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Summertime Tea

Filed under: Drinks
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photos by Meghan Phelan

It’s summertime, and there’s nothing more refreshing than a chilled glass of iced tea. Knowing how to prepare homemade iced tea is both inexpensiveand useful, especially if you’re averse to buying sugary bottled teas from the convenience store.

As fresh and diverse as coffee, there are six types of tea grown all over the world: black, oolong, green, yellow, white, and post-fermented, or pu-ehr. Although each type has a flavor all it’s own, you might be surprised to know that tea leaves come from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis.

When preparing homemade tea, loose-leaf tea is preferable to tea bags. Loose-leaf tea generally consists of flavorful, whole tea leaves as opposed to tea bags, which contain smaller tea leaves and tea dust. Blue Mountain Coffees on Elmwood has a nice selection of loose-leaf teas, as well as tea hardware, including teapots and teacups. Condrell’s in Kenmore, in addition to being a candy and ice cream parlor, also has a good selection of loose-leaf teas. Not surprisingly, their teas are flavored to smell and taste like delicious treats, such as lemon soufflé and caramel apple. Condrell’s has convenient scent jars next to their loose-leaf teas so customers can experience the tea’s flavor before buying it.

100_3898For tea connoisseurs, TeaLeafs in Williamsville stocks over 220 kinds of loose-leaf teas, ranging from fun, fruity blends like “Sweet Watermelon Oolong,” “Sencha Kyoto Cherry Rose,” and “Magic Moon,” to luxurious and rare selections like “Jasmine Pearls,” “Golden Monkey,” and “Mandarin Black Pu-erh.” There’s also a selection of organic teas and tea hardware, including rare cast iron and Chinese Yixing clay teapots. Comparable to a tea boutique, TeaLeafs sells all the necessary teatime ritual tools.

For a fun, tea twist at summer parties, pick up some of TeaLeafs’ “Owl’s Brew” tea blends. These blends are specifically made to mix with alcohol for unique cocktails. TeaLeafs offers three different “Owl’s Brew” blends: the “Classic,” a blend of English Breakfast tea and lemon peel, the “Black & Pink,” a blend of Darjeeling tea, strawberries, lemon peel, and hibiscus, and the “Coco-Lada,” a sweet and spicy twist on the classic Pina Colada, that contains a blend of black teas, traditional chai spices, coconut, and pineapple.

Once you have the proper teas and tea hardware, you can enjoy making both hot and iced tea. Here’s an easy, two-step iced tea recipe to try at home:

STEP 1: Follow the tea’s brewing instructions, but use twice the amount of tea.

STEP 2: Once the tea is finished brewing, pour the hot tea over ice, and wait for it to chill. By using twice the amount of tea, the tea’s natural flavor won’t be diluted once the ice is added. If you want the flavor of the tea to be stronger, just add more tea leaves rather than steeping the tea longer. Over-steeping tea will only give your drink a strong, bitter flavor.

Ice Tea - Glass and Pitcher

Another old-fashioned, summertime tea treat that’s easy to make at home is “sun tea.” Just fill up a pitcher with filtered water, throw in your favorite tea, cover the pitcher with plastic wrap, and then leave it out in the sun for a few hours. The flavor of sun tea is mellower than hot tea poured over ice since sun tea takes a few hours (as opposed to minutes) to infuse its flavor into the water.

A healthy alternative to soft drinks, iced coffee, and other sugary beverages, tea is rich in antioxidants and can be one of the healthiest, flavorful beverage choices you can make!

– by Adelina Simpson & Meghan Phelan