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Five Refreshing Alternatives to Classic Iced Tea

The world of entertaining is, finally, catching up to accommodate those who don’t drink alcohol — or, at least, aren’t drinking today. And this summer, many restaurants have created elevated iced teas and infusions, shaking up matcha with spearmint or pummeling spices in a mortar and pestle to add their warming flavors. “Maybe you’re having lunch and you want something interesting that’s not alcoholic,” says Amy Brandwein, chef and owner of the newly opened Piccolina in Washington, D.C., where she ices the black tea in her Amy’s Palmer with a generous scoop of lemon granita, a kind of dessert and drink all at once. Find her recipe, and four other excellent new iced teas, below.

“I got kind of obsessed with Arnold Palmers,” Brandwein says, and the genesis of the Amy’s Palmer — a double entendre, as Piccolina is also in D.C.’s Palmer Alley — is as simple as that: The chef, who was also daydreaming about granita (“it was just really hot out”) decided to marry her two preoccupations. The pour-over of tea breaks apart the granita, turning it into tart, icy pebbles that lend flavor and texture. And candying the rosemary makes it mellow, sweet and completely edible.

  • 1 teaspoon or 1 bag black tea leaves

  • 1 cup lemon granita (recipe follows)

  • Lemon wedge, for garnish

  • Candied rosemary, for garnish (recipe follows)

Brew tea and let cool. Scoop 1 cup of granita into a short, goblet-shaped glass. Cover with unsweetened tea. Garnish with candied rosemary and lemon wedge.

To make lemon granita: In a medium pot, combine 4 cups water and 2 cups sugar. Warm over medium heat until sugar is fully dissolved. Let cool. Add 4 cups well-strained lemon juice and whisk well. Place liquid in a semi-deep flat pan and freeze overnight. When ready to use, take a fork and scrape vertically to shave the ice. Recipe makes enough for 8 servings of tea. Store extra granita in airtight container in freezer.

To make candied rosemary: In a small pot, combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar. Bring to a boil until sugar dissolves and liquid is syrupy. Add ¼ teaspoon ascorbic acid (or 1 crushed vitamin C tablet); stir to dissolve. Dip a rosemary sprig in syrup for 5 seconds; let excess syrup drip off. Sprinkle sprig with sugar in an even layer, just enough to cover the sprig, avoiding clumps. (Do not dip rosemary into sugar.) Place sprig on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat for as many sprigs as desired. Place baking sheet in a turned-off oven and allow sprigs to dry overnight. Store in airtight container.

Iced masala cha — a cousin to chai — at this 16-seat Covent Garden tea shop is based on what founder Ahsan Akbar grew up drinking in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Chai is steamed with milk and cha is not, though chilled milk is often added after brewing.) Akbar says it’s a gamechanger for cold brew fans: His eight-spice blend, brewed with black tea and served over ice, is richer than any iced coffee. “On a hot afternoon, the iced masala cha will cool you down and pick you up,” he says.

Combine tea leaves and spice mix in a tea infuser and place in 8 ounces boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Remove infuser from liquid. Pour tea into a tall glass filled with ice, and add milk and sugar to taste. Stir well.

To make cha spice mix: Using a mortar and pestle, grind 1 tablespoon cardamom pods, 3 teaspoons fennel seeds, 4 star anise pods, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns and ½ teaspoon whole cloves. Mix with 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon and 1 teaspoon ground ginger. Store in a jar for up to two weeks.

“We had a team member who was really into selling essential oils, and the spearmint was so bright and invigorating,” says Leah Dubois, the culinary director at vegetarian cafe Life Alive, which just opened its fifth location in Massachusetts. Shaking the drink gives it a frothy top.

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with 2 cups ice. Shake for 15 seconds. Strain into a tall cocktail or pint glass. Drink should have a foamy top.

Bartender Vincent Liew and beverage director Ajay Parag went through more than 20 iterations to create a batched iced tea that would stand up to the spices in their Mexican spit-roasted chicken, the signature dish of Chico Loco, which recently opened in Singapore’s Central Business District. Dried hibiscus, fragrant and formidable, was the missing ingredient. Just go easy, Parag cautions: “A little bit packs a strong punch.”

(Serves 10)

  • 12½ tablespoons Darjeeling Earl Grey tea leaves

  • 10 tablespoons Ronnefeldt Soft Peach tea leaves (or other peach rooibos tea)

  • ⅔ tablespoon dried hibiscus

  • 6 ounces agave nectar

  • Orange slices, for garnish

Combine tea leaves, dried hibiscus and agave in a large, heatproof pitcher. Add 9 cups boiling water and stir to mix. Let sit at least 30 minutes, until cool enough to place the pitcher in the refrigerator. Steep mixture in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours, up to overnight, depending on the intensity of tea preferred. Strain and serve in tall glasses over ice with an orange slice in each.

Meant for a dramatically tall glass, the fresh-fruit iced tea from the new Taipei import Rabbit Rabbit is a showstopper, thanks to its colorful produce. In Madison Square Park, you’ll spot drinkers Instagramming their cups, straws bearing goofy but charming cartoon whiskers to position à la fake mustaches. Jin Xuan tea, sweet with milky notes, complements the sweet syrups and floating fruits.

  • 2½ tablespoons Jin Xuan tea leaves

  • ⅔ ounce orange syrup

  • ⅓ ounce passion fruit syrup

  • Apple slices, for garnish

  • Lemon wheels, for garnish

  • Orange wheels, for garnish

Boil 20 ounces water and brew tea. Pour into tall, clear glass over ice, add syrups and stir gently. Add fruit garnishes.

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