What are your favorite recipes for spiced iced tea?
April 18, 2017 5:08 AM   Subscribe

I love iced tea, but I can't do the sugar for wonky blood sugar reasons and I'm not happy with artificial sweeteners. I would like to try adding a little spice to it, but I'm pretty dumb about spices. I make tea all the time, so the easier the recipe, the better!

Ideally, I would like it to be a little sweet, a little spicy. I know I like cinnamon and ginger, but everything else I'm willing to experiment with. I have liked chai that I've drunk before, but I'm a serious purist when it comes to my iced tea, I only drink fresh-brewed. Also very important: allergic to citrus. Thanks so much!
posted by backwards compatible to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Cardamom and black pepper are also ingredients of chai and, like cinnamon and ginger you can use them without doing the boiling and making syrup thing.
posted by BibiRose at 5:21 AM on April 18, 2017

I drank my iced tea with artificial sweeteners for a long time and then suddenly just hated the taste and started drinking it without any sweetener at all. I'm getting used to it.

I know you say you'll only drink fresh-brewed, but a cinnamon stick added to tea will give off more sweetness as it steeps. I like to add cinnamon sticks to hibiscus tea (any fruity tea really) and let it steep overnight. Sometimes I toss in a dried chili or peppercorns. I haven't used star anise but I'd try it. For hibiscus-type teas i never feel that I'm missing anything by not adding sugar.

For me, cloves can be overdone easily and get harsh fast. When I do use them I don't leave them in for too long or use too many.

I used to go to a little mediterranean hole-in-the-wall that served what the owner called Jerusalem tea - hot tea with 2-3 green cardamom pods and a splash of rose water. I've tried it iced and liked it.

Adding an equal amount of dried mint to your (I assume) black tea and steeping them together as usual will give you a very refreshing summery drink.
posted by bunderful at 5:23 AM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just to note: if you've tried splenda and it was almost okay, you might try using pure sucralose instead. Packaged splenda is about 99\% filler so you can use it interchangeably with sugar. I use about 1/8tsp of scuralose to make a gallon of southern-style sweet tea (so about as sweet as sody-pop).

It's... better. Still not great, you can still tell it's fake. But better than using the packaged use-like-sugar stuff.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:26 AM on April 18, 2017

Have you tried fresh stevia? My husband has a potted one on our balcony and uses fresh leaves for sweetening tea.
posted by jrobin276 at 5:26 AM on April 18, 2017

Good Earth makes tea that is deliciously spicy and sweet without needing to add anything. I've never tried the black tea version but can vouch for the caffeine free. I enjoy it hot or iced.
posted by little mouth at 5:47 AM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

A lot of companies now have teas specifically blended for iced tea. You might give some of them a try. Harney has a number (they have been nice about samples of stuff when I contacted them in the past).

Side note, I avoid sugar for medical reasons and my current favorite alternative sweetener is this blend I do myself: one cup of Erythritol mixed with 1 teaspoon of Monk Fruit powder (the monk fruit seems expensive but a little goes a really long way). I usually only use 1 teaspoon of this blend for a cup of tea since I don't like things super sweet. Whole Earth Nature Sweet isn't bad either.
posted by gudrun at 5:47 AM on April 18, 2017

Vanilla can make things taste sort of sweet-ish without actually being a sweetener. I'd consider vanilla beans or extract, cardamom, and maybe clove?
posted by misskaz at 5:59 AM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thank you all for your answers! They're really helpful. Unfortunately, I am also highly allergic to stevia, which most of these ready-made brands are using. Food allergies are the worst.
posted by backwards compatible at 7:27 AM on April 18, 2017

I don't have any additives that have not been mentioned but two things, a very short steeping time can significantly improve the drinkability, much less bitterness. Also different teas can make a huge difference, there was a wild thread about loose vs tea bags and not at all wanting to get into that but there are vastly more loose tea options and some are just really good without sweetening.
posted by sammyo at 8:05 AM on April 18, 2017

Yeah, I'd use more tea and steep it for a shorter amount of time. Could monk fruit work for you? A little goes a long way. It's related to cucumbers but it's fruity tasting. As a diabetic, it's my sweetener of choice if my tea is too bitter. I can find it in the baking aisle iny my grocery store.
posted by Bistyfrass at 8:16 AM on April 18, 2017

It might be interesting to try galangal. It's related to ginger but tastes somewhat different. I don't think I've found it fresh in stores around me, but there are bags of dried slices of it which you can steep to get the flavor out.
posted by XMLicious at 8:53 AM on April 18, 2017

Cold brewed iced tea is excellent, allows you to use things that you wouldn't otherwise for flavor, cuts down greatly on bitterness and couldn't be easier to make. It does, however, require you to think about a day ahead and you need a relatively stink-free refrigerator or a very airtight pitcher. It lets you make larger amounts of tea at once without boiling a whole stock pot of water or making any other kind of mess at a time.

