Iced White Tea: Good or Bad Idea?

Iced White Tea - Betsy Ross White

Iced Betsy Ross White

Iced white tea is an oddly controversial topic for tea snobs. This beautifully delicate tea has a very loyal following, most of whom would turn their nose up on icing their favorite tea. Others are willing to be more flexible, stating that Bai Hao Silver Needle should never be iced while Bai Mou Dan is fine to ice. Well, we like to consider all perspectives and equip tea drinkers with the knowledge to play with their favorite beverage. Of course you can ice white tea. Will you like it iced is really the question. So here are 3 hints on how to approach making iced white tea.

  1. Humans are very bad at tasting cold food and beverages. Good quality unflavored white tea is very subtle with a light floral aroma, which is sometimes hard to detect when it is iced. If you want to try Bai Hao Silver Needle cold, we highly recommend the cold brew method. It does a much better job holding in the floral flavors than a traditional iced tea maker or brewing it warm and pouring it over ice.
  2. Flavored/Blended white teas are perfect for ice. The other ingredients, like freeze dried elderberries or star anise, are still detectable in cold tea. The iced white tea we like the best is Betsy Ross White.
  3. Watch your temperatures and cold brew your white tea! If you need to make a batch fast and do not have the 8-10 hours for cold brew, make sure to steep the white tea in water below 185°F. If you brew it above this temperature, it will be bitter as you will have burnt your tea.

So play with white tea iced. You may find you like this lighter alternative to our traditional black iced teas. Let us know about your favorite iced white tea in the comments!

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3 Additions to Tea Worth Knowing About

Tibetan Yak

Yak dressed up in Tibet.

Here are 3 additions to tea to keep your eyes open for when traveling aboard or here at home at your favorite foreign cuisine restaurant. These are not the sugar, cream or ice that Americans know and love.

1. Yak Butter. This Tibetan addition to tea cannot be duplicated here in the US as yak milk and butter are not to be found in your local grocery store. The closest we can get is using water buffalo milk to make buffalo butter to match this beverage. There are a few water buffalo dairies in the U.S., so if you are ever in Ithaca, New York or Canon City, Colorado, you might want to have a look. Yak milk and buffalo milk have about twice the amount of fat as cows milk, so the butter is more like what American’s think of as soft cheese in consistency. To make yak butter tea, a black tea is steeped several hours and then strained off. Butter and salt are added and the mixture is whipped or churned until the butter melts. It is then left over low heat to keep it warm. When finished drinking, a dash of roasted barley flour is added to the bottom of the cup and rolled into a ball to absorb the last bits of tea and butter and then eaten.

2. Salt. Pakistan has a version of salt tea called Kashmiri Chai. Mongolia has a version called Suutei tsai. Both use a green tea base, milk and salt. The trick to the salt is getting just the right amount. Too much salt and that is all you will taste. The tea is brewed in water and then the milk and salt are added and warmed enough not to have the temperature drop. Both versions typically have the tea steeping for about 10 minutes.

3. Toasted Rice. Any fan of Japanese green tea will recognize this addition. Genmaicha is toasted rice and green tea (Sencha). Unlike our first two additions which are added after brewing, the toasted rice is brewed with the tea and it gives the tea a smooth popcorn smell and flavor. This one is easy to get here in the states, and worth trying at least once to see how it changes the flavor of Sencha.

While these additions are definitely outside the typical American experience with tea, as true tea connoisseur, you are honoring your favorite beverage by experiencing it through the cultures that have consumed tea longer than the U.S. has been in existence.

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Sugar for Tea: 3 Unique Alternatives

For some, finding the right sugar for tea is as equally important as picking out your favorite tea. There is nothing wrong with plain old ordinary cane sugar, other than it takes a while to dissolve in water even when it is at a boil. But, there are other great alternatives that dissolve quickly in your water regardless of the temperature and give you a new way to sweeten your favorite beverage.

Sugar Cane in Arizona

Sugar cane from which molasses is produced. Public Domain – Care Of www.waterarchives.org

Molasses

This staple for making Gingerbread Cookies is super sweet and dissolves quickly in hot water. Molasses is the left over syrup from extracting sugar from sugar cane juice. There are actually three forms of molasses – light, dark and blackstrap. The light molasses will not change the flavor of your tea much. However, the darker molasses will add a slightly nutty flavor to your tea. This stuff is super sweet so only use about 1/3 to 1/2 of what you typically would use for standard sugar. This sweetener will work well with black tea. It will darken your lighter colored teas, like green or white, but don’t let that stop you from trying it out.

Pancakes and maple syrup

Maple syrup goes great on pancakes, for sure, but also is great in tea. (CC BY SA 2.0 by Flickr user Lemsipmatt)

Maple Syrup

Much like molasses, maple syrup comes in many different grades. Grade A is the lightest, and not easily found in grocery stores. Grade B is the most common and usually what you buy in the grocery store. Our favorite comes from Highland County, Virginia where you can visit sugar shacks every spring, but great maple syrup options come from New England and Canada too. As a syrup it dissolves faster in hot liquids than standard cane sugar crystals and it will add a slight maple flavor to your tea.

