On the weekend, a small group of bloggers and one two-and-a-half-year-old girl relaxed in the leafy and floral courtyard of the Travelling Samovar Tea House to chat, giggle, taste tea, and learn about how to brew and blend and make the best of all the (non-alcoholic) summer drinks: iced tea.
Scout had begged to come with me and I was proud as punch to bring her along, but she did make it somewhat more difficult to listen and concentrate on everything we were learning. In between supervising toilet stops and watching her twirl around a garden umbrella and having half-an-ear on the shutter-click of 555(!) photographs (of the ground) being taken on my phone, here is what I learned about how to make a delicious iced tea.
Step 1: Choose your "base" (for example, black tea, green, yellow, or something herbal)
Step 2: You might want to blend some fresh or dried herbs in at the brew stage for flavour. For example, perhaps you'd like to add rose buds or peppermint
Step 3: Brew up the tea. Make it a fair bit stronger than you otherwise would because if you're going to pour it over ice, that will dilute it
Step 4: A good tip the Travelling Samovar gave us was to pour strong, HOT, freshly-brewed tea over ice, which will immediately cool and dilute it. Alternatively, you can store brewed tea in the 'fridge for several days, as long as it's properly sealed and you haven't yet added anything else like fruit or sugar
Step 5: Does your tea need sweetening? Experiment with fruit, sugar, honey, fruit cordial… To the yellow iced tea you see Scout making in these photographs, we added a strawberry coulis and some squares of mango for sweetness. It looked extravagant and tasted delicious
Step 6: Try to make your tea pretty. Apparently, we drink with our eyes as much as we eat with our eyes. The ladies at the Travelling Samovar suggest serving the cold tea with frozen fruits instead of ice: not only will it look beautiful, the tea won't become diluted as it warms up
Are you an iced-tea drinker? I confess that before the Travelling Samovar opened its doors in our neighbourhood, I wasn't a big fan.
I mean, there was THAT TEA I'd had in New Orleans that was pretty close to perfection, but other than that, the pre-bottled stuff you can buy at service stations really didn't float my boat. But the subtle, sweet, refreshing and gorgeous-looking teas these ladies serve up (there's easily half a dozen iced teas on the menu on any given day in summer) have completely won me over.
A big thanks to the Travelling Samovar for hosting such a fabulous event, and to all the ladies who came along and made it so much fun. I loved learning more about the history of this drink, and how to make it at home. And at 36 degrees by later that afternoon, you couldn't get a day better suited to the drinking of iced beverages. Just ask Scout, who got home and announced to her father "I DID MAKE THE ICED TEA" along the lines of "I JUST INVENTED PERPETUAL MOTION."
ps. This was not a sponsored event - we all paid our own ways