mint or ice cubes with fruit or spices in them. All of the following recipes can be make less sweet by reducing the amount of sweetener you add. It’s all a matter of what you prefer and, no matter how you pour it, they’re all great thirst-quenching fun.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.