June 10th was National Iced Tea Day. If you missed lifting a chilled glass like I did, here’s your chance to make up for it.
Whether you drink it sweet or unsweet, the best tea — taken hot or cold — starts not with a jar and a spoon but with loose tea or tea bags, hot water and some steeping.
From there, you get to do whatever suits your taste buds — over ice.
Tea has seen an enormous increase in popularity in the United States in the past decade, likely due to blends becoming more available through retail operations like Teavana and Starbucks and single-serve pods like Keurig. Locally, Fezziwig’s Tea & Gourmet Market in downtown Lebanon sells loose-leaf teas and regularly teaches classes on the subject that quickly sell out.
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In 2014, we drank more than 3.6 billion gallons of tea, says the Tea Association of the U.S.A., an industry and consumer information group. About 84 percent of all the tea we drank was black tea, 15 percent was green tea and the remaining was Oolong, white and dark tea.
Young Americans’ thirst for tea is unprecedented, eschewing coffee in favor of tea. Approximately four in five consumers in the United tates drink tea, with most of them — 87 percent — millennials (born 1981 to 1997), according to the Tea Association.
Green tea, whether in loose/bag or matcha, the powdered leaf form, has come to the forefront as having medicinal as well as refreshing qualities. (See fact box.) Its sales are growing at a much higher rate than black tea — up more than 60 percent over the last 10 years, says the association.
The beginnings of iced tea are surrounded by legend, including that it was first served at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Not true.
A true Southern drink (South Carolina farmers planted the first tea in the United States), pre-Civil War green tea often was mixed cold as a punch with lots of sugar, sweet cream and alcohol, particularly claret or champagne.
In case you’re looking for some new ways to dress up this classic summer drink, here is a selection that might sweeten up and cool off a hot day. Feel free to experiment.
Governor’s Mansion Summer Peach Tea Punch
3 family-size tea bags
2 cups loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1 (33.8-ounce) bottle peach nectar
1/2 (12-ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1/2 cup simple sugar syrup*
1-liter bottle ginger ale, chilled
1-liter bottle club soda, chilled
Garnish: fresh peach wedges
1. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan; add tea bags and mint leaves. Boil 1 minute; remove from heat. Cover and steep 10 minutes.
2. Discard tea bags and mint. Pour into a 1-gallon container; add peach nectar, lemonade concentrate, and simple sugar syrup. Cover and chill 8 to 24 hours.
3. Pour chilled tea mixture into a punch bowl or pitcher. Stir in ginger ale and club soda just before serving. Garnish, if desired. Makes about 1 gallon.
*Basic simple sugar syrup: 1 part water to 1 part sugar. Bring water and sugar to a boil and boil until sugar is dissolved. Cool to room temperature to use or transfer to a jar and store in a cool pantry or refrigerate.
Looking for hibiscus tea? Tazo’s blend is called Passion.
Citrus & Mint Hibiscus Iced Tea
8 cups water
4 packets of Stevia, or equivalent of another sweetener
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves (about 20 leaves), plus more for garnish
3 hibiscus tea bags
Juice of 1 orange, 1 lemon and 1 lime (about 1 cup of juice all together), plus more lime wedges for garnish
In a medium pot, boil water and Stevia until the powder is dissolved, about 3 minutes; mix well.
Turn off heat and add mint leaves and 3 tea bags and let steep for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, juice the citrus fruit and combine together in one cup; set aside.
Prepare a tea strainer over a mixing bowl nestled in a larger bowl of ice water. When the tea is done steeping, remove the tea bags and pour through the strainer into the mixing bowl. Discard the mint leaves. Let the bowl chill in the ice bath.
Put some ice cubes in a pitcher and add the citrus juice; when tea is cooled, add it to the pitcher and mix well. Serve in glasses with more ice and garnish with more mint sprigs and lime wedges. Makes 6 servings.
Raspberry Peach Iced Tea Lemonade
FOR THE RASPBERRY PEACH NECTAR:
1 pound fresh, ripe peaches
3-4 cups water
2 cups fresh raspberries
FOR THE LEMONADE:
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 8 large lemons)
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, optional
FOR THE ICED TEA:
8-9 cups (64 to 72 ounces) unsweetened tea
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup peaches, sliced
To make the Raspberry Peach Nectar: Bring 3-4 cups of water to boil in a medium-sized stock pot or sauce pan (you want enough water to be able to easily submerge the peaches). Once boiling, carefully dip each peach into the water and leave them there until the skin becomes soft and begins to loosen from the flesh. Using a slotted spoon remove the peaches from the boiling water and place them in a large bowl of ice cold water; this will stop the cooking process. Once cool to the touch, peel the peaches, remove the pit and cut into slices.
