Don't confuse this with TGITE 2008- that's all about the cold-brewed process. Hold on to your bags: This week won't be limited to cold-brewed, or even homemade. It will, however, be dedicated to the contested inventor of now-ubiquitous summer brew, Richard Blechynden. Blechynden was manning the East India pavilion at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, and allegedly was inspired by the lack of enthusiasm from overheated attendees to serve the free tea he was offering over ice.
Other food historians, however, point out that recipes for iced tea appeared in American cookbooks as far back as the 1880s. But let's cut Blechynden some slack. With a name like that, he needs it.
And so, inspired by the surprisingly refreshing lavender iced tea that washed down my excess of street-fair food last weekend, I decided to try my hand at replicating it this morning. The tea gods were kind- the first batch turned out exactly as I wanted, summery, fragrant and slightly sweet. You can of course adjust the amount of sugar if desired (Southerners would probably think this tastes as bitter as poison), but it really is a refreshing balance of strong but sweet, just like we all want our men.
Makes: 6-8 servings.
1/2 cup granulated sugar
7 cups water, divided
1 tablespoon dried lavender buds
4 tablespoons loose black tea (Darjeeling, English Breakfast or Keemun)
1. Syrup: Combine sugar and 1 cup water in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then let simmer for a few minutes until sugar is dissolved. Add lavender buds, crushing them between your palms, and let simmer for an additional minute. Remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes.
2. Strain syrup into a large pitcher, and set saucepan aside.
3. Tea: Bring remaining 6 cups of water to a boil in same saucepan. Add loose tea, cover, and let steep for 4-5 minutes.
4. Strain into pitcher, and mix with lavender syrup. Chill for at least 2 hours, or overnight, call yourself Blechy, and serve over plenty of ice.
If you've only ever associated lavender with your grandmother's bathroom, it's time to expand your palate. It really doesn't taste like soap, but rather a sunny day in Provence transported to your tongue. Lavender syrup is actually great for sweetening other drinks, and will last in the fridge for a few weeks if you want to prepare it in advance. Plus, when you make it, you get to see where the color comes from.
I have to admit, I tried my lavender iced tea with strawberries again, albeit in a healthier form (with granola, for breakfast). Something about the fruit and lavender makes for an incredibly harmonious mix.