Tea Time

Is there anything better than sipping iced tea on a lazy summer afternoon? Actually yes.

Iced tea is great on its own but it’s also the perfect blank canvas for fruit-infused additions. Traditionally fruit teas are just regular iced tea with a fruit puree added, usually peach or strawberry. Some people stick with the classic lemon iced tea or squeeze in a little lime for a more tropical drink.

In these cases, the tea is made first and then the fruit is added. But there’s no reason to limit yourself to this recipe. Iced tea is made with water, so why not make it with flavored water? By infusing the water first overnight you add another dimension to your drink. As is the case with flavored water, the juice of a fruit can flavor the water but the infusion occurs when that fruit steeps long enough for the flavor to come out of the body or rind of the fruit itself. Infusions create much deeper flavors that are actually more sweet than sour because the natural sugars of the fruit are being released instead of just the juice.

By using infused water to make the iced tea and then even adding additional purees or fruit juices, your iced tea will be wonderfully complex and surprisingly addicting. Great flavor combinations could be created by using strawberry infused water with a peach puree,watermelon infused water and few muddled basil leaves, or even more daring infusions such as apricot and pink peppercorn.

If you like your tea sweet, the same process can be used for making fruit-flavored simple syrups. Almost any fruit, or even fresh herbs, can make a tasty syrup. A great one to use is made with orange peels. If you like or think you may like chocolate covered orange peels, start saving the peels, leaving them in the fridge submerged in water until you have enough to make a batch of the candy. If the peels are left to soak for at least a week, this first cuts out the blanching time needed if you choose to make the candies, and second, the water that they sit in will have a delicious bitter-sweet quality. The candy recipe requires you to cook down orange peels in simple syrup and after they’re finished and strained, you’re left with about half a cup of orange flavor syrup. The combination of the orange water and the orange syrup will create a uniquely complex iced tea. So not only do you get the candy, but out of the leftovers you can make a fantastic summer time drink.

So mix it up a little. Whether it’s for an outdoor barbeque, a garden party, or just for sipping on the porch with a good book, infused iced teas are classy, delicious, and deceivingly simple. What else could you want on a beautiful afternoon?