Chilling out with a drink of tea
Tea drinking is a lifestyle, but how to enjoy tea without the heat in summertime?
The simple answer is adding ice into hot tea to turn down the temperature, or chilling the tea in the fridge. But there are flaws with these two solutions: The ice used to cool down the tea will also dilute the beverage, and it takes quite a few hours for the tea to cool in the fridge as hot items are not supposed to be put in there right away.
Luckily, there are simpler ways to enjoy tea minus the heat and without compromising on the flavor.
Cold brew tea
Cold brew tea has been the trending beverage for a few summers, and with good reason.
First, it’s a simple one-step, one-ingredient recipe of dropping tea bags into room temperature water and chilling in the fridge overnight. The next morning, a refreshing tea drink is ready to be enjoyed with breakfast or on the go.
To choose the right tea product for the job, we start from the materials used to make the tea bags. Traditional flat, rectangular tea bags are made of filter paper. They are fine when steeped in hot water and be removed after a few minutes, but keeping the tea bags in water for hours can be a challenge and there’s a good chance of all the loose tea dropping into the water and ruining the beverage, which of course can be saved by filtering through a coffee filter but that’s just extra trouble.
Silken tea bags in a pyramid shape are often used in better quality tea products and they are made of stronger material. The tea packed in silken tea bags are larger whole leaves, dried flowers and bits of dehydrated fruits, and the pyramid shape provides more room for the large leaves to expand. They are especially suitable for making cold brew tea that needs to sit for hours.
Any sealed bottle can be used to make cold brew tea, from glass water jugs to bottled water. If you worry about removing the tea bags from the bottle in order to sort the garbage (the bottle is recyclable but the bags are dry garbage), I’ve tried to pull out the silken tea bags from regular bottle water and they didn’t break apart, simply be patient and squeeze the tea bags gently to compress the shape. The paper tea bag, however, was messier and easier to break.
I’ve tried several types of tea in my cold brew tea experiment and my favorites are fragrant, lighter teas such as oolong, peach and oolong, osmanthus, and oolong and jasmine. The bold-flavored black teas like pu’er are better suited for making hot tea as cold brewing would not bring out their unique flavors, whereas the more aromatic oolong teas can present the distinct flavor clearly in cold water.
Coffee peel tea is a unique ingredient made of the dried peel of coffee beans, it has a surprisingly sweet and sour, plumy taste and can be brewed in both hot and cold water. The product is sold by some coffee shops on Taobao.com and the search keyword is 咖啡果皮茶.
Make it fancy
To elevate the cold brew tea concept and make it fancy, you can switch to sparkling water and soda, and the results are stunning.
I first tried sparkling tea at a Table for Eight dinner hosted by Li Wenye last summer when they did tea pairing with the Modern Chinese cuisine concept. It was so refreshing and had a champagne-like color that could pass off as an alcohol-free welcome drink for formal dining settings.
It takes less time to make sparkling tea than regular cold brew tea, as the carbonic acid accelerates the process of infusing the tea in the water. A normal tea to water ratio is one tea bag for 500ml of sparkling water.
The best way to make sparkling tea is to put the tea bag directly into the sparkling water bottle, because the container must be sealed completely and jugs with wider openings would lose the carbonic acid. Before dropping the tea bags into the bottle, it’s important to pour out or drink some of the water to make more room for the tea bags.
Make sure to use silken tea bags, the paper tea bags will break apart immediately when they are dropped into the bottle, and the silken tea bags can be pulled out after finishing the beverage.
If you are hosting a dinner or party, sparkling cold brew tea is an ideal drink that refreshes the palate and tones down the heat.
The sparkling tea can also be combined with sparkling wine and some fresh fruits to create a unique, refreshing tea punch cocktail, like combining sparkling peach oolong tea with Prosecco and slices of fresh peach, or jasmine green tea with Prosecco and frozen grapes.
When cooking with citrus fruits, there tend to be leftovers because only a small quantity is needed in most recipes, especially calamansi as only a couple are needed to make the dish or drink, but a box from the supermarket includes at least two dozen. The citrus fruits won’t stay fresh in the fridge for a long time and they take up the already limited space.
The solution is to slice the citrus fruits into smaller cubes and put them in ice trays, then freeze to make beautiful citrus ice cubes that can be used for a longer period of time. The entire ice cube will present a prominent, refreshing citrusy flavor, and you don’t have to slice the fresh fruits and clean the cutting board every time.
To make citrus ice cubes, I prefer the larger ice trays because they not only hold more pieces of fruits in each slot but also melt more slowly to avoid quickly diluting the beverage.
The fruits are not limited to citrus fruits. You can try cubes of peach, watermelon, blackberries and lychee, and then drop them into cold brew tea to make tea cocktails.
If you are making fruity cold brew tea, a trick to enhance the fruity flavor is to squeeze some of the juice of the citrus fruits into the tea alongside adding slices of the fruit.
You can use both ends of the citrus fruits to squeeze out the juice and then drop the beautiful slices of the middle part for infusing the flavor and better presentation.