Spilling the Tea on Summertime Brews
Put your tea on ice and beat the heat with the quintessential summertime drink. Whether you brew it, buy it blended, or make it boozy, there are plenty of refreshing options for drinking in the long and lazy days of summer with an iced tea.
Josh Linvers of Linvers Atelier Tea and Coffee recommends keeping iced tea as pure and humble as possible. He advises starting with a tea that tastes good to begin with — preferably green or white tea.
“These teas would have more cooling properties, whereas oolong or black teas tend to be on the warming side, which aren’t as refreshing when you try to make a cooling drink with them.” Most iced tea is typically made with a black tea, which gives it a strong, abrasive taste. “Black tea tends to be three negatives put together: sour, bitter and astringent,” says Linvers, which is what leaves a dry mouthfeel after drinking it, and leads to the addition of lemon and/or a sweetening agent to offset the bitterness.
The tea Linvers most recommends over ice, is bai mudan, which translates from Mandarin to English as white peony. This white tea comes in various grades ranging from the more rare and expensive silver needle tea that is made from only the leaf buds; to shou mei, which contains more leaves. Linvers suggests a bai mudan that contains a higher ratio of leaves to buds for more flavourful iced tea. Brewed for a mere minute and 45 seconds, then served over a large ice cube, bai mudan iced tea rewards drinkers with a refreshing, mellow, and naturally slightly sweet beverage that would be especially hydrating and restorative after a long day outdoors.
For those who do prefer their iced tea darker, and perhaps served with a side of metal, Dominic Alvernaz, AKA Crucfix, tea overlord, and owner of Calgary-based Satanic Tea Company, offers a selection of ethically sourced, small batch specialty teas, as well as limited edition blends in collaboration with metal bands.
“Any of our teas would be good iced,” says Alvernaz of his company’s variety of black, green, and herbal tea blends with conversation-starting names such as Devil’s Blood and Throat of Lucifer, that might make you consider selling your soul on a scorcher of a day. But Alvernaz recommends his Banshee Brew — a sencha green tea citrus blend with pineapple and hibiscus — as a more palatable, crowd-pleasing way to ease your way into quenching your insatiable thirst for… iced tea.
At Cupper’s in Lethbridge, iced tea lattes such as their London Fog with Earl Grey tea, Purple Haze with blueberry hibiscus tea, or Foggy Bottom with turmeric ginger tea, are a popular alternative to iced coffee. But Cupper’s manager, Nancy Graham, recommends harnessing the sun’s rays to brew tea. “Sun teas are a great way to make iced tea,” she says, adding that the key to its success is starting with a quality tea and giving the tea enough time and room to expand to get all the flavour out. Sun tea is brewed in a clear pitcher of cold water, and left in the sun to steep all day before being refrigerated and served over ice. Graham recommends using a fruit tea or a black tea for maximum flavour.
If waiting on a 4.5 billion-year-old star to brew tea isn’t your pace, ready-made blended teas are delivering on taste in portable packaging. Calgary-based Rviita Energy Teas contain clean, simple ingredients in a lightweight, flexible pouch perfect for outdoor adventures. Green or black tea combine with small amounts of honey and fruit juices such as blackberry, strawberry, and elderberry to bridge the gap between the bitterness of an unsweetened iced tea and the sweetness of iced tea that the typical consumer enjoys. “Our tea is meant to be enjoyed straight out of the package, cold or at room temperature, or even warmed up,” says CEO Mitch Jacobsen, adding that freezing their packages to create a slush is another option.
Calgary’s Rocky Mountain Tisane aims to #maketeacool, with their canned teas. Scott Bennie, co-founded the company with fellow fathers of young daughters who were seeking healthier, flavourful beverages. One of the founders drew on his British heritage and long history with tea, and after testing 200 different combinations landed on four flavour profiles: Hibiscus cinnamon, lemon ginger, fruit infusion and yerba mate.
“We use 100 percent loose leaf tea and it’s carbonated. That’s it. We wanted to create a healthy choice, made from real ingredients that had a lot of flavour and no sugar,” says Bennie. By cold steeping the teas over 36 hours, they are achieving crisp, clean flavours, which, according to Bennie, have led some customers to use their teas as a mix with clear spirits.
If iced tea with a kick is more your style, Edmonton’s Fu’s Repair Shop is brewing a number of tea-based cocktails using black and matcha teas either as mix or to infuse spirits. Fu’s manager Nikki Willis recommends infusing clear spirits with a more concentrated tea for the tea’s notes to punch through the alcohol.
Burwood Distillery’s kombucha ready-to-drink cocktails offer another intoxicating option for tea-based beverages. In partnership with Happy Belly Kombucha, Burwood created three combinations with their spirits: Fruit ’n Funk, a combination of gin and pineapple hops kombucha; Summer Slam, featuring honey eau de vie and haskap berry; and Ginger Donkey, using purple ginger kombucha with a splash of vodka. Burwood’s Cory Gaudette says the fermented tea works well with spirits for a couple of reasons.
“It’s light tasting so the more subtle flavours make the spirits more prominent. Also, we are always cognizant of what we add to our spirits, and Happy Belly uses high end fresh ingredients which are a great fit for our high-end spirits.” Tea also features in Burwood’s citrus-forward house gin. Dragon Well green tea, sourced from Calgary’s Tea Trader is one of the botanicals used to enhance the overall experience of the gin.
“The tea’s earthy texture and flavour helps to showcase the other ingredients and makes the citrus pop, which is why it ended up as one of the 14 herbs and botanicals in our gin,” says Jordan Ramey, Burwood co-owner, who adds it makes a great addition to fruit teas that have citrus or berry notes.
Burwood Green Tea Cocktail
2 packets green tea
2 oz Burwood gin
¾ oz fresh lime juice
½ oz simple syrup
1-2 fresh thyme leaves plus more for garnish
1. Pour 6 oz of freshly boiled water over 2 tea packets of your choosing, and allow to steep for at least 10 minutes to an hour. Let cool completely before using in a cocktail.
2. Combine gin, 2 oz of your tea, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, and fresh thyme leaves in a cocktail shaker. Gently muddle for more thyme flavour.
3. Add ice then shake well. Strain the perfectly aromatic cocktail into a short cocktail glass over fresh ice and garnish with a spring or two of fresh thyme.
Tea-infused or tea-inspired cocktails feature prominently on three of Banff Hospitality Collective venue menus and use teas sourced from Jolene’s Teahouse in Banff.
The Bison’s Equinox Sour
Eau Claire Prickly Pear EquineOx, rose petal syrup, lemon, egg white, bitters
Three Bears Brewery & Restaurant’s Rooibos Collins
Park Vanilla Vodka, cold-pressed rooibos tea, strawberry soda
Hello Sunshine’s Matcha Colada
Park Glacier Rye, Jolene’s Tea House matcha, Caribbean pineapple, malibu, pineapple, coconut milk, she wolf matcha bitters.
Satanic Summer Tea Recipe
13 oz Banshee Brew pineapple hibiscus satanic tea
2 tsp sugar
½ lemon, half sliced thin and half in wedges
1 oz Butterfly Pea flower tea
1. Add sugar to Banshee Brew and chill for 2 hours.
2. Add lemon slices and ice to empty glass and add chilled Banshee Brew Tea.
3. Add 1 oz butterfly pea flower tea and squeeze a lemon wedge over tea and watch the mixture turn from blue to purple instantly.