I am done with iced tea. And let me tell you why.
One, I have a deep aversion to packaged juice and ready-to-make syrups its all sugar, artificial flavors, more sugar and they don’t really gratify my hedonistic inclinations.
Two, its really hard to get fresh iced tea. I have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to find a good, honest glass of iced tea across coffee shops, restaurants and even watering holes at desperate times during painfully hot hours of the day. But I always end up being served cola-colored, sugary decoction made out of a sachet.
The closest I have come to a good glass of iced tea was when I tried to make some at home the other day from scratch that too.
For starters, I got hold of some really fresh and delicious Darjeeling black tea (courtesy: my day job at Teabox). A quick trip to the organic store had me reaching out for a craggy looking Ponderosa lemon, thinking I could manage to make an entire pitcher of iced tea with just one (Read: I seek food experiments all the time). A bushel of mint leaves and a jar of organic honey later I was armed to test my skills as a recipe creator. I steeped the tea just right, theorized the ideal level of honey in a glass of iced tea and even picked mint – leaf by leaf until my kitchen smelled like a mint perfumery. An hour later, I was quite proud of what I created. The burnt umber-looking brew seemed to be authentic, had the noticeable astringency of a Darjeeling tea, just the right amount of sweet, and looked like the iced teas I had seen on TLC.
This peacocking lasted a few hours until I served my ice tea, which I dubbed sweet sepia to my flat mate. Her face said it all. After all, she was comparing my creation to the ones she’s been chugging all her life the above mentioned one of the super sugary concentrate with deceptive cola-like appearance. My tea didn’t check any parameter on her list sweetness, lemony-ness, color, not even the use of a twisty straw with an umbrella on the side. I concede that my tea will never find takers amongst those who have only known the mass-produced sugary syrups.
But as it turned out I had an unexpected bit of luck when my hot cup of masala chai cooled in an air conditioned room causing a little eureka moment. The idea of an iced chai was awesome on every level; it satiated my craving for chai and solved the big X – a tea in sweltering heat.
Now, I had to adjust my go-to masala chai recipe for this, but it turned out pretty well. And on repeated attempts, has delivered most satisfyingly! My iced chai is deliciously wholesome and makes for a refreshing beverage on a summer afternoon when that tea craving sets in. Oh, and did I mention its super easy to make?
- Makes 2 servings
- 2 tsp Assam loose-leaf black tea
- 1 cup toned milk
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 inch cinnamon stick
- 1/2 inch fresh ginger (grated or crushed)
- 3-4 decorticated cardamom
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- Sugar (as per preference; can substitute with honey)
- Add water to a medium sized saucepan and bring it to a boil.
- Throw in the tea leaves and all of the spices, and let the brew simmer for about 4 minutes.
- Turn the heat off and let the tea cool. Add sugar/ honey as per preference then transfer the decoction to a pitcher or a flask.
- Place in the refrigerator and chill for at least 2 hours.
- To serve, fill a glass with ice and pour in the chilled tea liquor. Top it with milk (about 4 tbsp) and enjoy.
- Tip: In case you wish to avoid milk, try using lemon juice and mint or enjoy the chilled masala tea as it is. But just to put it out there, chai without milk is like pizza without cheese – a sacrilege.