The start of summer is almost here.
Won’t be long now! With the upcoming Memorial Day holiday officially marking the beginning of sun-drenched, lazy afternoons on a beach, river, or lounge-chair in your own backyard, we’re going to need a refreshing (and pretty) beverage to keep the summer vibes chillin’ all season long. My inspiration for this Heavenly Iced Tea came from two places. First, from all the gorgeous designer ice cube creations I’m seeing on the blogs and Pinterest right now. Simply stunning. Fruits, herbs, edible flowers, you name it. Fun and practical. And second, I found a new (and delicious) range of artisan teas produced right here in Santa Rosa. I came across Tea & Trumpets at a Wool Festival out in Valley Ford/West Sonoma County this past weekend. Bought a few of their sample sizes, and found one that is perfect for making iced tea.
First, let’s talk about all these brilliant ice cubes. So imaginative. Like the dainty little petals from Le Zoe Musings, the deep crimson hues in these from Half Baked Harvest, fruit-filled ones from 100 Layer Cake, fragrant herbal cubes from Sweet Little Dish, or celebrate any patriotic holiday with these festive red, white and blue swizzle cubes from Momtastic. Heck, make a giant ice cube-bowl for your tea and serve a crowd. Like this flowery-one from Intimate Weddings. Oooh, what about these layered ones from The View From Great Island–so cool! The list goes on and on. I’ve even started a Pinterest board solely dedicated to my decorator-ice-cube obsession.
Now the star of the beverage—-the tea. All of the teas made by Tea & Trumpets are sold as loose leaf. According to the owner Mark– “the best, whole leaves are used for loose leaf tea. Generally, the leftover smaller tea pieces are used in bagged tea. Yes, bagged tea will brew more quickly, but can often lack the subtlety and full flavor of larger loose leaf teas”. Plus there’s something so relaxing, almost meditative, about brewing loose tea. The entire ritual of choosing a tea flavor, pulling out your favorite teapot, waiting for the kettle to boil, (allowing you a much deserved 2-3 minutes of complete zone-out time), another few minutes of what seems like endless waiting until the hot, aromatic elixir fills the senses with calm and pure enjoyment. The whole process forces you to slow down and take some time out of a very busy day to enjoy the simple things in life.
From the tea assortment, I chose the Hawaiian Breeze– a premium black tea with tropical notes from hibiscus, calendula, and corn flowers- to make one set of cubes. For the other set, I used pink lemons. These cubes are really quite easy to make, and you can let your imagination run wild. Make a whole bunch of cubes at once, with all sorts of fruits and herbs. Once they’re all frozen, pop into freezer zip-bags and take out just what you need for your summer teas and cocktails. Tip: you can buy ice cube trays at a dollar store in every color imaginable. You generally get two trays to the pack, so go crazy and fill your freezer with a dazzling array of designer ice! Right, let’s get started!
For the Pink Lemon cubes: I simply cut the lemon into round slices, then in half again to get the wedge. Line an ice cube tray with one slice and fill with freshly squeezed lemon juice. I used a combination of pink lemon juice and eureka lemon juice- two cups in total. Pink lemons are gorgeous & fragrant, but also a bit pricey. So I opted to mix a bit of both juices together. The pink lemon is really for show anyway.
For Hawaiian Breeze Tea cubes: line each slot with a small pinch of loose tea leaves from whatever tea your brewing. Make the tea according to your taste and allow it to cool slightly before pouring into the molds. You’ll need two cups in total. Be sure to strain all the tea leaves from the teapot out before pouring into the mold. Otherwise there will be too many tea leaves in the final cubes, which is not so fun to chew on when drinking the beverage. (I brewed mine in a 2-cup measuring cup (shown below), then strained it into another measuring cup for ease of pouring (not pictured)). Pop tray into the freezer overnight and away you go!
Heavenly Iced Tea
yields 2 servings | printable version
I don’t like my tea ‘sweet’, so I opted for the minty flavor of the simple syrup to round out the floral & citrus notes of the tea. Serve cold, with lots of pretty ice cubes and a fancy straw!
2 cups prepared black or herbal tea
4 tablespoons Mint Simple Syrup (see notes)
2-3 fruit, herb or floral-infused ice cubes per glass
You can find Tea & Trumpets at the West End Farmer’s Market in the historic west end of Santa Rosa on Sundays from 9:30am-2pm; open mid-March through mid-December. Or visit their website: www.tea-and-trumpets.com. p.s. this is not a sponsored post; I just happen to love their tea!
Mint Simple Syrup: combine 1 cup sugar and 2 cups cold water in a medium saucepan, along with a large bunch of fresh mint. Adjust the amount of mint to your taste. Allow sugar to dissolve and then cool syrup in the pan with mint leaves for 2-3 hours. This will allow the mint to fully infuse into the syrup. Strain into a clean jar and store in the fridge for up to 3-4 weeks.
Lemon juice and tea don’t fully harden in the trays like water does. So I opted to pop out the cubes (once they were frozen) onto a small baking sheet lined with parchment paper to re-freeze them individually for a couple hours. This helps to really set them. I store mine in a freezer-safe plastic storage container. Viola!