Iced Tea Month is in a few days. Iced tea is a unique invention credited to the United States. There are many ways to prepare and enjoy iced tea. Sweetened or unsweetened, floral, fruity, or a classic black iced tea blend. Welcome to Iced Tea Month!
History Of Iced Tea
Iced tea was created quite by happenstance. It was 1904 in St. Louis, Missouri, during a humid and sweltering summer at The World’s Fair. A merchant named Richard Blechynden was credited as starting the craze of iced tea. He was selling hot tea to fair goers and not having much success. Very few people wanted hot tea on a scorching summer’s day. Richard decided to pour the hot tea over ice and serve the tea that way to customers. His iced tea was a phenomenal hit at the fair. Iced tea was a refreshing and new way to enjoy tea and still is a preferred way to consume tea. An interesting fact, approximately 75% - 80% of consumed teas in the United States is iced tea (teausa.com).
Making Iced Tea
A traditional way to make iced tea is to use boiling water. Tea leaves are steeped in boiling water, using an additional amount of tea leaves, to ensure the desired strength of tea when ice has melted. The tea is decanted (poured into a serving container), diluted with cold water, then poured over ice and served.
Iced tea can be cold infused. This method is a one step process of making iced tea. Prior to refrigerator steeping, rinse the leaves quickly, pouring hot water over the tea leaves to soften them and unfurl them a bit. Discard the water afterwards. Pour cold water and tea into a beverage container. Then place the container in the refrigerator to steep. The steeping can take several hours to overnight, depending on the desired strength of the tea. This type of steeping is almost impossible to over steep.
Another way to make iced tea is tailored more for Japanese green teas (but could be used for any type of tea). One way of making iced tea in Japan is to place green tea leaves into a Kyusu Japanese teapot. This is a beautiful and uniquely designed teapot with the handle on the side of the pot rather than on the back of the pot, directly behind the spout. Once the leaves are placed in the teapot then place ice into the teapot, filling the teapot to the brim. Let steep until the ice has completely melted. Gently stir the tea and then enjoy! A benefit of cold infusion and ice steeped green tea is the increase in umami flavor, and a creamy mouth feel.
In addition, cold infused or ice steeped iced tea usually contains less caffeine, and a decreased bitter taste, than tea first steeped with hot water. The caffeine molecule is a large molecule that is pulled out of the leaf cell wall more quickly with hotter water temperatures than ice water. Another benefit of cold infused iced tea is that the tea often has fewer tannins than hot water steeped tea. Tannins are chemical compounds found in tea, more so in oxidized tea than white or green teas. These chemicals give black and dark teas their amber, brown color and can give tea its bitter taste.
I grew up with the proverbial glass jar with tea bags and water warming up in the sun. This was the only way to make sun tea. The glass jar would be left out in the sun for hours. There were sun tea infusions that became extremely hot and the tea needed to be cooled down prior to consumption.
In current times, it is recommended to not make sun tea. Tea leaves are an organic matter. Tea steeped in the sun is in comparison, like a Petri dish set under a lab lamp. Microbes thrive and grow in moist, and warm conditions. There could be a chance that microbes could grow in the sun tea that has been left out for hours in the sun to steep. It is healthier to use an alternative method to steep the tea.
Clouded Iced Tea
Cloudy iced tea can still taste refreshing and flavorful regardless of the cloudiness of the tea. The clouding is referred to as “creaming.” Clouding occurs when the tea temperature is dropped drastically, for example, when poured over ice. A precipitate (a solid) is formed and released into the water due to the rapid change in water temperature. The solids are polyphenols which include flavonoids, and tannins. These compounds, along with acids and caffeine can turn to solid particles in the tea, thus not dissolving, in tea that has been iced rapidly. To prevent clouding, dilute the hot tea with cold water, then pour the tea over ice.
Iced Tea Pairings And Recipes
In Cynthia Gold’s book Culinary Tea, she suggests letting tea cool before placing fruit or flower petals in the tea. This will keep fruit and flowers looking fresh and crisp. Several suggested pairings of fruit and tea Cynthia recommends include Ceylon black tea paired with plums, blackberries, or peaches. Another recommendation is to pair Darjeeling black tea with apples and pears. Cynthia’s suggestions of pairing green tea with mint, cinnamon, passion fruit, or peaches sounds refreshing. White tea Cynthia recommends pairing with rose petals.
Kevin Gascyone’s book Tea includes a citrusy iced tea recipe; perfect for summer.
Cold Infusion Iced Tea
- 1 orange, finely chopped
- 1 small bunch fresh mint
- 8 teaspoons (40 ml) Assam or other tea
- 5 teaspoons (25 ml) raw sugar
- 20 green cardamom pods
- 5 star anise
- Rose petals (optional)
- 4 cups (1L) cold water
Place all ingredients in a large container and add the cold water. Cover and allow to infuse for 10 hours in the refrigerator. Strain and serve. Add sugar to taste. Can be served with pomegranate seeds as a garnish.
Chilled And Refreshing
Iced tea is a refreshing beverage at a fair, the beach, gardening, or any time. Have fun concocting your own recipes and exploring steeping methods during Iced Tea Month.
Americi, Hugo, Jasmin Desharnais, Kevin Gascoyne, Francois Marchand. Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties. Firefly Books Ltd., 2011.
Gold, Cynthia and Lisa Stern. Culinary Tea: More Than 100 Recipes Steeped In Tradition From Around The World. Running Press, 2010.
About the Author
Leslie Sundberg is a World Tea Academy Certified Tea Specialist, a World Tea Academy Apprentice Tea Sommelier, a Specialty Tea Institute Levl IV trained Tea Specialist, and a Tea and Business Etiquette Specialist. On any given day, Leslie can be found teaching, speaking or sharing in the joys of a cup of tea. No matter what Leslie is doing or where she is, one thing remains constant: 4:00 in the afternoon is tea time!