As summer days seem to swirl past me, I decided to slow it down and savor a few sips of iced tea with friends on the last day in June (and national iced tea month). Prior to the ice and steep, I plucked a few mint leaves and lavender buds in my urban garden (where concrete meets green).
After spending an hour or so contemplating the taste, color and caffeine of several chilly teas, I settled on earl grey with homemade lavender simple syrup, Moroccan mint with additional fresh mint from the garden and local honey, hibiscus lemonade, and white rose. I steeped each tea in my go-to (and overly used) bodum iced tea infuser/pitcher, carefully poured the vibrant liquor into my newly purchased glass bottles from Ikea, and set them in the fridge to slowly chill. These fabulous glass bottles offer a simple beauty, and are incredibly practical with a stopper that seals like a charm (to-go iced tea perfect for an iced tea picnic).
After each tea had chilled, I quickly cut corners from greeting card envelopes, wrote the name of each tea on the pastel paper, strung them on twine, and tied them around the neck of each bottle. I purposely tagged each tea so that friends could calmly make their choice. As the teas and simple syrup chilled in the fridge, I cut out the printed "t" "e" "a" letters and strung them on a piece of twine to hang outside (see above). The tea banner gently danced in the wind on that summer evening as June faded out and July easily blew in with the breeze.
Before I share the little details about each tea at the urban garden party, here are my thoughts on the proper way to turn hot tea into a chilly sip. I believe there are two ways to go, slow & steady and fast & ready:
- Allow tea to cool to room temperature and then add ice. By allowing the tea to cool prior to adding the ice, you will achieve a balanced flavor rather than a watered-down flavor, which can occur as the ice instantly melts. You will only need a few cubes to chill this treat now.
- Although if you want a quick cup and are in a rush, just double the amount of tea suggested and steep accordingly. Once the tea has finished steeping, pour the warm tea over a glass/pitcher filled to the brim with ice. By doubling the amount of tea, you will balance out the flavor as the ice quickly melts in the glass. Make sure to use plenty of ice so that the tea quickly cools.
I gently steeped the white rose (Organic bai mu dan, organic rose petals and organic chrysanthemum) with water just under boiling for 4 minutes. The floral essence of the rose and chrysanthemum blended rather well with the fresh, grassy notes of the bai mu dan. The golden liquor glowed in the evening sun.
The earl grey 4 minute steep yielded a brisk, citrusy taste that blended well with the sweet lavender essence from the homemade simple syrup. This hearty tea (perfect for steamy summer days) was slightly softened by the floral taste.
To move beyond the floral tastes of the previous teas and offer an herbal, iced blend, I opted to make a hibiscus lemonade. Once you make (or buy) your lemonade base (sugar, lemon, water), simply steep a few hibiscus blossoms in a cup or two of heated lemonade. Add hibiscus/lemonade mixture to the remaining cups of lemonade and mix. The hibiscus blossoms intensify the bright, tart flavors of the lemonade and add a gorgeous, glowing red color to the liquor.
For the Moroccan mint, I steeped the gunpowder green and dried mint blend with a few sprigs of fresh mint from the garden for 3 minutes. After removing the tea blend, I allowed the mint leaves to dance in the warm liquor as I stirred in a few teaspoons of local honey. This sweet traditional treat cools the body with its naturally refreshing mint.
As the evening sun turned to twilight glow and my friends made their way home to greet July in the morning, I took a few last sips in my urban garden and gathered the leftover bottles of tea that I would later turn into tea granita (my favorite way to extend a chilly sip).
Here's to a summer filled with iced tea celebrations! What's your favorite tea to ice and sip on sunny summer days & nights?