Summer’s around the corner, and though I’m not much of a flavored tea kind of guy, there are a few scented varieties that captivate me, particularly now. Take Chinese congou, most usually a large leafed black tea scattered with fragrant rose petals. On a sweltering day, drinking it iced transport you into the middle of a rose garden where you can literally “smell the roses.” But I go that idea one better and make the brewed floral tea (a bit sweetened) into a sorbet and then serve that with some fragrant peaches poached in the tea. From yellow to white and from tart to subacid and candy sweet, peaches abound at this time of year. But I like to start with the flattened peaches variously called Doughnut or Saturn varieties. (Historical side note: The earliest peaches are thought to have originated in China and were so highly prized that they could only be grown by orchardists within the borders of the emperor’s palace.)
My predilection for Chinese black tea and love of seasonal fruit have found their match in this summery concoction. Putting two vaunted Chinese ingredients together inspired me to explore how the flavors of each might marry. Here’s how to do it.
To make the sorbet:
10 g (1/3 ounce) Rose de Chine, Chinese congou tea with roses
1 quart good quality water
Scant cup (168 grams or 6 ounces) granulated sugar
Bring water to the boil. Add tea and sugar and allow the tea to steep for about 3 minutes. Decant by pouring the mixture through a fine meshed sieve set over a bowl. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate, covered, until cold. Once cold, freeze using an ice cream machine, following manufacturer’s directions. If you don’t have an ice cream machine (either the kind with a canister that you freeze overnight before using, or an electric one that has refrigerant surrounding the bowl in which the mixture freezes), then pour the mixture into a flat stainless steel, glass or porcelain baking dish, about 2 inches deep, and freeze, stirring occasionally to break up ice crystals as they form. (Note: If you wish, just before serving, you may wish to whirl the frozen mixture in a blender or food processor to render it creamy but be sure to scoop and serve it immediately as it will melt more readily after having been processed in this way.)
To poach the peaches:
4 flat peaches
2 c. (14 ounces or 396 grams) granulated sugar
16 ounces water
½ ounce (14 grams) Congou with rose petals
Place the peaches into boiling water briefly, just long enough to loosen the skins
Remove from the water, place into a bowl filled with ice water and when cool, carefully peel off the skins. Now cut the peaches in half to remove the pit.
Make simple syrup by boiling the sugar with the water until the sugar dissolves. Add the tea and allow to steep for 5 minutes. Pour the mixture through a sieve to remove the tea leaves. Return the tea flavored syrup to a clean saucepan and gently place the peach halves into the syrup. Bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the peaches to cool. Transfer to a container with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate until ready to serve the dessert.
Serve the peaches with a drizzling of the syrup and top with a scoop of the sorbet. Garnish with unsprayed organic rose petals, if desired. Serve immediately.