A new style of iced teas

Photo courtesy of Steep Echo Tea

The other day someone posted a picture of an analog clock on Instagram, but rather than numbers, amusingly, it had the days of the week. After snickering, I realised that a clock like that would come in handy because since the Covid-19 crisis began, there does not seem to be much of a difference from one day to the next, and the months are a blur. For example, it is the last full week of June and only a couple of days ago did it hit me that June is National Iced Tea month in the United States! Okay, this is not a celebration like Independence Day or Thanksgiving, but I usually try to acknowledge it in some way in this space – much earlier in the month – or in the magazine with a relevant article (similar to how National Hot Tea month and the first International Tea Day have been addressed).

I did not remember it was National Iced Tea month until participating in the Tea Association of the USA’s/Specialty Tea Institute’s (STI) weekly Virtual Tea Party (started during the pandemic). I am surprised I forgot considering what “big business” iced tea is in the US — between 75% and 80% of all tea consumed is iced tea. If ready-to-drink tea is factored in, the percentage of “cold tea” consumed is much higher as the canned/bottled RTD tea segment comprised about 50% of total market share in 2019, per the Tea Association (it is expected to have a more modest growth of 1-3% CAGR over the next five years).

I grew up an iced tea drinker as both of my parents were raised in the South, and it seemed to have been the signature year-round alternative beverage to soda, which I never liked. Although, I can proudly claim that I was never a “sweet tea” drinker as that is just a cold mess of sugar, water and a trace of tea flavouring (well, that’s my recollection…) nor did I like instant tea (just awful!). But today’s iced teas are radically different than those of yesteryear. They are fun, innovative, infused blends of black, green, white, and herbal tea — and much higher quality than what was available during my youth! And now, taking it one step further, iced tea cocktails are becoming more prevalent.

During this week’s virtual Tea Party, which has a different guest presenter each week, Kelly Amoroso, coffee and tea buyer, and Alex Gigas, barista, at Allegro Coffee (a wholly owned subsidiary of Whole Foods Market), demonstrated how to prepare several delectable “spiked” iced tea concoctions that are being offered at the Allegro Cafés, now that they are slowly starting to reopen. The featured cocktails were: Black Iced Tea and Orange Liqueur, Green Tea Sauvignon Blanc Sangria, Iced Citrus Bourbon Shaker, which calls for vanilla rooibos, and my personal favourite, Hibiscus Rosé Sangria, which uses muddled strawberries — a fruit that signifies summer! I picture myself drinking the sangria (perhaps “frozé” style…) on sailboat on a hot summer day (social distancing is possible on a sailboat!), but I digress…If anyone would like Allegro’s iced tea cocktail recipes, please email me.

And just yesterday, I received an announcement from Steep Echo Tea (in partnership with Bel Lavoro Orchards) about a Boozy Summer Stir, Shake & Sip Series. The first featured cocktail is the Steep Echo Bloom Gin Gimlet, followed by the Steep Echo Ginger Hush Fizz and the Steep Echo Tend Tea-Tini. Steep Echo’s Bloom Tea is an “immune boosting” blend that fuses organic olive leaf with peppermint, echinacea root, licorice root, thyme, rosemary and natural cranberry flavour — sounds delicious!

Earlier this month, SUKI Tea introduced a sparkling tea infusions line, which was described as “perfect for afternoon teas, picnics, festivals or simply hanging out at home on long, sunny days.” SUKI also noted that “there’s the option to get creative with cocktails…The peach tea is perfect as a dark rum mixer, while the elderflower goes rather well with tequila.”

Steep Echo Tea and SUKI Tea are not the only brands promoted iced tea cocktails, they are becoming more ubiquitous, and as such, are moving beyond a fad or trend, and maybe even beyond summer. Iced tea cocktails are refreshing and fun, and don’t we all deserve a little fun after the year we’ve all been having?!

Just a quick side note, for those unaware, due to Covid-19, Tea & Coffee World Cup 2020, has been cancelled. The new dates and location have yet to be determined.

And now, as the weather is about 30C/90F, I am off to search for newly reopened cafés offering iced tea cocktails…Happy sipping!

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