Fruit Sugars (Coconut or Date Sugar)

Yes these are crystallized just like plain sugar, but their source is not sugar cane but their respective fruits. Both have a more butterscotch and brown cane sugar flavor than anything else. Date sugar can be made from any dates but you usually see it made from deglet noor dates. These dates are smaller than medjool dates and have a firmer texture. They are grown mainly in California. Coconut sugar has been around a long time in Southeast Asia and has only recently made an appearance in large volume in the last six years in the US. Coconut sugar is made from of the sap of the cut palm flowers.

These unique sugar sources are worth trying should you need something sweet in your cup of tea.

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5 Teas to Try Iced or Cold Brewed

Two great teas over ice.

Iced Ti Kuan Yin and Nilgiri

There are many teas that we associate with drinking hot that actually make great iced teas. It all comes down to getting your brewing time and amount of tea correct. Below are just five teas that people may overlook in trying to find new and fun iced or cold brewed tea options.

  1. Irish Breakfast – Yes, your favorite cup of black tea in the morning makes a perfectly good iced tea. You can thank the Assam tea from India that makes up the largest portion of this tea blend. Assam tea’s strong and astringent flavor holds over ice. This makes it a perfect tea for an Arnold Palmer(link to recipe).
  2. Sencha – This staple green tea from Japan is truly tasty cold brewed. If you not familiar with it check out an earlier post on cold brewing tea to find out how easy it is to have tea waiting for you first thing in the morning.
  3. Ti Kuan Yin – Also known as Iron Goddess Tea, this toasted oolong remains smooth and sesame in flavor over ice. It is a nice alternative to typical bold black tea used for iced tea. It also pairs nicely with strawberries or peaches, so feel free to add some to the pitcher or cup to change things up a bit.
  4. Moroccan Mint – This fragrant green tea is just as refreshing cold as it is hot. This one can be prepared either iced or cold brewed.
  5. Nilgiri – This beautiful black tea from India brews crystal clear and remains clear when cold, even after three days in the refrigerator. It also keeps its smooth woody and floral tea taste while cold. Lemon and sugar can be added with no problem. If you want to learn more about this beautiful tea and the region of India it comes from, check out this blog post.

These five teas are just the tip of the iceburg when it comes to ice tea options. So feel free to try your favorite tea cold, you may be surprised by how good it is.

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Cleaning Tea Accessories (For Optimal Tea Enjoyment)

Tea deposits brown tannin stains over time.

Before And After – Cleaning Tannins from Tea Cups

At the start of spring, the inclination to clean and freshen up from the winter kicks in and we should use this habit for cleaning tea accessories that may not have been as thoroughly cleaned as needed from our routine use. Below are some tips on how to properly deep clean your tea accessories.

Tea Infuser

Cleaning this tea accessory is generally the easiest since they are usually dishwasher safe and hopefully you have been doing that. However, if you are like me, my infuser is not always near a dishwasher or I don’t want to risk it disappearing from the dishwasher at work. So to help clean out the tea stains soak the infuser in boiling water for 10 minutes and then rinse under cold. Dispose of that boiling water and repeat. You can also use a toothbrush to help get stuck tea leaf parts out of the holes in the infuser. Gently scrub with the toothbrush after the infuser has soak in the boiling water for at least 5 minutes.

Tea Cups & Tea Pots (Porcelain)

So with age, our favorite porcelain tea cups and pots start to turn brown on the inside. This is a natural formation of the tannins from the tea. This is harmless, but if the color bothers you, you can remove it by combining boiling water, the juice and peel from a quarter of a lemon and 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Allow it to sit in the teapot or cup for at least two hours if not over night. Pour off after it has soaked and wipe down with a gentle cloth. You may need to repeat if the stain is very stubborn. Before putting in your next pot of tea, make sure you rinse with at least one pot or cup of plain boiling water.

Tea Pots (Silver)

So silver tarnishes both inside and outside. I am not one to put silver polish on the inside of my silver teapot, so this is a better method for getting rid of that tarnish. Line your kitchen sink with aluminium foil, shiny side up, and pour in 1/2 cup of salt and 1/2 cup of baking soda. Then fill the sink about 2/3 full (enough so the tea pot fully submerges in the water) with water that is just shy of a boil. Allow the teapot to soak for 1-2 minutes and then pull it out and dry immediately with a soft cloth.

Before and after photos of tarnished followed by clean silver pots.

Cleaning Silver Teapots in 2 Minutes Flat! (aka a great science experiment with kids)

Tea Pots (Iron)

These pots are the easiest to clean as you can clean them after each use by pouring in boiling water and allowing it to sit for about 3-5 minutes and then drain. Do not use a scouring sponge on this pot as it will cause scratches on its surface. If your iron pot develops rust, all is not lost. Generally, the rust is not a problem to consume and some cultures, like the Japanese, like the taste of tea from a rusted iron pot. If rust is not your thing, take some used tea leaves and put them in the pot with boiling water and allow it to sit for 20 minutes. The tannic acid from the tea leaves will react with the rust and create a coating that will prevent future rust formation assuming you don’t leave standing water in your teapot.

Don’t forget after you have cleaned your tea accessories, you should probably check those shelves in the pantry that are home to your tea collection and review our storage guide to help you determine which teas may need to head to the compost pile. Happy Spring Cleaning!

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