Drinks

Bou(tea)que Brews

How to jazz up the classic summer drink
Photo: Tasting Table
Iced Tea

It's officially iced tea season. And while the classic sweaty glass of amber liquid—rimmed with a bright wedge of lemon, obviously—is an old faithful, we invite you to get creative with that cuppa. From steeped fruit and herb infusions to pie and ice cream sandwiches, any mundanities associated with this drink are guaranteed to be broken. Join us on a journey to jazz up iced tea.

① Take your tea to the next level in 10 seconds or less by dropping chopped fruit or veg into the pitcher to steep along with the tea leaves. 

We find rhubarb, cucumber and celery give tea a cool whisper of freshness, while hot pepper and melon hit the tongue hard. For elevated flavor, add your produce while the water is still hot.

② The classic recipe may use black tea leaves, but here's a secret: Green tea makes a more subtle base for getting punch-drunk. 

Whip up a batch of green tea punch with a little help from lime juice, nutmeg and rum.

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③ When you're craving more on your palate than iced tea proper, mix in fresh fruit juice.

Channel the tropics with the nectar of warm-hued fruits (think: mango, papaya, pineapple) or make a purée of blue and red berries for a drink that tastes like deep summertime. Our favorite is a twist on the classic Arnold Palmer, swapping out lemonade for fresh limeade.

④ Ditch the concept of iced tea as a beverage and make an army of iced tea ice cream sandwiches.

A delicate Earl Grey-infused ice cream smushed between two chocolate-heavy cookies is the refined answer to those ice cream truck Chipwiches we all love so much.

⑤ Perhaps you're sick of standard iced tea altogether? It might be time for a glass of mugicha, Japan's answer to the drink.

Barley tea is the result of roasted unhulled barley steeped in hot water. The tannic tonic is just as refreshing as the stuff in your fridge but with a completely unique flavor akin to "charred bread juice." Find out for yourself by ordering a cup or picking up a packet of mugicha at your nearest Asian market.

⑥ If you're one of those slightly sweaty souls trudging through summer without air-conditioning, use the sun's rays to your advantage and steep tea.

There's no boiling water needed for a batch of spiked sun tea. Mix lemongrass simple syrup and peppermint tea bags with filtered water and a generous glug of gin. Let the mixture soak up the sun for a few hours, then pour over ice.

⑦ Pair iced tea with your menu at dinner parties and picnics. Plan your spread, then whip up a simple syrup infused with your meal's main herbs and spices.

Pilfer a few arugula and radish leaves from that salad and add them to your brew for a verdant zip or throw in a few handfuls of star anise, cardamom and whole peppercorn to perfume your tea with smokier spices.

⑧ Can't decide between iced tea or cold brew?

The best of both worlds can be found in coffee leaf tea, made from the dried leaves of a coffee plant. Available for purchase from a few distributors and for sipping at select cafés, this antioxidant-rich dark blend emits flavor notes of licorice and honeycomb—and also green pepper. Admit it: You're intrigued.

⑨ For the tea fan who can't pick which dessert goes best with a cuppa, there is sweet tea pie.

A strong brew of orange pekoe tea is folded into a classic chess pie for two Southern favorites rolled into one. A few bites in, and you'll think you're on a creaky porch swing deep in the South.

⑩ Add oomph to tea with the simplest, most elegant trick: Freeze edible flower petals in ice cubes.

Gather petals of rose and nasturtium—preferably from a flower shop or grocery store—and place them in an ice tray filled halfway with water. Freeze, then fill the molds to the top. Pop 'em out and pile in a highball glass. Really out to impress? Use fruit juice (or limeade) instead of water.

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