The classic cup of tea? Boil the kettle, get the water up to the right temperature for whichever type of tea it is, and then fill a teapot and leave to infuse before enjoying hot.
That's certainly the way we would most often make tea, but when the weather is as wonderful as it's been for these past few days at least, cold drinks and refreshing fruity flavours come to mind as a better way to relax than a classic hot drink.
Happily, there are alternatives to heavily sweetened soft drinks, and the one we most favour is a simple cold-infusion method of tea making. The cold infused teas that we recommend are very different from American-style iced teas that are becoming quite well known. Iced teas of that style are brewed hot and then cooled, often flavoured with syrups or sweetened and served with a slice of lemon or lime. These cold infusions are made at low temperature and kept cool, infusing gradually over a longer time for a smoother flavour that won't require any sweetening.
The method is simple - simply place as much tea as you'd usually use in a jug or other similar container, fill with cold water and then leave the tea to infuse in the fridge for at least five hours. Overnight works well if you're reasonably confident that the weather will still be hot and sunny the following day. Then, when it's had enough time, just decant through a tea strainer into another jug for serving cold.
Not every tea is suitable for this style of infusion - the flavour develops differently over a slow infusion and only certain teas work well this way. Those that do will give a pleasant fruity, floral or sometimes nutty flavour that for some teas will be reminiscent of the tea's usual flavour when brewed hot, but for others will be quite different.
It can be fun to experiment with different teas to see what works well, but to get you started, here are some that we've enjoyed already over the summer so far:
A Japanese green tea that is made using the stems and the lower leaves of the tea plant instead of the new buds and tips. The result, when brewed at the usual temperature, is a naturally sweet and light flavour that serves as an ideal mid-afternoon re-energiser. When brewed cold, the sweetness remains and is accompanied by a refreshing vegetal aftertaste. Japanese green teas are particularly susceptible to over-infusing and becoming bitter and unpleasant when infused hot. As a cold infusion, this is not a problem and the tea is delicious when left to infuse overnight.
From the Gopaldhara Estate in Darjeeling, Wonder Tea is a prime first flush tea, harvested during the early picking season. When brewed normally, it gives a floral aroma and a refreshing taste. This tea is very different when infused cold - the floral aroma remains as a characteristic Darjeeling effect, but the flavour becomes maltier and more powerful. The result is a refreshing chilled tea that seems to combine many of the positive features of the first flush teas with those of the second flush, usually the only Darjeelings to carry a particularly malty taste.
From Yunnan Province in southwestern China, Moonlight White is a unique tea, picked and then withered briefly during the night rather than under the harsh Yunnan sun. It is a white tea, meaning that it hasn't been oxidised and has had no additional processing after the leaves have been dried. Moonlight White, when brewed at around 70 °C , carries a stone fruits aroma and a similar, light flavour. The result of a cold infusion is much more floral, with the stone fruits remaining as a lingering aftertaste.
With the hot weather at the end of June, I have been experimenting with iced tea. Using our Peach Sencha, some freshly grated ginger and some cloudy lemonade I made this really refreshing drink.
It's really easy to make and a great alternative to alcoholic cocktails.