Food and drinks become associated with many things, one of which can be the sensation of sun hitting bare skin -- and the accompanying urge to grab a jug and a couple of tea bags. Which is maybe the reason June has been designated as National Iced Tea Month. Why not.
While really good iced coffee usually requires equipment and a skill level we happily leave to the experts, iced tea is well suited to making at home. And even though sun tea can be problematic, ice tea brewed indoors can taste as good if you follow a few steps. The hardest part of the whole endeavor may be selecting which tea to brew. Going through the selection at L.A.'s tea shops, we found the herbal, the fruit-based, the trendy and the traditional. Turn the page for our top 5 teas for making iced tea at home.
5. Summer Time Bliss fruit tea from Bird Pick:
Fruit and tea are often a good match. Yet many fruit teas fall flat because they contain very little real fruit. At tea shop mini-chain Bird Pick, fruit teas are composed with a base of dried fruit. The aptly named Summer Time Bliss is probably the most well-suited for iced tea, with bits of apple and grape for subtle sweetness, pineapple and orange peel for brightness, and rose hips and hibiscus to give it body and depth. With its deep crimson hue, it's reminiscent of another favorite warm-weather drink: sangria. Similarly, it's an excellent pairing with summer berries or stone fruit.
4. Fresh Mint Tea from your local farmers market:
When the warm weather appears, so do the big bright bunches of fresh mint at farmers market stands throughout L.A. Although there are plenty of dried mint teas available, fresh tea mint has a smoother, rounder tea flavor. In other words, it doesn't taste like watered-down mouthwash. Mint tea has a light natural sweetness, but if you want a little more, try adding a mellow, local wildflower honey.
3. Chrysanthemum Tea from Ten Ren Tea:
As is often the case, there are items bought ready-made that are not only easy to make at home but also taste much better. Chilled chrysanthemum tea is a grab-and-go favorite at snack shops like Phoenix Food Boutique and is even sold by the jug at Asian markets. International tea purveyor Ten Ren sells high-quality, dried whole chrysanthemum flowers at its L.A. tea shops. Unlike many of the commercially prepared versions, which can have a slightly musky flavor, a sip of freshly brewed chrysanthemum iced tea is like taking a dip in the pool, sweet and soothing.
2. Bamboo Leaf Tea from Bamboo Tea House:
Bamboo leaf tea has been making the rounds of both tea and beauty blogs as the next super tea. It has protein and fiber and is rich in silica, which is beneficial for hair and nail heath. Bamboo Tea House in Claremont is one of the few local tea shops that carries bamboo leaf tea; they blend it with a small amount of fruit (currants). Bamboo leaf tea has a light flavor, and the subtle hint of fruit prevents it from tasting like grassy water. Instead the tea develops a clean, refreshing flavor, which makes it easy to drink glass after glass. Good thing it claims to have so many benefits.
1. Luzianne Tea from Cost Plus:
In the realm of tea, there are few stronger associations than that of Southern sweet tea and Luzianne. A noted brand of bagged tea from New Orleans, Luzianne can be found in L.A. at Cost Plus World Market and Walmart. Luzianne is prized for its robust yet smooth taste, and its full flavor makes it ideal for sweet tea -- it's able to integrate copious amounts of sugar and add-ons like lemon without losing any of its character. When mixing a pitcher of Luzianne, trying holding back on some of the sugar and instead make simple syrup instead. June also happens to be the month with the longest days of year, which is even more reason to sit back and enjoy iced tea made one cup at a time.
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