For instant trendiness, chill with tea

To ride a new wave of cool, just add water and ice to a tea bag, then sip

Sunday Gourmet

July 18, 2004|By Jennifer Rubell | Jennifer Rubell,Tribune Media Services

Martha Stewart kept a few bottles of it on the defense table during her federal trial in New York. Ben Affleck drank it during an interview with Playboy. Teen-agers gulp it out of giant bottles with trippy graphics. And ladies-who-lunch sip it out of crystal glasses with a slice of lemon. Yes, we're talking about iced tea, the unofficial drink of summer.

Around the country, iced tea is all the rage. According to Joe Simrany, president of the Tea Association of the U.S.A., Americans spent $2 billion on ready-to-drink iced tea last year, 10 times more than we spent in 1990.

It's easy to understand why America's gone iced-tea crazy. With a more health-conscious reputation than carbonated soft drinks, flavors that range from green-tea exotic to sweet-tea familiar and claims of everything from cancer prevention to increased life expectancy, tea is the beverage trend du jour. But you don't need to buy a bottle to be a part of the iced-tea craze. You can brew up a batch at home at a fraction of the cost and with less effort than it takes to carry a case of Snapple from Costco to your refrigerator.

Whatever flavor you're making, the routine is basically the same. Boil water. Add tea bags (or loose tea, if you're a major aficionado). Remove tea bags. Add flavorings. Pour over ice. Garnish. Serve.

Even a modestly stocked supermarket will probably have black, green, decaffeinated and herbal teas. A gourmet shop will have an even wider assortment. And if you're up for buying your tea on the Web, you'll find thousands of varieties to choose from. As for flavorings, juice, honey, sugar, syrup, fruit puree, extracts, spices and herbs all work beautifully. The real fun comes when you start combining flavors. As Miriam Novalle, owner of New York's chic T Salon, puts it, "Imagination is the No. 1 thing."

For inspiration, you probably won't have to look far. Teahouses, coffee bars and bagel shops around the country are serving some wildly imaginative blends. At T Salon, you'll find everything from tea smoothies to iced mint chai. At pop-sensation Moby's hip little teahouse, Teany, on New York's Lower East Side, there's iced tea with names like Hibiscus Grape and Vanilla Berry Cream. Nationwide, Einstein Bros. Bagels serves spontaneiTEA -- iced green tea with fruit and ginseng -- and Starbucks offers Tazoberry, an iced black tea with apple and red raspberry flavors, served with or without cream.

Even bars have gotten into the iced-tea act. At Miami Beach's celebrity hangout, Bond Street Lounge, Green Tea Martinis have been all the rage for the past few years. Owner Jonathan Morr calls them "the new Cosmopolitan."

Mint Chai

Serves 2

2 cups brewed mint tea (recipe follows)

1 tablespoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon whole cloves

1 teaspoon ground dry ginger

1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon whole white peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon dried lemon grass

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

fresh mint for garnish, optional

Combine brewed tea, cardamom, cloves, ginger, black peppercorns, white peppercorns, lemongrass and vanilla. Strain over two glasses filled to the top with ice. Garnish with mint, if desired.

--This recipe was adapted from T Salon, New York City.

Mint Tea

2 cups water

2 tea bags of mint tea

Boil water, pour over tea bags and let steep 4 minutes. Remove tea bags.

Green Tea Martini

Serves 1

1 ounce brewed and cold Green Tea (recipe follows)

2 ounces Absolut citron vodka

1 ounce Triple Sec

superfine sugar for dusting glass rim, optional

1 lime or lemon twist

Combine tea, vodka and Triple Sec in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake martini well and strain into martini glass with a rim that has been dusted with superfine sugar, if desired. Garnish with a lime or lemon twist.

-- Adapted from Bond Street Lounge in Miami Beach

Green Tea

Makes 8 ounces

1 cup water

1 tea bag of green tea

Boil water, pour over tea bag and let steep 4 minutes. Remove tea bag. Refrigerate until cold.

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