Jacqueline here today to help everyone celebrate “National Iced Tea Month” – Southwest style! Tea does not need to come from overseas, it can come far more locally – indeed from your own back yard!
What is in a name?
Language purists will remind us that true tea comes from Camellia sinensis, grown in the tropics. Any “herbal tea” is in fact a “tisane,” but the English language is subject to change over time, thus I am using the term “tea” to mean any herb infused into a beverage.
Speaking of infusing – teas should be prepared as an infusion. Infusions are made by adding water to fresh or dried herbs and allowing them time to infuse the water with their oils and flavors. The water can be hot or cold, depending on how strong a flavor you desire and how quickly. Avoid making a decoction as a refreshing beverage. Decoctions are made by placing plants in water and heating, possibly boiling them. This will extract plant compounds better left in the plant unless you are making a medicinal brew. “Sun tea” can be overcooked in the sunlight and become a decoction.
Traditional Iced Tea
Maybe you are used to iced tea served with lemon. That is a nice way to blend flavors and engage your palate with both the astringency of the tea and the sourness of the lemon at the same time. With this in mind, I like to put together more than one herb at a time for a richer gustatory experience.
Mint tea can be garnished with a fresh sprig of mint, plus a slice of orange. I find the sweet orange helps highlight the tang of the mint in a pleasant way.
Calendula tea from the flower petals I dried all winter is made tangy with a slice of lemon and a fresh bay leaf – delightful! I tried calendula with mint and didn’t like the way the flavors worked together.
Thyme tea is tasty indeed, and I find it freshens the palate. Rather than cucumber water at your next soiree, try some thyme. It’s fine all on it’s own.
I have tried all sorts of blends over thyme – I mean time – and a tea with mint, sage, and a sprig of fennel was unique. The licoricy fennel blended nicely with the earthy notes of sage. To be honest – I adore the taste of fennel, even posted a fennel & strawberry salad last week – here. Fair warning that not everyone loves the taste of fennel.
Run out of lemons? Don’t forget the lemony and luscious barrel cactus – posted a year ago and now reposted (here). Barrel cactus fruit add a wonderful citrus-like tang to teas and can be used in place of lemon. Using barrel fruit is good to use especially if you are trying to only eat things in season. A few of my barrels are ripening fruit nicely right now.
I hope you will celebrate Iced Tea Month by savoring some new teas.
Please do let us know if you find a blend we should share in the comment section at the bottom of the page! We welcome your ideas.
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Of course you want to sweeten your iced tea with honey! Honey is great in herbal tea and in many dishes that you may never have thought of. Our latest book is Using Honey in New & Savory Ways (Tierra del Sol Institute Press). This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there the Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol will get a few pennies at no additional cost to you.
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