Jul 7th 2015

A Traditional Cup of Tea, on Ice

When I think of “iced tea” what usually comes to mind is something fruit flavored, like “mango passion,” or a glass of Southern sweet tea, or maybe an iced chai latte from somewhere like Starbucks, but last summer I had my tea world turned upside down with a sip of one of Ippodo’s remarkable high end teas, on ice.

I don’t usually think of “tradition” and “iced tea” in the same context. When I lived in China, where I delved deepest into tea culture, I lived in a cold beverage desert. Traditional Chinese Medicine argues that cold beverages shock the system, impairing digestion and overall health, and so if you’re living and traveling outside of big cities, and the major destinations for foreign tourists, you can be hard pressed to find something to drink below room temperature. Not so much in Japan. For whatever reason, Japanese culture shares China’s love for tea, but not its distaste for chill, and iced teas are just as prevalent in Japan as they are in the US!

Except they’re different. Certainly you can brew a hot cup of sencha and pour it over ice, or cold-brew genmaicha overnight like you would cold brewed coffee, but then there are things I’d never consider: creamy iced matcha, and small sips of iced gyokuro. So simple, flavorful, and easy to make!

Around this time last year I had the cup of tea that made me know we needed Ippodo Tea at the Cambridge shop: iced gyokuro. So simple I actually made it at work (where I’m usually too busy to have a proper cup of tea during my shift).

Iced Gyokuro

In a teapot or thermos:

  • Add about 2 tablespoons (10g) tea leaves
  • For a traditional depth of flavor: cover with 2-3 ice cubes and about 3 ounces (1/2 cup) of cold water. (You can also increase the amount of water, as I sometimes do, for a lighter-bodied brew and a larger serving)
  • Steep 15 minutes for the first pot, 10 minutes for the second pot, and 5 minutes for the third pot
I think iced gyokuro really might be the most refreshing drink I’ve ever had. As a shade grown tea, its high theanine content gives it a layer of savoriness and a more viscous feel on the palate. Pair that with ice water, and each sip is instantaneously revitalizing and refreshing. The umami feels better than sweetness for rehydrating and perking up your senses. No wonder small cups of it have started being used as aperitifs at some high-end Japanese restaurants.

Iced Matcha

For preparation in a bowl with matcha whisk

  • Add about 2g of matcha to the bowl
  • Pour on 60ml (around 1/3 cup) of chilled water and whick together rapidly making the shape of an ”m”
  • Add a chunk of ice to the bowl, or pour over ice into a glass, before serving
For preparation without a whisk
  • Add about 2g of matcha to a thermos or other sealable container
  • Pour on 60ml (around 1/3 cup) of chilled water, seal the container, and shake vigorously until blended
  • Pour over ice and serve
Iced matcha is something I only just tried this summer, but it’s quickly becoming a favorite. Creamy and cool, but lighter bodied than a smoothie, it makes me feel like I’m drinking liquid jade sunlight.

For more summer tea ideas check out our past pieces on iced chai and our other iced tea favorites. Stay cool!

Author - Rob Campbell is a culinary adventurer, world traveler, science geek, and also worked as Tea Buyer, Blog Manager, and a host of other things at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge from 2013-2015.