Refreshing cold process iced fruit tea

Darjeeling tea is very versatile and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. This tea’s complexity is rooted in the distinct flavor profiles that result from each ‘flush’ or time of year when the leaves are plucked. A good example of this is ‘First Flush’. Unlike the rich amber color from the Third Flush that Darjeeling is famous for, First Flush results in a distinct soft golden hue. First Flush leaves are harvested early in Spring, during the first bloom. They are the youngest and most tender part of the tea plant so they often yield the purest taste. First Flush has a broad appeal because both the color and taste are milder, so it’s easier to enjoy and a good way to introduce people to tea. The only caveat is that First Flush Darjeeling tea is delicate and flowery, which makes it easy to ruin. The water temperature must be more tepid than boiling or you run the risk of over steeping the leaves, resulting in an underlying bitterness when drinking. Being mindful of all these factors can seem off putting or tedious, which tends to turn people away from First Flush, despite its universal likeability. A good way to brew First Flush tea while avoiding any pitfalls is by cold processing. The method itself is incredibly simple. Just combine loose-leaf First Flush Darjeeling tea and water in a 1:1 ratio and let the tea infuse for 6 to 12 hours in the refrigerator. No boiling necessary! Once you’re ready to drink, simply strain the leaves, add sugar to taste and enjoy. The cold process may require more time but the result is a smooth, sweet and cleaner tasting tea. Extracting tea with cold water retains not just the flavor but also the antioxidants in the tea which are usually boiled off with hot water. The cold process First Flush tea tastes wonderful as an iced fruit tea which is how I would recommend preparing it. Adding fruits enhances the taste of the tea and results in a cool, sweet and refreshing drink. I experimented with different combinations and I encourage you to try my favorites:

  1. Berry Mint: Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, a sprig of fresh mint
  2. Citrus Blueberry Basil: Orange slices, lemon slice, lime slice, blueberries, 1-2 fresh basil leaves
  3. Orange Berry Thyme: Orange slices, strawberries, blueberries, a sprig of fresh thyme
  4. Fresh Peach: Peach slices, raspberries, 1-2 mint leaves
  5. Cucumber Watermelon: Watermelon pieces, sliced cucumber, basil leaves

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