All you do is fill your pitcher with clean water, add your flavor components and pop it in the fridge overnight. For different kinds of teas and spices, you can start with a kettle of boiling or almost boiling water (boiling for black and most herbals, almost boiling for green, white, and delicate florals like rose or violet), but that will draw out many bitter flavor components that you don't get with simple cold brewing so ymmv. Most teas including black teas will brew nicely overnight in cold water, the only exception in my experience being smoked black teas like lapsang souchong which just don't taste right to me. Cold brewing causes many of the bitter flavors to not be pulled out into the tea, so a need for sweeteners is lessened - lots of people don't like hot tea but like cold brewed iced tea. But you can start with hot water and then pop your pitcher in the fridge after a few minutes of steeping to change up the flavors to your liking.

Anyway, some ideas:

No citrus, but try different fruits thinly sliced. With cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and scoop the seeds out with a spoon because they can be bitter, slice thinly, pair with green teas. Honeydew chunks are great with herbal and white teas, berries of all types work great with black teas - halve them so their flavor comes out. Apple mint tea is fantastic, pears can be just as good. Any stone fruits like peaches and plums that don't have the best texture for eating are great in tea, cut in wedges, also very pretty. When you cold brew you don't actually cook anything so the fruit doesn't break down as much and the flavor stays fresh.

Leafy herbs work in cold brew too, mint is obvious but also thyme, basil, shiso, cilantro. If you want to use woody things like rosemary, lemongrass, or bay, give them a "spank" with a meat tenderizer or the back of your knife to break them up a bit and let the flavors get out.

For things like cinnamon, cloves, ginger, peppercorns and other solid spices you will probably want to brew them in boiling water and then add that liquid to your cold tea. If you slice ginger thinly it will work in cold overnight, but peppercorns will taste of nothing. You can do batches of different spices and freeze the results in ice cube trays, then plop a few into a pitcher to melt in the fridge for more control and accessible variety. Bonus, your kitchen smells awesome.
posted by Mizu at 8:58 AM on April 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Bistyfrass: Could monk fruit work for you?

Ah, my fake sugar kindred spirit! Yes, this is the only fake sweetener I like (or can even stand.) After experiemnting with different brands I liked the one Bistyfrass linked to the best. It's also the only one I've seen at regular supermarkets. It's a little expensive but now I buy the bulk bag (like this different brand*) at Whole Foods and it's lasted me two months, using it in multiple cups of coffee a day.

I do not drink soda or sweet drinks and live on unsweetened iced tea. I was going to recommend Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger, which is good with ginger, but it has orange peel. I'd look into other hibiscus teas to play with. Also, this seems obvious but since you didn't mention it, Celestial Seasonings has lots of spiced teas, as do other, fancier teas.

*I tried this brand and didn't like it as much
posted by Room 641-A at 9:54 AM on April 18, 2017

My local tea place stocks a Earl Grey Provencal that's infused with jasmine.

Makes absolutely lovely iced tea, straight up.
posted by porpoise at 10:28 AM on April 18, 2017

If you buy licorice root tea, it's naturally sweet; you don't have to add anything. Stash makes a licorice root tea that's really good, and Aveda (the hair care people) make what they call "Comfort Tea", which is licorice root and mint. I like it a lot.
posted by Weeping_angel at 10:29 AM on April 18, 2017

Oh, I should mention: if you're pregnant or have some heart conditions, you shouldn't drink too much (any? Not sure...) licorice root. I think it has a slight effect on blood pressure(?). IANAD.
posted by Weeping_angel at 10:50 AM on April 18, 2017

I came back to say thai iced tea is delicious and highly spiced too. You don't have to add everything though. Ceylon tea with some star anise and tamarind is great on its own. If you're feeling fancy you can add some almond milk or whatever you like.
posted by Bistyfrass at 10:56 AM on April 18, 2017

Speaking of health concerns in general, this web site was mentioned in an FPP a few years ago. It's a compilation of information from scientific studies on various herbal supplements and on many of the things you'd make tea with. It does seem to be genuine information and provides links to its sources, but they're selling a book and I don't know if it's been updated regularly or if there are better free sources out there.
posted by XMLicious at 11:08 AM on April 18, 2017

I don't know if this exactly answers the question, but I swear by a little baking soda in my iced tea to smooth out any bitterness.

Note that baking soda is surprisingly high in sodium - something I only noticed very very recently - in case you have any dietary restrictions there.
posted by R a c h e l at 9:53 AM on April 19, 2017

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