You'll always find a pitcher of tea in my refrigerator. But not because I made it or drink it daily. Iced tea is my husband's beverage of choice and he can easily drink a gallon or more every day in the summer.
I tend to stick with water. Luckily, Little Rock has some of the best water I've ever tasted so I don't feel deprived. To really enjoy tea, I need a little sweetener in it — and I can't stand sugar substitutes — so I only drink tea occasionally.
Don't get me wrong — I love tea. I drink it hot all winter long and I often cook with it (tea caramel, iced tea brined chicken, poaching fruit). There are at least a half dozen varieties and blends in my kitchen right this minute — orange pekoe, jasmine, Earl Grey, Lady Grey, darjeeling, oolong, Lapsang souchong (smoked black tea), Fujian white tea. A few of those I'd wear as perfume given the chance.
June happens to be National Iced Tea Month — a departure from most made-up holidays when the celebrated food isn't even in season — according to nationaldaycalendar.com.
Richard Blechynden, a tea merchant at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, is credited with popularizing iced tea when he served it to fairgoers, however he did not invent it. Instructions for preparing the beverage were published in cookbooks and newspapers as early as the mid-19th century.
National Iced Tea Month may be something new, but national celebrations of this beverage are not. According to food historians at foodtimeline.org, Iced Tea Week was celebrated as early as the 1920s. The designated week varied, but was usually during the summer months. "Celebrations" were most often store specials on tea.
I recently received a bottle of orange blossom water from Nielsen-Massey (a thank you of sorts for mentioning the company in my rosewater column last month). When I opened the bottle to smell it, I immediately thought of the fragrant, floral notes of some teas. But let me be clear: the extract does not smell like tea. Nor does it smell like oranges. It smells like flowers. Wonderful flowers. But nothing like roses. If rosewater is the outgoing, exuberant sister, orange blossom water is the sultry, mysterious one.
I decided to see if adding orange blossom water to iced tea would taste as lovely on my tongue as I imagined.
I realize most of you know how to make tea, so feel free to skip the following recipe, but do try adding a splash or so of orange blossom water to your next pitcher (use 1 to 2 teaspoons per quart), especially if you're a fan of lemon in your tea. The subtle, but heady aroma of orange blossom water plays so well with the tea and citrus.
Orange Blossom Iced Tea
¼ ounce loose leaf tea OR 1 quart-size tea bag
3 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons orange blossom water (extract)
Sliced lemons and mint sprigs, optional garnish
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Combine boiling water and tea in a heat-safe pitcher and let steep 5 minutes or to desired strength. Remove tea bag or pour mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove tea. Stir sugar into hot tea, stirring until it dissolves. Stir in orange blossom water extract and 2 cups cold water. Chill. Serve over ice, garnished with lemon slices and mint, if desired.
Makes 1 quart.
Food on 06/19/2019