The invention of iced tea is generally believed to have occurred in America in 1904, although some evidence has been presented that it may have been drunk in the South well before that. Like many great inventions, iced tea was created completely by accident.
It was a sweltering day during the World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, and Englishman Richard Blechynden’s tea concession was not doing well. Thinking quickly, Mr. Blechynden added ice and created a beverage that has since become an American favorite.
Almost any tea you enjoy hot can be poured over ice for a refreshing change. Some teas, however, lend themselves to making a better glass of cold, clear, bright and flavorful ice tea. One of Holy Mountain’s teas that is excellent for this purpose is Keemun (Qihong). There are also many tasty non-clouding specialty iced tea blends you can create yourself.
Fruit teas are shown off to good effect as iced drinks, and with no caffeine, it is a great choice for all ages. Speaking of which, for those of a certain age, these tisanes make good cocktail bases.
Teas cloud (or “cream” — the term used by experts) when the pH or chemical balance in the glass is upset. Sometimes it can be as simple as the type of tea. Some teas have a high acid content which will change the pH level in cool water. Assam teas from India are particularly susceptible. These teas are abundant in compounds called theoflavins and theorubigins, which combine with the calcium and/or magnesium in tap water to form salts that won’t dissolve in cold water. As hot tea cools, the minerals in the water and the compounds in the tea clump, giving the tea a murky appearance. If your chilled glass of iced tea clouds, try slicing up some citrus fruit and adding it to your glass. Lemons, limes and oranges are high in acid and will help balance the pH level.
Brewed iced tea is more than 99 percent local water, so another major factor in clarity can be the quality of the water being used. High mineral content, chlorine and water hardness can easily affect both the clarity and taste of the brewed tea.
When tea is refrigerated, it not only absorbs refrigerator odors, it also goes through an elemental chemical change that weakens the taste and creates an opaque, off-color appearance. The chemical change is precipitated by the reaction between calcium and/or magnesium in the water (which is needed for the extraction/steeping process) and the polyphenols (like EGCG and others). The chemical reaction constructs insoluble salts which are most noticeable when the solution cools down. The more polyphenols in the tea means the more distinct the change. Polyphenols are what give tea its health benefits, mouthfeel and color. Orthodox style, hand processed teas take only the fresh new shoots of the plant (typically the unfurled leaf bud and the next two leaves), which tend to have higher accumulations of polyphenols. So, the better the quality of the tea, the greater the probable chemical change.
When using a standard coffee maker to make tea:
- Use 1 ounce of tea to 64 ounces of water.
- Run one cycle through the leaves.
- Pour hot infused tea into 64 ounces of cold tap water.
- Place blended tea into a dispenser.
- Another option is to run two brewing cycles through the same leaves. Let cool before placing in a dispenser.
For Cold Brewing Oolong, try this method:
- 1 oz tea
- 1 gallon of water at room temperature
- Approx 10 hours in the refrigerator
- Add ice when serving.
- Do not store overnight. Brew tea fresh each day.
- If making traditional ice tea (without a brewing machine), do not bring water to a full boil.
- If clouding occurs immediately following brewing, lower brewing temperature of water.
- Never use a coffee pot for tea. Any item previously used for brewing or storing coffee will contaminate tea.
ALWAYS WASH OUT YOUR BREWING AND SERVING EQUIPMENT DAILY. TEA SHOULD BE MADE FRESH DAILY.