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Chill out with some iced tea know-how

Now, we’ve had some changeable weather recently. It’s hot, it’s not, it’s overcast, it’s raining. I want to prepare us all for those beautiful, sunny, “let’s have a picnic” gems. (I maintain that they are coming!). Now, I want to give you the skills to brew anything your heart desires.

Icing tea. It isn’t difficult. Once you go through the motions a couple of times, you’ll have the mojo forever. Do not fear the icy magic – the results are spectacular. Let me first clear up one thing. A certain misconception seems to be floating around: that only specific types of tea can be iced. The reality is this: any tea or infusion/tisane whose flavour you enjoy, will very likely be enjoyed as an iced counterpart. I have seen heavily smoked tea, lapsang souchong (often described as having a “campfire” aroma), being used in a quirky cocktail. If you like it – you BREW it, honey-boo-boo-child.

Let’s cover the basics today. There are two main ways to ice a tea. Simply put, these are: hot brew/quick brew method and the cold brew/slow brew method. One is quick enough that you can prepare it for a same-day beverage. The other involves less effort, but more time. Flavour and strength of brew will end up much the same, regardless of which method you choose. Chemically, I have heard it likened to the difference between “pulling” and “pushing” the flavour out of the leaves.

For each metric cup of water you will end up with – use a tablespoon’s worth of tea leaves.
You will be covering the leaves in cold water, hence filling full the receptacle of your choice and letting the infusion draw for at least eight hours. This translates to “put leaves in cold water, stick in the fridge.” Easy, right? Right! For a surprise in the morning, just wait overnight and wake up to a tasty elixir. Simply strain and serve.


Again, you will need a tablespoon of leaves for each metric cup of liquid.

Only use enough hot water to cover the leaves and give room for their expansion. Keep in mind that some classes of tea will expand up to 7 or 8 times their dry mass. The more room you can give the leaves to swim and play and interact, the more even a brew you will have in result.

Black tea, herbal infusions and fruit infusions want 100°c water from a freshly boiled kettle. If you are brewing green, white, or greener style oolong tea, you will need to use water below boiling temperature. 80°c is a good starting point. Finer or more delicate teas in these styles may require an even lower temperature! Oh how those Japanese greens LOVE to be particular….

Once your tea has infused to your desired strength (depending on your tea anywhere between 1 – 30 minutes, wow!), strain the leaves and top entirely with ice cubes. This dilutes the concentrated tea to a correct strength and chills the tea right down.  The recap on this one: steep leaves in a bit of hot water, remove leaves, add super lots of ice to fill.

Let’s talk garnish. It’s beautiful. It’s tasty. Fruit, herb, spice, blossom. All are viable. Choose one ingredient for a simple and unassuming aesthetic or put a full on fruit salad in there if you wish. Cinnamon quills add an aromatic softness. Rose blossoms are perfect for a romantic spin. Citrus will liven up a tea with pleasant tang.  Chuck in a classic leafy sprig of mint or a cheek of lemon per glass. Delightful!

Now don’t feel pressured to exclusively choose glass for iced tea. Granted, it looks so utterly refreshing to see a crystal tea complete with garnish in a glass covered in dewy condensation. BUT it can be a lovely homage to the traditional piping hot original to use your antiques. Pop some ice cubes in those porcelain friends. You can go all out and freeze some edible flowers into ice cubes for a festive floral touch. Track down some candied violets! Nasturtiums! Marigold!

Some suggested, tried and true iced tea equipment:

  • Huge tea infuser ball. This guy is large enough to accommodate a full jugs worth of required leaf.
  • A barista’s thermometer. If using the hot brew method for delicate tea – check your water temperature before the leaves come into contact. You’ll thank me later!
  • Tempered glass. Make sure your vessel of choice can handle 100°c water. Let’s be OH&S conscious here.

Happy brewing.

Time to get me one of those tapped glass dispensers to share the iced goodness….

the knave of cups x.

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