Welcome back to Teatime Tuesday! (And happy birthday to my tomodachi ijou koibito miman Todd, a 7-11 baby! Enjoy that free Slushie, my friend!) This week we’ll be looking at several different blueberry teas, and see how they hold up when iced! (Don’t worry, for those readers Down Under or that simply aren’t suffering the staggering heatwaves my area is suffering, we’ll also check out these brews under a hot steep as well!)
First up is a blueberry black tea that was recommended to me by Raerei from Raerei’s Fortress!
This tea comes from TeaSource and is one of their flavored black blends, Blueberry Fields. It is available on their website in a 2 oz. package for $4.59 or 4 oz. for $8.37. As you can see, I’ve been making a lot of iced tea from my 2 oz. package, so I don’t have much left! (As this tea makes a flavorful iced brew and iced tea has a way of using up leaf quite quickly, if you are interested in this one, I’d recommend going for the larger bag… I certainly wish I had!)
This tea is made of Chinese black tea, aronia berries, blue mallow blossoms, flavor, blueberries, and freeze-dried blueberries. To me it smells heavily of a very sweet blueberry scent, like blueberry syrup you’d put on pancakes or waffles!
I steep this tea for five minutes using 212 degree F water, and the color is a reddish-brown with a steamy, sweet blueberry scent filling the air that makes me want blueberry pancakes or waffles every time! (In fact, I daresay this might be a great breakfast accompaniment to either!) It is a naturally sweet black tea, but I like my teas on the sweet side and feel a bit of sweetener brings out the sweet blueberry taste more, so I like it with just a small dash of sugar. I’m not a huge fan of plain black teas for being a little too astringent but like them when they have a sweet flavor to them and I really enjoy the fruity accompaniment of this one! And while it is tasty warm, I think I have to agree that it really shines iced!
This was the first tea I ever attempted to make iced, and my first brewing was actually making a “double leaf” infusion steeped normally in boiling water for five minutes, which was then mixed with cold water and chilled. I made a whole gallon, which is why my 2 oz. package of leaf is nearly gone, since there are 16 cups of water to a gallon, and I needed a whopping 16 teaspoons of leaf to properly flavor the batch (I don’t know about you, but I don’t like watery tasting tea!). It did, however, turn out great, and it was nice having all that blueberry-flavored black iced tea on hand! The sweet, fruity flavor is perfect for a chilled warm weather drink!
But because of the mass amount of leaf involved, since then I’m now making much smaller batches of iced tea — only a quart at a time, or four cups of water (which is just about two drinking glasses for me). Since I live alone and don’t have to share, I’ve found this to be pretty practical, especially with the cold brewing method which is so simple (dump the leaf and water in a mason jar, leave it over night, have tea the next day!) and I can swap teas and try lots of different flavors that way. Being a variety drinker, I use less leaf and get to try out more iced teas this way, but if you aren’t a variety drinker like myself, buying a bulk pound of your favorite tea and making gallon batches may be the better way to go.
Since then, I have tried cold brewing a quart of Blueberry Fields as well. I have definitely noticed a difference in flavor between when I hot brewed and then chilled versus cold brewing this tea, and after researching, found that the cold brewing method is best on green, white, oolong, and green rooibos (not to be confused with the far more typical red rooibos), while hot brewing (and then chilling) is better for releasing the flavors in blacks, pu-ehrs, red rooibos, and herbal tisanes (I’ve read that if cold brewing these types of teas, they at the very least need a “hot water rinse” of a minute or two before adding your cold water and leaving them to cold brew). Since cold brewing doesn’t release tannins, I would assume that is why the tea tasted so different between when I did a hot brew and chilled it, versus when I cold brewed it. I wouldn’t say either method was unpleasant, but as far as my own taste preferences, I liked how the hot-brew-then-chilled tasted a bit better. The cold brew batch felt a bit “weaker” on the black tea taste to me, but I was able to taste the blueberry infusions in the blend far more strongly for that very reason; it was a very… hmm… clean, clear taste. I’d say, try both and see if you have a clear preference. If you want a much stronger tea flavor, then brew your tea in boiled water, steep for the normal five minutes, remove your leaf, and place it in a pitcher to chill! If you want to try a really crisp clear flavor that really enhances the flavors added to the infusion (in this case, the blueberry!) try coldbrewing it and see what you think. It won’t have that “astringent” taste that comes with black tea since the tannins won’t get released that way, so it makes for a very different sort of taste. You might love it or you might hate it. In any event, if you like the tea warm, you’ll definitely like it iced if you do a hot brew and chill it!
The next blueberry tea is a green tea! This tea comes from Steepers in Campbell, California, and is their Blueberry Green Tea, which can be ordered from their website for $7.42 for 2 oz. I got a small sampler of the tea when I visited the shop on a vacation to visit my bestie Todd, who lives in the area.
This tea is made from Pekoe gunpowder green tea, cornflower petals, and natural blueberry flavoring. There is a blueberry scent from the leaves, but it isn’t as strong as the Blueberry Fields black tea (nothing about it gives me a “syrupy” feeling, and the scent of the gunpowder green tea itself is still very apparent). I love flavored green teas, and gunpowder greens are my favorite variety, so I was excited to try this one!
