Last year, I visited my partner’s family in the South–and I’ll admit, I drank my fair share of Bojangles’ sweet tea. It was delicious. It was sugary. It was probably the reason my shorts didn’t fit after the vacation. But I came back to the Northwest hankering for a cool drink that was refreshing, sweet, and maybe a little caffeinated. So I experimented. A lot. And I figured out how to make the best iced tea–without adding mounts of sweetener.
So, here are a few tips from me to you:
Mix and match
Probably one of the best ways to come up with the most refreshing, delicious iced tea is to blend several different flavors. Mint darjeeling with rose herbal tea? Lemongrass and jasmine green tea? So good. Come up with combos of your favorites, and then mix up big, big batches in easy-to-store containers, like durable glass jars. Other great combos to try: hibiscus and lemon/ginger and spearmint and honeysuckle (which is naturally sweet).
Sun tea is a classic
If you’ve got a porch, a window, a roof, a fire-escape, a driveway, or anywhere that gets any amount of sun, it’s time to re-visit your Nana’s tradition and drag out the sun tea pitcher. Honestly, dropping a few bags of unsweetened Lipton black tea in with some tasty additions, like fresh mint, basil, or rose hips, and letting it hang out in the sun is the best way to get warm, balanced blend.
You can also add lemon peels, orange zest, ginger shavings, or even mango skins for a little extra flavor. It’s a classic for a reason–but you can make it better just by adding so tasty extras.
Remember when I explained how to make great coffee? One of my tips was to freeze the milk and sweetener. The same goes for tea–except, instead of milk, use lemon juice and a teeny bit of agave or another very-sweet additive. That way, you can dole out the sweetener in exact amounts, without overloading your tea (or watering it down).
Another way to use your freezer with iced tea is to use frozen fruit instead of/in addition to ice cubes. Raspberries, blackberries, and frozen peaches all make sweet treats when floated in/muddled into iced tea.
Be a little bitter
Make your iced tea a little “adult” by adding bitters. A friend of mine is a true connoisseur, and she can’t stop raving about the joys of blood orange, cardamom, elderberry, and other yummy flavors of bitters. Relatively low in sugar and ultra-long-lasting, just a few drops of these herb-and-spice tinctures (available at health food stores and online) can take your iced tea from “meh” to “Mmmm!” Liqueurs, too, in small amounts (they can be pretty sugary
Image: Josh Resnick via Shutterstock