Make Iced Tea a Tradition in Your Home
Growing up, there was always a pitcher of iced tea in my family’s fridge in the summertime…basic black tea, brewed to perfection and utterly refreshing. When my parents downsized a few years ago, the worn ceramic tea pitcher was something I eagerly claimed. Now, when I look at the heavy, 1970’s brown-glazed vessel, it’s once bright, flowery decal now barely discernible, I am transported to hot summers in Baltimore and the oasis that the refrigerator was for a boiling, thirsty kid. Summers are never hot enough for me now that I live in the Northwest, and maybe that’s why I’ve been hit or miss with making iced tea for my family, but I’m always glad when I do.
Black tea is traditional for iced tea, but any herb can be made into iced tea. Use tea bags - four to a quart, or loose leaf or flower herb tea - one handful to a quart. Brew it hot, strain it, and put it in the refrigerator to cool. If you want to speed up the cooling, take a tip from my mom - brew it full strength with half the hot water, then add cold water.
Have a box of tea languishing in your pantry? Try it iced. Want a tried-and-true summer beverage suggestion? Try hibiscus tea or mint tea (fresh or dried) or a combo of the two. Last summer when wildfires in national forests meant our town was thick with smoke, we drank gallons and gallons of an iced, lung support tea I put together. For more guidance, there's lots and lots of tea brewing tips from our herbalist team here and here, plus storage advice.
I’m not very religious but I do believe in ritual and the simple beauty and sacredness of parents, grandparents, or other caregivers passing kitchen skills to children. My memory of my mom teaching me to how to make iced tea is so clear and so positive, and I treasure it. Magically, I find that one of my daughters seems to show up in the kitchen when I’m tinkering with a new tea blend and they are always eager to try it. Parenting is hard, but making tea is easy, and when I watch them gulping it down I know they are not only quenching their thirst, but also flooding their bodies with healthy phytochemicals, expanding their palates, and creating a visceral summer memory that involves herbs, and for that I am grateful.
It’s summer and kids are thirsty, so let’s give them tea.
Tara Thomas is a clinical herbalist, living in Seattle.