June 10 is National Iced Tea Day. And why not celebrate iced tea as the summer beverage of choice? When the weather warms up, nothing is as refreshing ice cubes clinking in a glass of golden tea. Iced tea finds its roots in the US, after all. In 1904, British tea plantation owner Richard Blechynden set up a booth to sell hot tea at the St. Louis World Fair. But fair visitors didn’t want anything hot because it was a steamy day outside. Blechynden was a creative fellow: he dumped hot tea over ice and served it cold to refresh his customers. It was an immediate hit. This was the first known use of iced tea.
Tea isn’t just refreshing, it has proven health benefits. Tea flavonoids are good for the heart and help fight cancer. Tea is packed with anti-oxidants, especially green and white teas. Experts don’t agree on how much tea you need to gain maximum benefit, but the general consensus is that ANY tea is good and the more the better. Many bottled/processed teas are loaded with artificial sweeteners and preservatives and are not health-supporting, so read the label!
But wait – can tea be eco-friendly? After all, it is traditionally grown only in China and India. All those miles to travel, that carbon footprint… until now. Domestically grown USA teas are an expanding business. We love green tea from Virgina’s First Tea Farm, which is close to our location in the Baltimore/DC corridor. And check out this list of American tea growers – there may be one or several near you! Goodbye carbon footprint! Hello tall, frosty glass of iced tea!
When you make iced tea, be it a pitcher or a glass, precisely follow the brewing directions on the package. All teas reach their peak flavor by brewing for different amounts of time in hot water. Never over brew your tea – it gets bitter! Look for loose tea. Not only does loose tea tend to be better quality (tea bags are often made of tea dust, not leaves), but loose tea enables you to ditch extra packaging. You can get one or two tea balls or infusers and they will last for years. I have some metal tea balls that are over 15 years-old and going strong! When you brew with loose tea leaves, sometimes you can also re-use the leaves for a second brew. Try it and see what you think – more bang for the buck. Then, at the end of it all, loose tea leaves are completely compostable and very good for your garden, adding those awesome antioxidants to your soil!
This trio of tea drinks are all vegan and gluten-free as written and use seasonal fruit and herbs that will be appearing at most farmer’s markets this month. Each one uses an American grown tea, as pictured below.
Each also has a suggested alcohol addition, if you want to make it into a cocktail for your summer party! Make any of these as a single drink or a pitcher – the measurements are given as “one part” – meaning if you want a single serving which is about a cup; if you’re making a pitcher, double or triple to the size of your serving vessel. Pitcher sizes vary dramatically, so you will need to measure to fit the one you’re using. It’s a little math, but worth the effort!
- One parts brewed white tea, cooled to room temp
- (We used Finger Lakes Tea Co. white tea, from New York state)
- One part ice
- One part watermelon, cubed and seeded (or buy precut seedless variety)
- 1 tsp. fresh mint leaves, per serving
- Optional, 1 shot white rum, per serving
- One part brewed green tea, cooled to room temp
- (we used Charleston Tea Plantation Island Green tea, from South Carolina)
- One part ginger ale (we used Bruce Cost Unfiltered Original)
- 1 nectarine, sliced and pitted per serving
- 1/4 cup blackberries, per serving
- Ice, to serve
- Optional, 1 shot vodka, per serving (we liked it with Square One Organic Basil Vodka)
- One part brewed black tea, warm (we used Jacked Black from Table Rock Tea Company in South Carolina)
- 1/4 to 1/2 part sugar
- Juice from 1/4 lemon, per serving
- One part cool water
- Drop of almond extract, per serving
- Palm-full of blueberries, per serving
- Ice, to serve
- Optional, 1 shot limoncello, per serving
- Optional, lemon slices, to garnish
- Add all ingredients to a blender and use "Crush" function until ice is the texture of slush. Enjoy immediately!
- In a glass or pitcher, combine equal parts brewed green tea and ginger ale.
- Add sliced nectarines and blackberries. Stir to combine and allow to chill in fridge for flavors to meld about one hour.
- Add vodka if using before chilling. Serve over ice.
- Sweeten if desired with a splash of agave or simple syrup.
- In a glass or pitcher combine warm brewed black tea with sugar, lemon juice. Stir well to dissolve the sugar, then add the cool water, drop of almond extract and blueberries. As an option, you can muddle the blueberries at this point to make your tea a brilliant purple and enhance the blueberry taste. Or if you prefer the golden color of brewed tea, leave the berries whole, as they will still take on the tea flavor.
- Chill in fridge about two to three hours, until temp of tea is refreshingly cold.
- To serve, garnish with lemon wedges. Serve over ice.
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