I steeped this tea at 175 degrees F for 3 minutes and it turned a nice, golden yellow and had a wonderful subtle berry scent. The blueberry flavor is not as strong as the Blueberry Fields tea, but lends a nice berry aftertaste to what I find is a really tasty gunpowder green tea. If you don’t like the taste of green teas, however, the fruity flavor in this is probably not powerful enough to mask the tea flavors and make this enjoyable for you. I really like this tea, and again, I like it a bit more with a bit of sweetener to further bring out the fruity tones. It resteeps well, and I was surprised how well even the berry flavor held out to multiple steepings! I think I’m sold on this sampler and will have to be adding more of this one to my collection!
This tea is fantastic iced! The gunpowder green tea is refreshing while having just a slight bite on the back of the tongue which is just fantastic (and I daresay almost a little minty!), and sweetened a bit, that blueberry flavor really pops and the tea has a lovely berry aftertaste that compliments the green tea nicely. I would highly recommend this tea to fans of iced green tea, it’s simply divine!
Next is a Blueberry Rooibos! This one comes from Tea Chai Te in Portland, Oregon, and can be ordered from their website for a mere $2.99 per ounce. There is no required size limit, so if you want to buy just one ounce to sample the tea, you can! I visited their shop on a vacation last March, and bought just an ounce, though Todd and I also sampled the tea in shop.
Here is a view of their “wall of tea,” filled with jars of all their blends for your sniffing pleasure!
This particular blend is their “No. 115” and it includes “African rooibos, real wild blueberries, schizandra berries, and hibiscus combined to produce a light and refreshing tea.” It has a very interesting scent… It smells of rooibos and berries, but it doesn’t have a distinct blueberry scent. I think the hibiscus and schizandra berries give the blend a slightly more African twist, but it works well.
It steeps up with that deep red rooibos color! I love Tea Chai Te’s beautiful Chinese cast iron teapots, and they serve their tea in a variety of cups (including tiny mason jars!) When I make this at home, I steep it for five minutes using boiling 212 degree F water.
The flavor is that distinct rooibos taste with a pleasant berry zing! This is a naturally sweet tea, and I enjoy it both with and without sweetener, depending on my mood. Much like the Blueberry Green tea, the berries accent the tea but you still get a strong tea flavor, so if you aren’t a fan of the taste of rooibos, the berries aren’t going to mask it enough to make it enjoyable for you.
Since the temperatures have really been heating up, and I can’t stand actually “icing” my iced teas as the ice melts and waters down my tea, my coworker recommended “Whiskey Stones” to me! I never would have thought of this, since I don’t drink alcohol — it’s one of my migraine triggers so I had to give it up over a decade ago! But these little cubes stay in your freezer and can be dropped in an already cold beverage to keep it cold, and won’t melt and dilute it, which is very handy for iced tea! They arrived just in time to try them out for the first time on my first batch of iced rooibos!
What a frosty glass, and that’s a plastic cup! I cold brewed this Blueberry Rooibos, and that was before I read that red rooibos is one of the teas that isn’t ideal for cold brewing. For what it is worth, the flavor and color steeped well! The smell and the taste was very much like the hot brewed tea, though I did find the rooibos taste was a bit overpowering and made it a little hard to make out the berry tones (though I could certainly smell them!) The tea was certainly refreshing, but I found the taste of the rooibos iced a little odd to me, but it was simply a personal preference. It tasted exactly as it should, and while it is a flavor I enjoy warm just fine, iced it just tasted somehow… cough syrupy instead of sweet to me. I’m not sure why that is, but couldn’t quite shake the feeling. It wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t enjoy the beverage, however.
I definitely want to try doing a hot brew to chill, and then compare the two. But from this initial testing, I don’t think cold brewing red rooibos might be all that bad… it certainly seemed to come out very full and flavorful! I gave it a very long cold steep (over 24 hours), and perhaps that is why it came out with such a rich, refreshing rooibos flavor (many of the complaints I read were that cold steeping caused a weak flavor). I do think the berries may have required a hot rinse to really release their flavor, but the rooibos itself? Seems to cold steep okay to me!
And though I’m currently out of it, I feel I should also mention, if you are interested in blueberry teas, True Blueberry by Celestial Seasonings, a fairly easy-to-find bagged grocery store brand herbal tea, is quite good. I had some in their Fruit Tea Sampler and went through it fairly quickly! I prefer looseleaf to bagged teas now, but for what it was worth, if you only have access to bagged teas and are looking for a decent blueberry tea, I enjoyed that one. I only ever tried it warm, but I will be taking a look at the Country Peach Passion from that Fruit Tea Sampler next month, so stay tuned!
So, if you love blueberry flavor, which should you pick? The Blueberry Fields black tea from TeaSource or the True Blueberry herbal tea from Celestial Seasonings have the strongest blueberry taste, in my opinion. Which makes the tastiest iced tea? The Blueberry Fields if you want to hot steep and then chill, but for a much simpler cold steep method, the Blueberry Green is a fantastic choice! My preference for the Blueberry Rooibos is warm, but that is a personal taste! I love Blueberry Fields as a sweet iced blueberry drink, but since when the temperatures really raise I prefer to cold brew my tea, I think I’ll be making a lot of Blueberry Green tea in the coming months!