When the first hot sunshine of spring hits, that’s the time to head outside with friends and family for a fabulous iced tea bar under the trees. While simple black iced tea, especially sweet, always refreshes on a hot day, there’s so much more you can do to iced tea to make it extra special and celebratory.
A gorgeous tablecloth on a sturdy wooden table provide a great base for setting up your iced tea bar, and make cleaning up a breeze. Just whip off the tablecloth after the festivities, and all that spilled sugar, drizzled honey, and spots of tea can be whisked away to the washing machine.
Hot tea is great in a pretty tea pot, but iced tea shines when you serve it from clear glass containers where the variances of color can be truly appreciated. (Just make sure that the tea is cool before pouring it in, or you’ll have shattered glass everywhere.)
Collect an assortment of glass tumblers and wine glasses for your guests to sip from. Some may want a big glass of just one flavor, while others will prefer small portions of each so they can sample every possible variety.
Sweeteners and iced tea additives will all need their own bowl, so have an assortment on hand for filling up with fruits, herbs, and honey. Ice is an essential part of an iced tea bar, so provide a large metal bowl or champagne bucket to keep the ice in. Don't forget spoons and strainers for stirring and pouring.
Every good tea bar starts with great tea. Offer at least three varieties such as a good black tea, a green or white tea, and a fun herbal tea such as hibiscus or elderflower. Save your guests some work by cold brewing the tea ahead of time.
Then provide an assortment of additives that guests can stir in for their own special blend. Try ruby red rose flowers, tiny but fragrant elderberries, sliced fresh apple, a wedge of lime, sweet rosehips, and an array of fresh herbs like spearmint, pineapple sage, and lemon balm.
For sweeteners, offer raw honey, raw sugar, real maple syrup, and fresh stevia leaves, which are naturally sweet. If you can find it, provide bowls of rock candy, and for the adventurous, set out little bowls of jam or beautiful glass jars of fruity liqueurs such as strawberry, mulberry, or cherry. These will not only add sweetness and flavor, but they'll make your iced tea bar a little more adult. You can up the ambiance even more by including homemade simple syrups that add flavor and sweetener all in one.
Don't forget the ice! Make plenty ahead of time or put a bag of ice in the freezer. Just be sure to break it up ahead of time so your guests have manageable chunks to work with.
Set everything up on one table, or several if you're hosting a horde, and take a moment before the festivities begin to point out all the ingredients available, then start creating your own delicious brews. Bottoms up!