Good, fresh tea leaves and water are paramount for a perfect iced tea.
“It is important to use fresh ingredients because they give the best flavor,” says Nathaniel Pantalone, owner and manager of Dobra Tea in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill.
Cynthia Gold, tea sommelier and manager of L'Espalier in Boston, adds that any water won’t do. “Don’t use water that has a chemical or chlorine taste,” Gold says. “If your local water tastes off, consider using filtered or spring water.”
Also, Gold says, if the same water is reboiled often, you will be de-oxygenating the water. “This can lead to a flatter tasting tea.”
It is best to use fresh, cold water because it contains more oxygen than hot water from the faucet. Tea meisters say more oxygen is important because it enhances the flavor of the tea. When the water comes to a rolling boil, pour it over loose tea leaves or a tea bag, and the burst of hot water will open the tea leaves and maximize the flavor.
Bret Thorn, senior food editor at Nation’s Restaurant News, says iced teas are getting more popular as “consumers are getting increasingly wary of carbonated drinks and their sugar and artificial sweeteners.” They want something cold and refreshing, and so turn to iced tea, he said. Consumers also think it has a health halo effect, he adds.
Peter Goggi, president of Tea Association of the USA, says 85 percent of tea consumed in America is iced. “We are an iced tea culture, and we are the only country in the world.”
Consumption is driven up by baby boomers and millennials. In fact, 87 percent of millennials drink tea, according to the Tea Association. Goggi says that’s because millennials grew up hearing “the tea and health story” and they grew up in the ready-to-drink era that accepted tea as a good alternate beverage to soda.
Peach Ice Tea
4 cups water, divided
3 family-size tea bags
3 peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
3/4 cup sugar
Bring 3 cups of water to a rolling boil. Pour over tea bags; cover and steep for 5 to 8 minutes. Blend peaches and 1 cup water until smooth. Strain peach juice. Add peach juice, tea and sugar in pitcher. Stir well. Add more water if needed. Serve with ice.