Barista Josiah Andrews holds a blend of loose tea leaves for an iced hibiscus berry tea Tuesday at Coffee House on Fifth. The coffee house makes its own concentrates from tea leaves to make a variety of specialty teas. Photo by: Jennifer Mosbrucker/Dispatch Staff
June 12, 2019 10:24:49 AM
Is there such a thing as a tea-aholic? If so, I am one. Honestly, I will choose a dining destination based on the tea it serves. Perhaps I'm not alone: According to a survey by the Tea Council of the USA, Americans consumed more than 84 billion servings of tea in 2018.
Yes, barring a dip in the pool, few things are more refreshing than a cold glass of good iced tea on a hot summer's day. So it's appropriate that June, the beginning of summer, is National Iced Tea Month.
This seems a prime time to expand tea taste buds. Barista Josiah Andrews at Coffee House on Fifth in downtown Columbus researches teas with the same dedication he applies to the study of roasting coffee beans.
"We do loose leaf teas. We make all of our own concentrates, steeping the leaves in a small, hot concentrate that will extract the flavors," Andrews explained.
With summer settling in, consumer thirst for cold, flavorful teas is ramping up. Andrews and the rest of the staff enjoy the challenge, offering a variety that includes Earl Gray, iced coconut oolong, chai tea latte (plus a turmeric chai, popular with the health conscious), peppermint tea, matcha tea, and an African rooisbos tea, among others.
An herbal tea called Blue Canoe is helping kick off summer, too, with hints of currants, hibiscus, dried apples, rose hips and blueberries, among other ingredients. Find many of the same teas at Beans & Cream, an affiliated coffee shop at the Shops at Brickerton on Military Road in Columbus.
Hot to cold
As an aside, I don't take iced tea for granted. I still clearly recall begging for ice for my glass of tea in a village pub in the English countryside several years ago. The publican looked at me (quite) askance, but I was finally rewarded with two small melting cubes. Feeling as though I had vandalized his supply, I learned my lesson and adjusted to an almost ice-less existence much of the next couple of weeks.
No, ice isn't an essential for many of our friends in Britain, a primary consumer of the world's tea. In America's hotter climes, however, cold-tea recipes began appearing prior to the Civil War in cookbooks like "The Kentucky Housewife" (1839), writes Bruce Richardson in Tea Time magazine. Precious winter ice gathered from rivers was stored in stone icehouses, saved for the scorching months of July and August and shaved to put in a glass of tea or the occasional mint julep.
There are other early written references to tea being iced. Richardson relates an oft-reported one that emerged from the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. There, Richard Blechynden, director of the East India pavilion, became frustrated as he offered samples of hot tea to fairgoers on a warm Missouri day, to lackluster response.
"In an attempt to boost consumption, he circulated and chilled the tea through a series of lead pipes immersed in ice," Richardson wrote. "The resulting cool, refreshing beverage was a hit with fairgoers and the iced drink became popular throughout the United States."
If this talk of cold tea brings to mind the music of ice cubes tinkling into a glass, maybe it's time to explore the world of tea with a unique, locally-brewed variety. When at home, try one of the recipes below for tea that's a bit out of the ordinary.
Plain, sweetened, flavored or spiked, however you like it, it's tea time somewhere.
SWEET APPLE ICED TEA
6 cups water
6 sweet apple tea bags (recommended: Celestial Seasonings Sweet Apple Chamomile)
1 1/3 cups vanilla simple syrup (see below)
1 small apple, thinly sliced
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
Vanilla simple syrup:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 vanilla bean, cut in 1/2 lengthwise and seeds removed
LEMONADE ICED TEA
Makes 8 cups
3 cups water
2 family-size tea bags
1 (1-ounce) package fresh mint leaves (about 1 cup loosely packed)
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups cold water
1 (6-ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
Garnish: fresh citrus slices
(Note: Turn this into a cocktail by adding bourbon or spiced dark rum.)
Total time: 15 minutes, plus chilling
Makes 18 servings
14 cups water, divided
6 black tea bags
1-1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup thawed orange juice concentrate
3/4 cup thawed lemonade concentrate
1 cup tequila, optional
Fresh mint leaves and lemon or lime slices, optional
Nutrition: 3/4 cup (calculated without tequila): 102 calories, 0 fat (0 saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 1mg sodium, 26g carbohydrate (26g sugars, 0 fiber), 0 protein.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.