I am a year-round tea drinker and always start my day with a hot cup. That said, when it gets really steamy outside, there is nothing better than a fresh brewed cup of iced tea.
As the shop’s tea buyer, I love experimenting with different varieties and different preparations. For a great iced tea, I love a less tannic brew with nice color and strong aromas and I have also found that unique and unexpected teas often make the most enjoyable cups. With this in mind, here are a few of my favorites:
Bellocq Tea – Afghani Chai - I use this tea as a base for my own interpretation of iced chai. I prefer chai teas that have black tea as their base – this gives me a little afternoon boost. Bellocq’s Afghani chai is balanced perfectly with rolled Assam black tea and a mélange of red poppy flowers, green cardamom, star anise, ginger, clove and black pepper. Not too spicy, this tea is perfect when lightly sweetened with Demerara sugar cubes and a splash of whole milk or cream. The aroma of this tea is incredible!
Brewing tips – Brew this tea extra strong, up to 5 minutes. Balance the tannins with Demerara sugar cubes and a generous amount of milk or cream. If you want to try something new, skip the sugar and add sweetened condensed milk for a play on Thai iced tea!
Silk Road Teas – Yunnan Black Tea – When I want to make a classic, unsweetened iced tea, I always reach for Yunnan black tea from Silk Road Teas. Teas from the Yunnan Province of China are world-renowned for their malty, honey-like characteristics and distinct lack of tannins. These qualities make Yunnan tea perfect for iced tea! The Silk Road Yunnan lives up to the reputation of this region and brews a tea that is soft, very aromatic and not bitter at all. You’ll want to make a full pitcher of this one!
Brewing tips – Don’t steep for more than 5 minutes (3 minutes is ideal). No sugar or milk is needed. If desired, add a slice of lemon!
Dammann Frères – Mélange Provence – This classic French blend uses hibiscus flowers as its base. In addition to the hibiscus, it is studded with dried apple, rosehip, orange peel and sunflower petals, giving it an amazing floral and fruity flavor profile. A lovely trait of this tisane is that it is caffeine-free, making it perfect to enjoy on a hot summer evening. Serve it at your next BBQ or picnic for a light, refreshing crowd pleaser!
Brewing tips – This blend can be brewed strong or mild depending on your preference. Serve unsweetened and without milk or cream. For a unique alternative, try blending 1 part brewed Mélange Provence with 1 part lemonade!
Tranquil Tuesdays – Mao Jian Green Tea – The best quality Mao Jian tea leaves are harvested in mid-April, as this one is. The leaves are a dark green color, with straight and delicate edges. These leaves are all picked by hand and then gently roasted over an open fire. It is rare to have such a small-scale production of this tea, and the quality is apparent. Despite the dark color of the leaves, this tea brews up incredibly light with beautiful notes of almond and hay. This green tea makes one of the most refreshing green iced teas! The delicate, nutty flavor profile carries over extremely well when served chilled.
Brewing tips – Because of the delicate nature of this tea, I recommend cold brewing it so as to retain all of its nuance. Cold brewed iced tea is very simple. Just add loose leaf tea to cold water and leave it in the refrigerator overnight. Strain and discard the leaves after 6-12 hours (less steep time will result in a lighter tea). This tea is beautiful with nothing added, but if you want to add a hint of sweetness, I recommend adding a very small amount of wildflower honey.
General Iced Tea Tips:
- Always brew your iced tea slightly stronger than your hot tea as the ice will melt and dilute your tea. For hot brewed tea, allow your hot tea to cool completely before adding ice to prevent too much dilution
- When making a sweetened iced tea, be sure to add your sugar while the tea is hot so that it dissolves quickly and evenly. Don’t skimp on the sugar – I always use Demerara sugar cubes for a richer flavor!
- Add more tea than usual per cup of hot water to achieve a stronger brew. Steep the tea as usual (if you steep the tea longer, you will bring out the tannins rather than creating a stronger brew!)
- Don’t break or crush your tea leaves while brewing. If you must, gently stir them. When damaged, tea leaves release more tannins and produce a bitter finish.
- Brew your tea at the proper temperature so as to not scorch the leaves
- Green Tea – 170°F
- White Tea – 180°F
- Oolong Tea – 210°F
- Black Tea – 210°F
- Herbal Tea – 210°F
- If you are working with a delicate tea (especially white or green tea) try using the cold brew method to retain their more delicate flavor profiles.
- When storing your iced tea, be sure to put a lid on it! As with other items in your fridge, your tea will absorb other (often not so ideal) aromas found in your fridge.
Julia Hallman wears many hats at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge – among them are cheesemonger, classroom instructor and tea buyer.