Iced Herb Teas
A healthy way to beat the thirst
February is the hottest month of the year, and there’s nothing more refreshing on a hot day than a long, icy drink. The trouble is that most soft drinks are full of sugar, while the healthy option (drinking loads of water) isn’t everyone’s ‘cup of tea’. Iced teas, and especially herb iced teas, tick all the boxes. They are refreshing, healthy, full of flavour and can be sugarless.
A teaspoon of honey or sucralose sweeteners can be added (sparingly) if a little sweetness is needed. Adding chopped or sliced fruit is another way of adding some healthy sweetness. Taking in enough liquids (the equivalent of eight glasses of water a day) is necessary to keep hydrated, especially on very hot days. What’s nice about herb iced tea is that it is easy to make a large jugful each day and keep it well chilled in the refrigerator.
The most flavourful herbs for iced tea are those with a fresh lemon flavour, such as lemon balm, lemon verbena, lemon thyme and lemon grass. They also combine well with other refreshing herbs, like mint, pineapple mint, basil and borage, which has a light cucumber flavour.
Use only healthy, fresh leaves. Bruise slightly before pouring in the boiled water. This helps to release their flavour.
While infusing, cover the cup to prevent the herb’s volatile oils from evaporating, as they give the herb its tonic or therapeutic action.
How to make herb tea
The basic method for making herb tea is to infuse 2 – 3 herb sprigs (or 2 teaspoons) per cup of boiling water. Place the herbs in a glass coffee plunger, china teapot or heat-proof glass jar. Add water that has just come to the boil and let it stand for 10 – 15 minutes, covered. Strain and drink. Add honey to sweeten, if desired. The same method applies for iced tea, but with a little tweaking to make it more delicious.
Use 4 cups of water to 1 cup of herbs, and add the sweeteners while the herbs are infusing. Strain and pour into a jug. Add an additional 4 cups of iced water or ice cubes. Stir in 1 thinly sliced lime and chopped or sliced fruit (peaches, orange, apple, pineapple) for extra flavour. Refrigerate for 3 – 4 hours. Add two or three fresh herb sprigs when serving.
Herbal iced tea with black, green or rooibos tea Make a strong brew by putting two tea bags of your choice in a heat-proof jug or plunger, then add 3 cups of boiling water, 6 herb leaves of your choice, a teaspoon of honey (optional) and half a thinly sliced lemon or other sliced/diced fresh fruit. Cover and let the tea bags steep for 10 – 15 minutes. (If left for too long the flavour becomes bitter.) Discard the tea bags. Chill in the refrigerator for 3 – 4 hours, then remove the herbs but retain the fruit. Add ice cubes for weaker tea.
Quick tips for iced herd teas
- Freeze individual herb leaves, berries or cucumber slices in ice cubes and add them to the iced tea.
- Use stevia to sweeten the tea rather than refined sugar.
- For stronger green tea, add extra tea rather than steeping it for longer, which will make it bitter.
- For a quick iced tea, fill a large glass with ice and pour it into the hot herb tea. Within a minute you will have iced tea.
- As a variation, make a strong tea using a cup of lemon-flavoured herb leaves and two cups of water. Mix the strained infusion with fruit concentrate, soda water and ginger ale. Refrigerate and serve with sliced lemon, fresh herb leaves and ice.
Tasty iced herb teas: combos
For a tropical treat combine lemon balm (3 parts) with sliced lemon and the leaves and flowers of pineapple sage (one part). For extra strength add some black tea or rooibos.
Double up: Lemon thyme and lemon verbena used in equal parts will make a strongly flavoured iced lemony tea. How about adding some finely sliced fresh ginger for a real zinger of a tea?
Go very green by combining lemon verbena with sweet basil, or even lemon basil, and green tea. Lemon balm works well with all the mints, especially peppermint or spearmint. Alternatively, use mint together with lemon thyme, which has a subtler lemon flavour.
For an Asian twist, make lemon grass tea infused with sliced fresh ginger.
Try lavender flowers with lemon balm. Both have stress-relieving properties.