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Iced tea has to be the quintessential American drink: It’s said to have gained popularity at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, where it gave visitors respite from the summer heat. Late June through August is also peak blooming season for lavender, and the aromatic and soothing herb pairs nicely with the relaxing and refreshing qualities of Chinese tea, says Brett Cramer, cofounder of online condiments pantry The Spice Lab.

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Adding fresh lavender flowers to steeping tea will impart flavor, but using the dried herb is easier and more accessible. “Make sure the dried lavender is food grade, and look for ‘super blue’ in the name,” advises Cramer. “If you see any thorns, then it is not a food-grade product.” The Spice Lab’s super blue lavender flowers hail from France, where they grow wild in the rocky soils of Provence.

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As for the Chinese tea, Cramer recommends Keemun Panda No. 1—a popular black variety—or a green or oolong tea for less caffeine. It’s best to brew the tea on the same day you’ll be serving it; you can sweeten it by adding honey while the solution is hot, or leave that choice up to your guests. “Place stirring straws, a selection of natural sweeteners—like honey or agave—lemon slices and a pot of fresh lavender near the iced tea decanter for an attractive touch,” suggests Cramer.

Lavender Iced Tea

Yields 4 cups

tsp. dried lavender*
2 tsp. Chinese tea
2 slices lemon
3 cups water

Bring water to a boil. Add tea and lavender to a French press.** Pour in water and return the cover to the press, but do not push down. Allow to steep for at least five minutes, stirring once or twice. Push the plunger down and pour into a container. Refrigerate until cool, then serve over ice with a squeeze of lemon.

* If using fresh lavender, double the quantity.

** Alternatively, use a tea infuser or simply strain the tea after steeping.

– by Marina Kay

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