It’s my first Puducherry summer. The heat hits early in the day, piercingly, with the infamous coastal humidity. Hot tea just doesn’t cut it any more.
I have never embraced flavoured tea blends. But a drink that is part juice, part tea and chilled is the only way to get through the day. I turn to Dhiraj Arora and Priti Sen Arora, fellow Puducherrians with more than one summer under their belt, for a guide to fruit teas. Dhiraj is a certified tea sommelier who spends his days blending and testing teas for his company, Karma Kettle. He had a smorgasbord of teas for me to try, along with a guide to fruit teas.
Black tea pairs well with fruit flavours, while green tea lends itself to floral pairings, with exceptions. This works for me because I am looking for a substitute that offers the caffeine fix my daily blacks do. And while a cold tea may have less caffeine than a hot one, it still does the job.
Many fruit blends are tisanes. Caffeine-free, and, therefore, child-friendly substitutes for packaged juices. They look stunning, smell delicious and are refreshing. I didn’t miss the sugar, although a bit of syrup does amp up the flavours.
All these teas can be brewed hot but they work best chilled. The classic iced tea recipe is to make a hot tea and then chill it. Priti recommends a cocktail shaker and plenty of ice cubes. The ice, she says, adds a desirable density, a layer of froth and a bit of oomph. This version doesn’t take long to make and is good for a quick cup if you have ice on the ready. Longer steep times (about seven minutes) are recommended for this brew.
If you want to make tea by the jug and keep it in the fridge, your patience will pay off. For, cold brew is one of the nicest, simplest versions. Dhiraj brews an Earl Grey tea and two tisanes this way. I must say it was the best cup of Earl Grey I have enjoyed, with softer notes. It had been brewed by placing a tea bag per cup of tea in water at room temperature and refrigerating it for six hours. Longer brews won’t affect tisanes but some teas may get a touch of bitterness. A variation of the cold brew is to let the tea stand at room temperature for an hour before refrigerating. Try both to see what you prefer.
Tisanes, I think, are especially suited for the cold brew. For the first time, I tried the blue pea flower tea in a tisane with black currants, kaffir lime and lemongrass. Very refreshing. And acknowledging my loyalty to unblended tea, Dhiraj suggests a simple cold brew recipe: Darjeeling first flush brewed cold, with a slice of orange or lime.
Look for recipes with fruit teas. You can even freeze fruit tea and use it in place of ice, or make popsicles. You can garnish with fruit and spices, even adding a green mango chutney to a green mango-green tea blend… oh, the things you can do!
Fruit tea box (Karma Kettle), fruity tea range (CelesTe), herbal teas (Chado Tea India, which has a berry tisane named Pondicherry!)
Tea Nanny is a fortnightly series steeped in the world of tea. Aravinda Anantharaman is a Bengaluru-based tea blogger and writer who reports on the tea industry. @AravindaAnanth1 on Twitter.