Iced tea was a staple at every meal, not only during summertime, when I grew up in the south.
By ANDREA SHORES
My grandmother always had a jug of sun tea steeping on her back steps. I am an avid consumer of tea as a result, and I constantly seek new and interesting teas.
Here in Kansas City we are lucky to have a lot of great shops dedicated to not only tea, but also the art of tea.
Even local coffee roasters pay close attention to the tea they serve — an added bonus for those who don’t drink coffee. I stopped in a few places to check out their summertime tea servings and suggestions.
A purveyor of loose teas, Zehua Shang personally oversees production of his tea fields in the mountains of China to ensure quality. All of Shang’s tea is traditionally processed, so no artificial flavors or oils are added.
They often brew tea in the store for customers to sample, so I stopped in to try a version of white tea with sweet leaf tea. Sweet leaf tea is just as described — a tea of sweet leaves that serves as a subtle, yet natural, sweetener.
Because there are no artificial flavors or oils in Shang’s teas, they can steep for as little or as long as desired without worrying turning bitter.
Steep one tablespoon of White Peony King tea and a pinch of the sweet leaf tea in cold water overnight and pour over ice for a refreshing treat when it’s too warm outside to sip hot tea.
Entering the Parisi Café in Union Station is like walking into an uber-chic European café where patrons sip espresso while standing at the coffee bar. But more impressive than its sleek space is its dedication to non-coffee drinks.
As assistant manager, Olivia Hughes, put it: “We wanted to create a really good beverage shop, so we put our heart into all the beverages we serve.”
That commitment is evident in their hand-made syrups and house-blend teas. The summertime menu at Parisi Café currently features two iced teas. The first is a black, English-style tea reminiscent of traditional iced tea. The second is an adventurous green tea with coconut, ginger and lemongrass.
Neither tea has added sweetener, but the coconut in the green tea gives it a pronounced and exotic sweetness.
A few years ago I attended a summertime tea service where owner Keith Buchanan served a variety of his iced teas. I fell head over heels for his black tea with Moroccan mint. Sweetened with vanilla, it’s thankfully served daily in his Westport teahouse. During the summer he rotates additional varieties of green, white or herbal iced tea. When I stopped in he served an apricot green and a citron green.
Whether cold or hot steeping, it’s best to use a loose-leaf tea bag, or simply steep the loose tea in a jar and pour it through a strainer. Remember, especially when using hot water, to steep slightly stronger than your preference because pouring the tea over ice will dilute the flavor slightly.
Raised by generations of cooks, farmers and green thumbs, Andrea Shores is an enthusiastic eater and curious cook. She loves sharing her passion for local food by telling farmers’ and food purveyors’ stories.