Overripe Fruit Makes For The Most Flavorful Iced Tea

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Overripe Fruit Makes For The Most Flavorful Iced Tea

Something about summer’s rising temperatures squashes my appetite for coffee. Warm weather? Sure, I’ll take a cold brew. But the second the thermometer climbs over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the idea of throwing back caffeinated bean water is enough to give me flashbacks to the last time I had a heat- and caffeine-induced panic attack at 9:30 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. So, I abstain. But that doesn’t mean I give up caffeine in the summer entirely; rather, I switch to iced tea.

Iced tea generally offers a lighter dose of caffeine than a coffee of the same size, and depending on the variety of tea in question, the flavor of tea tends to be lighter than coffee as well. To me, that flavor is unquestionably more refreshing than that of coffee, and it doesn’t require any dairy-based additions—another turn-off of mine during the hotter months of the year.

That means I drink a lot of iced tea in the summer. Every night before going to bed, I’ll brew a pot of tea and place it in the refrigerator so it’s nice and cold when I wake up. There are some truths I’ve learned during my years of summer tea-drinking, and some might be obvious to regular tea drinkers: Loose-leaf is inarguably better than tea bags, for example, and using water that’s too hot can affect the delicate flavor of the tea. But one of the less-obvious things I’ve learned about iced tea is that adding fruit—especially overripe fruit—makes for some of the most flavorful, refreshing iced tea you could possibly wake up to on a hot summer day.

A Flavorful Way to Prevent Food Waste

We’ve all done it before: told ourselves we were going to try to start eating more fruit, only for our peaches, apples and fresh berries to start rotting, uneaten, before we can get to them. It’s a waste of money, especially as consumers have faced higher grocery prices in the past few years since the pandemic. That’s why I think overripe fruit is perfect for infusing tea; it’s fruit that’s past its prime that you’re not going to eat anyway, so why not find a new use for it? Additionally, fruit that has already started to ripen often has a sweeter flavor than its underripe counterparts, which helps better flavor your pot of tea.

You can infuse your tea with a wide variety of fruits, but my favorites are stone fruits like peaches and nectarines. I’ve found that their subtle sweetness works well with green tea in particular, and the flavor isn’t overwhelming when the tea is chilled. Berries, like blackberries and raspberries, can also be a delicious addition to tea, delivering just a touch of tartness to the drink.

Just make sure you use a tea infuser, which will prevent chunks of fruit from floating around in your finished tea. Also, it’s important to add your fruit to the tea when it’s still hot to extract as much flavor as possible.

Choose Your Tea

Once you’ve figured out what kind of fruit you want to use for your tea (and let it sit on the counter until it starts getting a bit soft and overripe), you’ll have to choose the kind of tea you want to use for your iced tea. Green tea is my personal favorite, particularly in the summer, as it’s light and incredibly refreshing when it’s iced, and its mild flavor helps the fruit flavors really shine. Black tea, though, is also a great option, particularly if you lighten it up with some lemon juice. Oolong, with its fruity, floral profile that falls somewhere between green and black tea, also makes for a refreshing caffeinated base for your fruity iced tea. 

Of course, not everyone wants caffeine in their tea. If you’re aiming for a less-stimulating iced tea, choose a high-quality herbal tea. Opt for a simple flavor profile if you’re going to be adding a lot of fruit—you don’t want all those flavors competing in your glass of iced tea.

And if you want to make your iced tea lighter and even more refreshing, wait until it’s totally cooled, pour it into your glass, then add some sparkling water. It’ll cut the intensity of the flavor (and caffeine) and keep you feeling refreshed as you sip.

There’s nothing better than enjoying a cold iced drink on a particularly hot day, and making your own fruit-infused iced tea at home may be the best way to get your drink fix. And if you can prevent some food waste in the process? That’s even better.

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.

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