With a little effort, some know-how and the right recipes, anyone can elevate the world’s greatest warm-weather drink from standard to gourmet…
Start with cold-brewed iced tea. Brewing hot tea and pouring it over ice is the fastest way to get iced tea, but cold-brew tea is worth the wait for a much more flavorful drink.
1. Combine five tablespoons of loose tea or five tea bags in one liter of cold, filtered water.
2. Close the container, give it a few gentle shakes, and put it in the refrigerator.
3. Wait six hours.
4. Strain the tea, or remove the bags.
5. Pour the concentrate over ice, and add cold water to suit your taste.
Here are a few delicious recipes to get you started…
Cucumber Agua Fresca. This is the perfect cooling, porch-sitting treat. Make cold brew chamomile tea the night before. Combine four cups of chopped cucumber, one-quarter cup of sugar, three cups of water and the juice from half a lime in a blender. Blend until smooth. Strain. Press the pulp to extract all the liquid. Add the liquid to the cold-brewed tea, pour over ice and serve—garnish with fresh basil or a mint sprig.
Rosie Arnold Palmer. The Mud House in St. Louis developed this drink based on my company Big Heart Tea’s Cup of Love rose tea, but any rose tea will do. Cold-brew rose tea, but for three hours. Then, instead of using water to dilute it, start with a pitcher full of ice, add the concentrate and an equal portion of your favorite lemonade. Add a splash of seltzer, rose syrup and fresh lemon wedge to individual servings to finish it off.
Creamy Chai Horchata. This riff on traditional Mexican horchata, which is a sweet, rich plant-milk drink, is a bit more adventurous—and not cold-brewed. But it is a refreshing, light and creamy concoction that is well worth the effort.
The night before, gently crack one cup of uncooked long-grain white rice in a blender. Pour the cracked rice into a bowl with three-quarter cup of raw or blanched almonds, one-quarter cup of sugar and one small cinnamon stick. Set the bowl aside. Heat four cups of water to just below boiling, and add five tablespoons/bags of chai. Steep for two minutes. Add the brewed tea to the dry ingredients. Let the mixture mingle overnight. About 12 hours later, remove the cinnamon stick, pour the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. Strain the mixture, pressing down to remove the liquid. Add four cups of cold water, stir and serve over ice with a dash of cinnamon.