We haven't had a ton of luck with bottled iced teas. We did a taste test awhile back of classic black-tea-and-lemon options (the winner was Honest Tea) and it was surprising how few of the options tasted like the tea you'd brew yourself. Bottled teas often show murkiness, mossy-ness, and bitterness, but none of the tasty sides of tea. So Heart of Tea, a new New York-based company brewing bottled teas with "larger, intact, quality tea leaves" caught our eye.
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Before we get into this, I'm going to give the quick reveal right up top for you folks who don't like to read (or skim). For the best sun tea, don't bother with the sun.
Runa, which makes the best dried guayusa leaves I've sampled for hot tea, has begun selling bottled, iced guayusa in four flavors.
Unfortunately, our skepticism about flavored white teas was only reaffirmed by Snapple's newest release, two 'Lightly Sweetened' flavors.
To narrow down the dizzying field, we stuck to the most common and popular option: lemon-flavored iced tea. We gathered up the nine most popular brands available in small serving bottles and tasted them in a double-blind line-up.
Since tea was going to be the star of this cocktail, I want to go with something that had a bit of complexity. I chose smoky Lapsang Souchong as my base ingredient. One whiff of this tea and there's no question what it will taste like: smoky, earthy, and intense. But that aggressive flavor can be shifted a bit when combined with other ingredients in a cocktail.
Sour cherry fans will go wild for this. It's like sipping pie filling through a straw, except that the iced tea gives it a cleaner, more refreshing finish and mellows the sweetness.
At the recently opened Victory Garden you can now get iced Hibiscus-Rose Tea ($3.50). The rose flavor comes in quite subtly, just tempering the tart and cool hibiscus. I prefer it without a sweetener—best to keep the drink light and the flavors pure—but you can ask for a little honey if you want.
The iced tea changes daily at Three Tarts in Chelsea, but it's always a light, season-appropriate flavor based on Harney & Sons tea. On a recent visit, the flavor of the day was a fruity black currant, and instead of sweetening it with sugar, the girl behind the counter offered a splash of limeade or lemonade.
A blend of chamomile, green tea, and lemon verbena served as the base of this iced concoction. Lest you think that's a mouthful, there is more: lychee and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Mint leaves are stirred in for good measure just before serving; it's a bright and decidedly summer-appropriate tea.
Soho Park is a bit of a tourist trap, but with its ample outdoor seating, I have trouble resisting. In hot weather, I always order the Soho Park Iced Tea ($4). It's a freshly brewed batch of bold Ceylon tea sweetened only with a berry puree.
It's the season for strawberry-rhubarb pies and cobblers—but when you can't justify eating dessert just yet, the answer is to incorporate those sweet-tart elements into a drink. This strawberry-rhubarb iced tea showcases the flavor of rhubarb and the gorgeous red color of early summer strawberries.
What is it about Thai iced tea that makes it so perfectly crave-worthy? Is it the subtly floral vanilla note? The deliciously mouth-coating sweetened condensed milk? That beautiful orange fluorescence? The knowledge that it will wash down a steaming plate of pad see ew? Who cares, as long as I can find a way to have it any time I want?
At Dok Suni in the East Village, the meal check is presented with a shot glass of the house ginger-cinnamon tea. You'll surely want more than just a shot, which is why they also sell it chilled for $4 a glass.