Iced tea counts for some 80% of the tea consumed in the United States! The first references to iced tea go back to the early 1800’s. If you read further, you will learn that iced tea was a commercial success at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. At the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, a think-outside-the-cup entrepreneur had no trade at his stand selling hot tea. The weather was beastly hot; the uncomfortable fairgoers had no appetite for hot drinks, so Richard Blechynden, India Tea Commissioner and Director of the East Indian Pavilion figured a way to cool the tea for thirsty patrons. While Mr. Blechynden did not invent iced tea, his brewed and chilled India tea was so popular that restaurants scrambled to offer the beverage.
Every fast food franchise in the US offers a cloyingly sweet iced tea choice. Some serve unsweetened along with a tray of sugar packets and lemon wedges. Most of this tea is Lipton, or Red Rose, or similar low-quality orange pekoe. In the ready-to-drink market, there are dozens of choices of bottled teas in almost every color. Some choices combine fruits, seeds, and greens, presenting a meal-like “tea” experience.
June was National Iced Tea Month. Americans love nothing more than a holiday celebrating something we do – or should do – often. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Teacher Appreciation Week, Take-Your-Daughter-to-Work-Day. Iced Tea gets a whole month! In the Pacific Northwest this summer, iced tea could claim the entire season! We are entering our fifth consecutive week of high daytime temperatures. A random thunderstorm rolled through a week ago, but the rain which accompanied the storm served only to “wash the dust off the fuel,” according to the local fire marshal. Some parts of the region experience high humidity and high temperatures. Iced tea is a delicious help in staying hydrated.
I love iced tea. Each summer I experiment with combining odds and ends of exotic blends which students and acquaintances give as well-intentioned gifts throughout the year. Even people who think they do not like iced tea will find cold-brewed tea a refreshing addition to their summer beverage choices. So far, I have found black teas – Doke Black Fusion, Makaibari Signature Muscatel, and Japanese Black to be excellent. In the black blends, Pu’erh Earl Grey, Earl Grey Crème, and Earl of Grey have been lovely. Dream Chai and Calming Chai – both caffeine-free – have been excellent choices for later in the day. A former student inspired me to cold brew a batch of jasmine pearls, which resulted in such a heady floral brew that my husband accused me of adding sweetener! Presently, there is a batch of Nilgiri Fine Leaf TGFOP (tippy golden flowery orange pekoe) brewing in the refrigerator. My most creative endeavor so far was to mix the last bit of rose bud black tea with some Makaibari and Dream Chai. The brew? One-of-a-kind delicious!
Here is how you make a batch:
You will need a quart (liter) glass jar with a lid; filtered/purified water to fill, and 1/3 cup of loose leaf tea.
Combine water and tea in the jar, cap it, give it a shake, place the jar in the refrigerator . . . and wait at least eight hours. You can steep 36 hours without the brew tasting too strong. (The leaves will drop from the top of the jar and fall through the brew in a slow motion tea dance – mesmerizing to watch, but wasteful of energy.) After the brewing time has elapsed, strain the leaves from the brew. I used a wire sieve lined with coffee filter paper. Keep the brew refrigerated until ready to serve. Delicious poured over ice or served without. Some like to add lemon and sugar.
Please give it a try and let me know what you created.
Images of Doke Black Fusion courtesy of the contributor.