Four Batches of Iced Tea – And Some Gardening

It got really hot here, and looking at the map of temperatures, it’s been hot across most of the continental U.S., excepting the Northwest, yesterday and today.  Temperatures here creeped up into the low 90’s, but most importantly, it was very humid, and nighttime temperatures stayed in the high 70’s and didn’t dip below 80 till well after midnight.

So, I made a lot of iced tea.  I have made four batches, using the same technique that I explained in my Teacology post on brewing iced tea to minimize energy usage.  Because I want to drink tons and tons of iced tea, and I don’t want to consume tons and tons of caffeine, I’ve been balancing batches of caffeinated pure teas with caffeine-free herbal teas.  Probably the most exciting one was a batch of herbal tea I made from the fresh mint growing in my garden:

A patch of spearmint, lush green plants with serrated leaves and square stems
Spearmint growing in my garden.

This spearmint was a free bonus of living in this apartment.  Our landlord gave us permission to grow a small garden along the side of the apartment, and we’ve been really going to town with this…but completely independently of this, I noticed that one of the existing flower beds bordering the next apartment unit over was completely overgrown with mint.  The neighbors who live in this apartment said they don’t use the mint, so I’m free to harvest whatever I’d like.

Here’s a photo of the iced mint tea:

A cup of iced tea on a windowsill behind a screen with green trees behind it
My most recent batch of iced mint tea.

This photo also highlights something else I really like about my new location, which is that there’s a wooded slope behind me.  Not only does this keep the area cool (a lot cooler than being mostly surrounded by concrete, blacktop, and buildings like I was in the city) but I also have been going up into this area and nurturing the ecosystems there, discovering a variety of native plants and cutting back some of the “bully” invasive plants like the Ailanthus altissima trees, which a trained eye may be able to spot in the picture above.

About The Iced Tea

I’ve made four batches of iced tea so far.  They are:

  • Fresh mint tea – Described above.  This one was excellent, as it always was.  The mint is perhaps not quite at is prime, a little bitter and stronger tasting than it was about a month ago, but it has not gone to flower yet and it is still in the better part of its flavor range.  I also think the stronger flavor can be nice to make a brisk iced tea.
  • Ahmad Ceylon Tea – This tea is one of my go-to teas of all time.  It’s excellent hot, and excellent iced.  I like brewing it strong to make iced tea, using a lot of leaf and steeping for a full 7 minutes, possibly even longer.
  • Foojoy Dragon Well / Lung Ching – This is a lower grade tea that I find quite enjoyable, but that pales in comparison to some of the Dragon Well samples I’ve been reviewing from TeaVivre recently.  What qualities are maybe less enjoyable in a hot tea though, like slightly greater astringency, I can sometimes find greatly refreshing.  This particular tea I also find tastes a lot smoother and higher-quality iced, for some reason.
  • Rooibos, this batch from Frontier Coop – I don’t drink iced rooibos as much as the minty or lemony herbs, but I felt inspired to make some last night so I made up a batch and I’m loving it.  It has a fruitiness, and a depth and full-bodied character that is usually absent from anything but pure black iced tea.  My only problem with it is that I have trouble telling it apart from the Ahmad Ceylon Tea when I look at the jars of it in the fridge.

One thing I have not yet done is cold-brew some Darjeeling First Flush teas from Happy Earth Tea.  I did this last year, at the recommendation of Niraj Lama from Happy Earth Tea, and the results were outstanding.  This year’s teas I’ve all reviewed hot but I have yet to try them iced…perhaps soon.

How about you?

  • Do you have a patch of mint growing around your home?
  • Have you ever moved into a new apartment or house to be pleasantly surprised by some food plant growing there?
  • Do you ever think about “bully” species of invasive plants, like Ailanthus altissima?
  • Do you drink iced pure teas?  Iced herbal teas?
  • What are your favorite teas and herbs to make iced tea from?

Pouring Strong Black Tea and Enjoying the Wintergreen Aroma

I published a new post on Teacology, about Brewing Iced Tea to Minimize Energy Usage.  Here, I want to share some secret insider info about my experience preparing the batch of iced tea whose photographs are displayed in that post.  This secret is actually about the step of pouring the tea.

Wintergreen plant, with small evergreen leaves and white flowers
The wintergreen plant, photo by Jason Hollinger, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

One of my favorite qualities or attributes of the aroma of black tea is the presence of wintergreen in the aroma.  This presence isn’t just a suggestion, hint, or analogy: the wintergreen aroma is actually present in the aroma of black tea.  Wintergreen is one of the plants whose essential oil’s aromatic properties are defined primarily by the presence of a single chemical: methyl salicylate.  This chemical also occurs in tea; I wrote about this connection in my post about wintergreen tones in black tea.

The tea I used in this iced tea, Ahmad Tea’s Ceylon, has a modest (pleasant but not dominant) amount of the wintergreen smell in its aroma.  When brewed normally, there’s just a small amount of wintergreen in the aroma, a suggestion or strong hint.  But something special happens when I make iced tea by the energy-saving process I prefer.

Pouring the tea:

When I brew iced tea, I typically brew a concentrated cup, typically at four times the usual strength, in a single mug, and I steep it with a lid, to hold in the fleeting aromas.  There’s a moment when I pour the tea from the mug into the jar I use to store the iced tea in, where the aromas of the ultra-strongly-brewed hot tea escape into the air.  For some reason (perhaps methyl salicylate is more volatile than other aromatic components of the tea), I find that there’s a brief moment when there’s an intense smell of wintergreen rising up from the jar of hot tea.

I love this.

How about you?

Do you have any little moments like this, that you experience while making tea, that you enjoy in a similar way?

Hello Tea Trade!

I’ve been a user on Tea Trade for some time, mainly participating in the forums and reading various people’s blogs, but I have yet to start a blog here.  This is not my primary tea blog, but I wanted to create a blog here both to experiment with Tea Trade as a blogging platform, and to maintain a presence on this site because I love the community here and I want to support the site and both its owners and the other people who publish here.

I also have a need for a new blog of a more casual nature, since discontinuing my old tea blog, Alex Zorach’s Tea Blog, and replacing it with Teacology.  Teacology is a site that I plan on updating much less frequently, but putting more effort into each post.  So far, I’ve been doing this successfully!  However, this leaves me without a place for more casual tea commentary that is longer than I want to share on social media sites like Twitter or Google plus.

I’m hoping this blog can be this place.