Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Iced Teas of the Day: Pure Tea, and Herbal Blends

Today is a very hot day here in Philadelphia. It's currently 91, and the projected high was 96 but I see it's now downgraded to 94. I don't mind the heat, honestly, but I have switched to iced tea after a single cup of hot tea this morning. I have two batches brewed up:

Iced Ali shan oolong:

The caffeinated iced tea I'm drinking, the only true tea, is an iced A Li Son Oolong from Tradition, which is a surprisingly inexpensive whole-leaf Taiwanese high-mountain greener oolong. I have never made it iced, and I'm curious how it would turn out.

It's good, not my favorite iced tea, but good. One thing that is very interesting to me, however, is how different the aroma and flavor is of the iced tea compared to the hot tea. This is a tea that I normally brew with multiple brief infusions, although I have brewed it with a single, long infusion to compare. With iced tea, I make only a single, long infusion (this one was about 15 minutes--this is a whole-leaf tea with very large leaves, and it needs a long time to fully infuse.)

The result is a pale yellow-green cup with surprising opacity (contrasting with the very clear cup if brewing this tea hot--does anyone have a clue as to a scientific explanation of this?). The aroma is honey-like, with tones of wood. Much more floral, and with a lighter overall character, than when drinking it iced. Smoother flavor. It really tastes as if I have added honey, and I have not added any.

An iced herbal tea:

My other iced "tea" was an herbal blend, containing no actual tea. For a four-cup batch, I used two teaspoons of rooibos, two heaping teaspoons of lemon verbena, and about the equivalent of two teaspoons of dried lemon balm, which I had grown myself in my garden in Delaware. This is a similar blend to an iced tea+herb blend and an iced herbal blend I wrote about earlier. I have been refining it and I love this batch, but now I'm out of lemon balm so I'll need to switch it up.

Lemon balm is interchangeable with lemon verbena; I find the two plants are most similar of all the lemon-scented herbs, which makes sense as they are the most closely related, both being in the Lamiales order (which contains the mint family and the verbena/vervain family, as well as other food plants such as olive and sesame, and some favorite floral scents including lilac). I also have been buying fresh lemongrass, which is available at the reading terminal market, and have been experimenting steeping it fresh in hot water to make an herbal tea, which I have tried both hot and iced, and I hope to write more about that soon.

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