Drinks & Eats

Cool Tea Ideas for Hot Summer Parties

Whether it's Independence Day, birthdays, or "just because it's summer", nothing is easier or more delicious than iced tea to accompany barbecues, elegant picnics or family celebrations.

Refreshing drinks for your summer celebrations
Refreshing drinks for your summer celebrations

Iced tea gained its largest audience among the 20 million visitors who passed through the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. From then on, iced tea became the most popular way Americans drink tea and that's been the same for 108 years.

Southerners love it as "sweet tea", pre-sweetened and English-Breakfast-black brisk. Southwesterners love their "sun tea" made with Ceylon-style black tea teabags floating in a clean clear jar, tightly lidded and set outside to capture the sun's rays that make a smooth, soft tasting brew. Set it out the jar on the patio at breakfast, enjoy delicious tea by lunchtime; no boiling necessary.

Midwesterners love their fruited iced teas and everyone seems to have a unique recipe. For something continental, consider "Sangria Tea" made like the Spanish summer fruit-and-wine drink, sans alcohol yet with all the pleasures of summer fruits layered like a parfait in a pitcher.

Tomatoes are, botanically, fruits and their sweet acidity marries beautifully with the crisp clean taste of hothouse cucumbers and sweet/tart taste of oranges. If you can find blood oranges, they'll add ever more beautiful color to this delicious tea drink. This recipe works well with either green tea, like our Sencha Overture, or fruity blacks like Ceylon Sonata or the softer Chinese Keemun Concerto.


  • 1 quart brewed tea
  • 1 small (6-8") hothouse English cucumber, sliced thinly with rind on*
  • 1 large orange, pitted of seeds, and sliced thinly, rind intact
  • 1 large heirloom tomato, sliced thinly, seeds removed
  • 4 large strawberries, washed, sliced in half, up to the stem

    Chill 4 glasses in the freezer while you prepare the tea.

    Brew tea with approximately 6 teaspoons of loose-leaf tea or 6 teabags for a quart of tea. Brew extra and pour into ice cube trays. Or, pour orange juice into ice cube trays and use them to chill your tea. By using tea or juice cubes you avoid watering down the flavor of your freshly-brewed tea.

    Prepare cucumbers, tomatoes and oranges then stack them tightly, in layers, into a tall clear pitcher.

    Slowly pour on tea and allow to rest for 30 minutes for flavors of the fruits to be absorbed.

    Pour into chilled glasses and garnish with a strawberry by placing the cut side down on the edge of the glass.

    YIELD: 4 generous servings
    *If using conventional cucumbers, peel rind and discard it.

    What's for Dessert?
    Summer desserts couldn't be easier: sweet stone fruit with tea-infused cream; icy cold melons; berries alone or dotting a juicy fruit soup or fruit salad. And, ice cream! This is such a classic summer treat and even more delightful when made with tea as an ice cream. Serve it plain or in cones (another introduction that gained a foothold during the 1904 World's Fair.)

    In addition, we offer an icy tea frappe for those who prefer a nondairy delight. We suggest some teas, however, we're sure your favorites will work wonderful for either of these recipes.

    Earl Grey is a classic afternoon tea that appeals to many, and our Earl Grey Moonlight is nirvana in a cup. We think any of your favorite black or flavored black teas will work here, however, make sure to sieve out any flower petals or herbs or fruits before adding to the heavy cream for a prettier appearance and cleanest flavor.


  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 6 level teaspoons of loose-leaf Earl Grey Moonlight
  • 5 egg yolks

    Place the milk, heavy cream and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan and heat until warm. Remove the pan from the heat source and put the tea or teabags into the pan, cover and steep for 1 hour. Remove teabags, or strain out the tea leaves and any flavoring particles and discard them.

    Return the pan to the fire and simmer gently.

    In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and, very slowly, pour the heated milk mixture into the whisked eggs. Continue whisking to avoid curdling the eggs.

    Pour the new mixture back into the saucepan and heat over a medium heat. Using a rubber or silicone spatula, stir and scrape the bottom of the pan continuously until the mixture thickens into the consistency of a custard (it should coat the spatula.)

    Remove the pan from the heat and pour carefully into a clean bowl and allow to cool. When cool, pour into your ice cream maker and freeze according to its directions.

    YIELD: 1 quart

    A frappe is a wonderful, cooling dessert to make that's like a crushed granita in a glass. This is an especially easy recipe to make because it needs no special equipment and is dairy free. The sweet perfume of a ripe summer honeydew melon is the perfect partner for the grassy fresh taste of a Chinese Dragonwell (Lung Ching) or our Citron Green. The final product will look as delicate as celadon pottery.


  • 3 tablespoons loosely-packed green tea leaves
  • 2 ounces crystalized ginger, roughly chopped
  • 4 cups ripe honeydew melon, cut into small cubes
  • 2 cups ice cubes made from distilled or spring water
  • Superfine sugar, to taste

    Chill 4 tall glasses in the freezer.

    Brew the tea leaves for 4 minutes in water heated to 185-degrees F.

    Pour brewed tea through a sieve into a medium-sized bowl and discard the brewed leaves.

    Add the crystalized ginger to the sieved brewed tea and cool about 15 minutes or until the tea has cooled. This will enable the ginger to infuse the tea.

    Cover and chill in the refrigerator until tea is cold. Sieve out the ginger and discard or use in a chicken salad.

    In a blender jar, puree together the melon cubes and the ice. Add the ginger-infused tea and blend only to mix. Pour into the chilled glasses and sweeten, to taste, with the superfine sugar.

    YIELD: 4 generous servings
    © 2000 Robert Wemischner and Diana Rosen from COOKING WITH TEA, Periplus Editions