Place the sliced peaches, raspberries, and 1 cup of water in a blender; pulse until smooth.
Strain the liquefied raspberry/peach mixture through a sieve. Store the nectar in a sealed jar or container in the refrigerator until ready to use. Can be made up to 2 days in advance.
For the lemonade: Using a citrus juicer or manual squeeze tool, juice lemons until you have 1 full cup of juice. Pour this juice into a large pitcher. Stir in the sugar, if using.
To assemble: In a large pitcher or punch bowl combine the iced tea, lemonade and nectar. Stir well to combine, then taste. If too sweet, add more lemon juice; if too tart, add more nectar. Pour into glasses with ice and garnish with extra raspberries and peach slices.
Yield: 1 large pitcher; about 8 cups.
2 cups strawberries, plus extra for decoration
32 ounces of brewed tea, chilled
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups fresh strawberries, plus extra for garnish
Vodka or rum
Blend 2 cups strawberries in a food processor until smooth; strain.
Mix together pureed strawberries, tea, desired amount of sugar to taste and lemon juice.
Chill. Before serving, add vodka or rum to taste.
Yield: Serves 4.
Garnish: Decorate and serve with a fresh strawberry (stem removed), ice and a sprig of mint.
Note: Old Fashion glasses work well with this recipe.
Adapted from EdgeOnTheNet.com
Sweet Green Tea Matcha Smoothie
1 teaspoon matcha green tea powder
1 cup almond milk (or prefered alternative)
1/2 cup pineapple chunks
Blend all ingredients until smooth and enjoy.
MINT AND LIME ICE TEA
FOR THE TEA:
8 cups (2 quarts) water
8 green tea bags
1 bunch fresh mint
1 1/2 cups superfine or granulated sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 4 medium limes)
6 fresh mint sprigs, for garnish (optional)
1 medium lime, cut into sixths, for garnish (optional)
For the tea: Place the water in a medium pot and bring to a simmer over high heat. Remove from heat, add the tea bags and mint, cover, and let steep 10 minutes.
Once the tea has steeped, discard the tea bags, add the sugar and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Let cool to room temperature, then place in the refrigerator to cool completely, about 2 hours.
To serve: Once the tea is cold, remove the mint and stir in the lime juice. Taste and adjust with more lime juice or sugar as desired. Serve over ice with a sprig of mint and a wedge of lime (if using). Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Powdered green tea primer
Matcha is finely ground, high-quality green tea leaves.
In Japanese, it translates as green tea. The traditional Japanese tea ceremony centers on the preparation, serving and drinking of matcha.
Potency: Because it is made from high-quality tea, and the whole leaves are ingested, it’s a more potent source of nutrients than steeped green tea.
In addition to providing small amounts of vitamins and minerals, matcha is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, which have been tied to protection against heart disease and cancer, as well as better blood-sugar regulation, blood-pressure reduction, and anti-aging.
Another polyphenol in matcha called EGCG has been shown in research to boost metabolism, and slow or halt the growth of cancer cells.
Caffeine: Because you’re consuming whole leaves in matcha, you may get three times as much caffeine than a cup of steeped tea, about the amount in a cup of brewed coffee.
The preparation of matcha has long been associated with Zen. This is likely one reason it’s becoming so popular, as meditation is becoming more and more mainstream.
The taste of matcha is strong. Some people describe it as grass or spinach-like. Because of this it may be sweetened to improve its palatability.
Tea experts warn that with matcha, quality is key, and it comes at a cost. In other words, high quality, fresh, pure matcha is expensive. A low price tag can be a red flag for a poor quality product to which sugar and other products have been added. Read the label before buying.
Note: Some green teas/matcha have been shown to contain lead, which is absorbed by the plant from the environment, particularly tea grown in China. Steeped green tea loses almost all of its lead when the leaves are discarded. Because green tea leaves are consumed with matcha, check labels for lead-free products when buying. For example: Sei Mee Tea (http://www.groundgreentea.com) sells USDA organic matcha that is lead-free and caffeine-free.