Given the public’s insatiable thirst for ready-to-drink bottled or canned tea, most of which is consumed cold or over ice, it seems it’s always iced tea weather. Despite an abiding love for hot tea, I like to brew up a cuppa and chill it down, no matter what the thermometer says outside. Then again, I’m in California, an adopted son of the land of eternal sunshine (something we used to believe was a good thing; we now know otherwise, as other parts of the country are experiencing new highs, “unseasonable” weather patterns and erratic storms at unexpected times of year).
When allowing the tea to cool down, either by letting it sit or pouring it over ice (when brewed properly), the tea’s truer flavor profile will shine through, flaws and all. In the case of hot tea, the heat itself can mask any defects in the tea, leading one to miss the undesirable flavors or lesser quality of the leaves. With all that in mind, let’s brew up a cuppa and pour it over fresh ice cubes (freezer burn on ice cubes can really wreak havoc with the taste of even the best brewed teas). Or better yet, how about combining some well-brewed tea and fresh seasonal soft fruit (skinned melons with seeds removed, peeled and pitted stone fruit, ripe peeled pears or even flavorful grapes such as concords or Thomcord, a hybrid of Thompson seedless and Concord varieties—these last will need a sieving to remove tough pits and skins when pureed). The resulting frappé is twice as refreshing as an unadorned glass of iced tea and there’s the bonus of some fiber bolstering the drink.
Some favorite combinations to try:
- Green teas with melons, pale or more vivid green-fleshed or orange-fleshed varieties
- Oolongs with pears or peaches
- Black teas such as Keemuns and Yunnans with grapes
Here’s a recipe to get you started onto the path of chilled enlightenment:
Honeydew Green Tea Frappe
Green tea is especially clean tasting, grassy, and refreshing served iced. Here the intoxicating perfume of a hauntingly sweet honeydew melon is perfectly layered with the crisp spring taste of green tea, either Chinese Dragonwell (Lung Ching), Japanese Sencha, or even a green Darjeeling tea from India. This frothy drink, the pale color of Chinese celadon porcelain, cools you even during the most sweltering hot spell or breezy fall day.
- 3 tablespoons/42 grams loosely packed green tea leaves of your choice
- 2 ounces/60 grams crystallized ginger, roughly chopped
- 4 cups/1 liter cubed ripe honeydew melon
- 2 cups/500 milliliters ice cubes made from distilled water
- Superfine sugar to taste
Garnishes: Thinly sliced honeydew melon, crystallized ginger in long pieces, and fresh ginger juice.
Chill 4 tall glasses. Brew the tea leaves in 1 quart/1 liter of 185°F/ 85°C water, allowing them to steep 4 minutes. Pour the tea through a fine-meshed sieve, pressing hard on the leaves to extract all the liquid. Add the crystallized ginger to the brewed tea and let cool until it becomes infused with the ginger flavor, about 15 minutes, or longer if time allows. Chill in refrigerator until cold. Pass liquid through sieve to remove ginger pieces. (The ginger pieces can be saved to add to a chicken salad or fruit compote, as desired. For a spicier flavor, fresh ginger root can be substituted.)
Purée the melon and ice in the jar of an electric blender. Add tea-ginger infusion and process just to blend. Pour into tall chilled glasses and sweeten to taste with superfine sugar. Add a dash of fresh ginger juice if available. Garnish with a thin slice of honeydew wrapped with a thin flexible slice of crystallized ginger. Yields 4 12-ounce/350-gram servings.