Introducing just one additional ingredient to basic iced tea can add a whole new dimension to its flavor. To experiment with adding herbs, start with the general rule of a quarter- to a half-teaspoon of stronger dried herbs per eight ounces of tea. When using especially mild herbs, try doubling the amount used. (Herb-to-tea ratios can be changed to suit taste as you develop your own favorites.) Lemon balm, peppermint leaf and raspberry leaf make especially good additions to iced teas. Simply brew the herbs along with the tea.
Edible flowers, such as pansies, lavender, chamomile, or red clover blossoms, can be frozen in cubes or rinsed and patted dry to be added to tea just before serving. Let them float in a pitcher of tea or in individual glasses.
Herbal Iced Teas
Although technically all "tea" is brewed from the leaves of the tea plant (camellia sinensis), we also create drinks by steeping the flowers, leaves, or fruits of plants that we call "herbal teas." Herbal iced teas make great summer drinks -- refreshing, healthy, and economical -- and they provide a natural alternative to sodas and other drinks with sugar or caffeine.
There are hundreds of herbs suitable for herbal teas and it's fun to create your own blends that exactly suit your taste. Think about the fragrance, mood, and taste of the herbs you select and look for those you think would complement each other. Take physical characteristics -- like color and texture -- into account, too. Start with an appealing herb as a foundation, then add others for interest. When you sample your tea, notice how the flavors play off one another and think about what you might change to improve your next batch.
NOTE: Always consult a reliable herb reference regarding the safety of consuming any herb you use as a tea. Some herbs that are otherwise healthful are unsafe for consumption during pregnancy or for people with certain health conditions.
Here are some groupings of herb that may be useful for exploring for new ingredients and combinations:
Mints add fresh flavor, cleansing scent and synergy to tea blends. Peppermint is the most popular of the mints, and the strongest. Spearmint helps meld other flavors.
Lemon verbena, lemongrass, lemon balm and lemon peel are refreshing, fragrant herbs that excel in tea blends.
Roses and chamomile are fragrant and relaxing, while hibiscus adds a zing (and a lovely shade of red) to tea.
A touch of a familiar spice like cinnamon, cloves, fennel or allspice adds a comfortable quality to blends.
For teas with "body," start with a root such as licorice, sarsaparilla, or the coffee-like dandelion and chicory.
Raspberry, cranberry, rosehips and blackberry add lovely color and a fruity taste that combines beautifully with more subtle herbs.
Anise provides a sweetness reminiscent of root beer or candy, while cinnamon adds a satisfying spicy-sweetness.
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