With summer weather on the horizon, many of us are looking forward to a classic iced tea, maybe with the iconic wedge of lemon on the side.
For this article, we’re going to lean hard into the ‘lemon’ part by showcasing the Fog Cutter black tea, a robust black tea blend with a citrus-focused zing. For general homebrewing tips, check out this article.
Without further ado, here's how to make lemon iced tea!
Choosing a Method
Brewing up a pot of tea and then letting it cool for later is a classic technique for a reason, but there are two other methods that you may be less familiar with, at least with tea: cold brewing and ice brewing.
Each has its advantages, but ultimately it comes down to what you want out of your tea. Hot-brewed tea tends to result in bold flavor but lacks nuance. Cold-brewed will be less astringent, but also doesn’t have as much caffeine; ice-brewed tea can show you new notes to an old favorite but doesn’t work well for large batches.
Some Like it Hot
Hot-brewed tea, much like hot-brewed coffee, is highly aromatic when still hot and tends to pack a tannin-fueled punch once it has cooled. If you’re looking for a bold flavor, this could be your best bet, though most prefer to add plenty of sugar to counteract the bitter taste.
Keep in mind: hot tea done iced doesn’t show off a nuanced tea to the best advantage, and green or white teas can lose most of their flavor entirely! For this method, black tea with notes that are simple to accentuate is your best bet. Helpfully, Fog Cutter is just such a tea—the bright, lemony notes can easily be drawn back out with either the aforementioned lemon wedge or some strips of lemon peel.
Note: Though the general advice for making hot-brew ice tea is to make it at double strength, I used only the usual amount for mine and the flavor still came through strong—probably a result of the multiple black teas used in the blend.
Taking Time to Cool Off
Cold-brew tea, as you might guess from experience with cold brew coffee, tends to result in a smoother, less bitter drink. Unlike its counterpart, however, it does have less caffeine than if it were brewed hot.
The most important factor for cold brew is time. Fully extracting the flavors from the leaves takes time, and that can mean leaving the tea to do its magic for 8 hours—not exactly friendly to last-minute plans! However, once you’ve strained the leaves out and before you’ve added any sweetener, you can keep it in the fridge (in an airtight container so that it doesn’t absorb odors) for a day or two before its quality starts to degrade.
The cold brewing method doesn’t extract as many tannins, which meant that it came across as less flavorful to someone who isn’t used to the style. Again, it’s lemon to the rescue to help punch up the taste.
Putting it on Ice
Also called kouridashi, this method involves extracting the most umami (a flavor note often translated as ‘mellow savoriness’) flavors possible from the leaves by sprinkling them on a large ice cube. While it doesn’t take the full eight hours of cold brewing, ice brewing can take anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours, depending on ambient temperature, ice cube size, and similar factors.
Since it also results in a smaller amount of tea, you can use this to your advantage at a small gathering by starting off with the preparation and having it slowly melt as the party goes on. Never underestimate the power of anticipation!
Fog Cutter isn’t one of the classic types of tea meant for the kouridashi method, but the results were noticeable all the same. I tried mine two ways: traditional and with a lemon slice at the bottom of the glass. The original method did indeed result in some light herbaceous notes and a savory taste, while the other ended up tasting like slightly savory lemon with a bit more bitterness than I personally liked.
While the ice brewing wasn’t my favorite of the three methods, it was interesting to watch happen throughout the afternoon. Try the method with several different teas for a kouridashi tasting party and compare how the different flavors were brought out in each!
Whatever your chosen method, here’s wishing you a summer of comfortable front porch sipping!