Six Premium Teas to Crush Summer Iced Tea
Regular readers of Ku Cha House of Tea’s snappy newsletter understand our passion for iced tea. We love it so much we even canned some of our favorite iced teas, and sell them now in restaurants and markets up and down the Front Range.
We encourage you to try them! If you like iced tea, you’ll go crazy for these ready-to-drink versions. If you don’t care for supermarket iced tea, it’s probably because most brands rely on truly abysmal tea — old, stale, bitter scraps often swept up from processing floors and brewed into mass-produced iced tea and larded with sweeteners to disguise atrocious flavor. Try ours — we think you will change your minds!
Regardless, as this weekend marks the formal kick-off to summer, and as June 10 is National Iced Tea Day, it’s time to explore making your own iced tea.
Brewing iced tea is fairly simple. One of the keys to a great cup of iced tea is the quality of the leaves themselves. Most commercial iced tea turns to dismal tea, but when you buy whole leaves from Ku Cha to brew and then chill, you always will be using extremely high quality tea. In addition, you will enjoy hundreds of styles of teas to turn into your favorite cold beverage.
Iced Tea White: Sweet Grape
With its herbal subtleties and floral nuances, white tea always has the potential to make a wonderful batch of iced tea. A hot summer afternoon calls for something elegant and bracing, like cold white tea (or a frigid pilsner or chilled glass of Chenin Blanc).
Our Sweet Grape White Tea combines white tea’s pleasures with infusions of fresh juice from sun-ripened grapes. The combination is intoxicatingly fragrant refreshingly sweet, without dipping into the cloying levels of sweet that are familiar to drinkers of commercial iced tea. The tea also includes rose hips, black currants, and the blossoms from mallow and cornflower plants. Together, it makes for a richly colored and deeply flavored iced tea.
Iced Tea Green: Enchanted Forest Green Tea
None of our whole-leaf teas are exactly sweet teas. If they are just whole-leaf Camellia sinensis, they contain nothing but tea leaves. Some blends contain things like dried fruit, which can add whispers of sweetness to brewed cups.
Enchanted Forest Green Tea is one of those slightly sweet teas, thanks to the blend’s coconut shreds. It also contains lovely green tea, leaves from the South American shrub yerba mate, natural cherry flavor, rose petals and cornflower blossoms. Each sip is like liquid Black Forest cake, a favorite dessert alive with flavors of cherry and coconut.
As iced tea, it’s ridiculously refreshing. You won’t sip this as much as gulp it — in a grand way.
Iced Tea Green: Kabuse
Also known as kabusecha, our Kabuse Green Tea is a separate class of tea leaf in Japan. Its name, which in Japanese means to cover or place on top, refers to how it is grown: in the shade, or “covered” with what is normally a porous fabric that blocks the sun. The shading for kabuse takes anywhere from 2 to 25 days, and contributes towards its umami-rich flavors as well as the tea’s high concentration of healthy theanine and amino acids.
Kabuse tea leaves get harvested just once a year, in early spring. The tea, recognized as one of the finest in Japan, offers a creamy flavor, with a clean, sweet finish.
All of it comes together in an especially marvelous green tea, one that broadcasts rich depth and strong flavor. It’s extremely satisfying.
Iced Tea Oolong: Tie Guan Yin
This famous tea, from China’s wonderfully complex Fujian Province (the historic province sports mountains, a long coastline, big cities, temples and much more), means “Iron Goddess of Mercy” in Chinese.
We appreciate the name. It indeed possesses the power and dignity of a proper goddess, while also offering much in the way of mercy. Where some teas wallow in bitterness, Tie Guan Yin instead broadcasts a sweet and floral fragrance, a bright taste, and a smooth finish that lingers in an extremely satisfying manner.
Try this one brewed and chilled. Instead of deadening your taste buds, like most commercial iced teas, this one enlivens them.
Iced Tea Black: Blueberry Lavender Bliss
Commercial iced tea most commonly is brewed from black tea. This is a fine idea, as tea farms around the world support a huge variety of excellent black teas. Unfortunately, most of the black tea destined for refrigerated shelves is terrible.
Here’s one opportunity to explore iced tea crafted from excellent black tea. With our Blueberry Lavender Bliss, we combine black tea with blueberry, lavender, ginger, calendula, cornflower and cocoa nibs. The result? A black blend that hints at sweetness through its blueberries, and then spices up the experience with tropical ingredients like cocoa nibs and ginger and floral notes from lavender, calendula and cornflower.
It is magnificent, and smile-sprouting in the extreme when chilled. For effect, consider garnishing it with a few blueberries and a sprig of lavender.
Iced Tea Herbal: Lemon Sonata
Here on the Front Range’s High Plains, we enjoy summers with cool evenings, mostly blue skies and temperatures that rarely climb out of the 90s. They can be awfully pleasing. Sometimes, however, we want the tropics. The desire explains the constant air traffic between Denver International Airport and Cancun and Puerto Vallarta.
No time for Playa Del Carmen? No problem! Check out our new Lemon Sonata herbal blend. Lemon — a big crop in Mexico — gets combined with tropical ginger and pineapple. Apple, blackberry leaves and leaves from the moringa tree, which is native to northern India. Moringa is widely touted as a health tonic. Tying it all together with herbal zing is basil.
This is an iced tea to brew by the quart. Keep it in a pitcher in the fridge. Garnish it with pineapple and a basil leaf. Heaven.
In fact, we suggest that you brew all of these teas in big batches and keep ‘em in the refrigerator for all-day sipping. That’s one of the beauties of iced tea, and why we embraced it after moving to the United States — it’s so good that you drink it all day, as you might water. Only quality iced tea tastes way better than water!
Another solid option: Fill up your water bottle with cold iced tea every morning, and drink it while at the office (are you back?), on the trails or while taking a road trip to Salida and its lively downtown.