As the temperature rises there's nothing quite like a refreshing cool drink to quench your thirst after spending time in the garden. Embracing the natural goodness of homegrown herbs, herbal iced tea offers a delightful way to revitalise your senses while beating the summer heat.
In this herbalist's guide, we explore combinations of herbs, fruit and spices to help you create your own signature blend to keep you cool and rejuvenated all summer long. Let’s get started!
Tea or Tisane?
Iced tea traditionally uses cooled black or green tea as a base, with sweetener, fruit and other flavours added. It gives a caffeine hit and the familiar flavour of tea with a herbal or fruity twist.
By contrast, a tisane is a caffeine-free alternative that can be based on herbal tea, fruit or fresh herbs. Chamomile, ginger and peppermint are popular herbal tisane bases. Personal preference will dictate whether you make a tea or a tisane; whichever you choose, the idea is to build on the base to create a blend of different flavours that’s refreshing and pleasing to the palate.
Creating the Perfect Blends
There’s an art to blending different tea bases, herbs, spices and fruit to achieve the perfect iced tea, and some experimentation may be required to come up with a blend with just the right combination of flavours and sweetener. Some herbs retain their fresh taste when steeped in boiling water, while others, like some basils, have flavours that are less stable and will break down when heated and stored. It’s worth trying a few small batches with different ingredients to create your signature blend.
Sweetening the Pot: Natural Sweeteners and Garnishes
For those who prefer a touch of sweetness in their iced tea, sugar or sugar syrup can be used. Alternatively, natural sweeteners like honey, agave nectar and stevia also work well. Fruit juice can also be used as a natural sweetener, though its strong flavour can overpower other ingredients, so use it sparingly.
Basic Herbal Iced Tea Recipe
- 3-4 black, green or herbal tea bags
- 8 cups of water
- Herbs, spices and fruit pieces for flavour. As a guide, ½ cup of fresh herbs to 8 cups of water should be sufficient to infuse a gentle herbal flavour.
- Optional: sugar syrup or natural sweetener of your choice
- Ice cubes
- Add the tea bags to a medium-sized saucepan.
- Pour boiling water over the tea bags and let them steep for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the desired strength is achieved.
- Remove the tea bags (leaving them in can give the tea unpleasant tannin overtones) and add fruit pieces, herbs and spices. Mix to combine.
- Place the saucepan on the stove over low heat and allow the flavours to infuse for five to 15 minutes.
- Add sweetener to taste, dissolving the sugar if necessary.
- Let the tea cool to room temperature.
- Strain the cooled tea and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Do not store tea with the steeped herbs as they can spoil during storage. A better option is to use extra fresh herbs as garnishes, added when serving.
- Fill a jug with ice cubes and garnishes and pour the chilled herbal iced tea over the top.
Suggested Flavour Combinations:
- Lemon and thai basil for a classic iced tea with a spicy twist.
- Sage, lemon balm and peppermint for an earthy, herbal flavour.
- Raspberry and mint for a refreshingly fruity tea that kids will love.
- Ginger and peach slices for a sophisticated mocktail or cocktail base.
Sipping in Style: Cocktails, Mocktails and Garnishes
Take your herbal iced teas to the next level by turning them into delightful cocktails or mocktails. At its simplest this may entail adding sparkling instead of still water and a fruit garnish when the iced tea is served. Edible flowers, sprigs of fresh herbs or herbal ice cubes make excellent garnishes, as do cucamelons and strawberries.
To turn your iced tea into an alcoholic cocktail, add a splash of rum, vodka or Pimm’s before serving; rum complements citrus-based iced teas, while Pimm’s is good for fruity concoctions.
You’re now equipped to embark on an experimental journey to find your preferred flavour blends. Cheers to a season of herbal bliss!