summer drink of choice: iced peppermint tea

peppermint tea with ice crystals

What gets me through hot summer days is not the Cuban mojito, the colonial British gin and tonic, or even classic Southern sweet tea, but an icy glass of unsweetened peppermint tea. It's all I'm wanting to drink lately (because one should not live on grapefruit soda). And it's easy.

I boil enough water in the microwave for a couple tall glasses, sticking a teabag inside the cold water up front (since I have a habit of forgetting about hot water in the microwave and remembering only when everything's gone tepid). But if you have a kettle that whistles like a freight train and you prefer the stovetop, go right ahead and brew it in a pretty teapot.

chilled peppermint herb tea

Since I've been off caffeine for a couple years now for health reasons (it makes my heart race), this brew-and-leave-it-to-cool method is even better for a longer steeping of herbs that would be a negative done with true tea, long steepings only making Camellia sinensis bitter. My favorite herbal tea is Oregon-grown peppermint, found easily from companies like Portland's Stash Tea or Colorado's Celestial Seasonings but which could also be brewed from loose-leaf herbs—maybe even from mint grown in one's own yard! Mint is a known summer refresher, though of course equally tasty when steaming hot in winter.

If you prefer sweetened tea, feel free to add a little honey while the water's hot. I find the mint has an innate sweetness needing nothing else.

When the brewed herbal tea has gone lukewarm or even warm (but not hot), I'll pour it into glasses and stick them in the freezer where it will freeze solid and the glass will go all misty and opaque. Then I'll rotate my batches of tea from the freezer to the refrigerator or counter as needed.

It's been so hot off and on this summer—thanks to another world-record-breaking year for heat—that even a completely frozen glass of tea will melt fairly quickly, enough for me to sip slowly, watching the ice core bobbing in the center of the glass. No need for ice cubes! How's that for a nice trick that, with any luck, will also remind everyone that the world's glaciers and ice sheets are all melting?

cold peppermint tea: thawed (left) & frozen (right)

So I hereby nominate peppermint tea as the official Northwest drink above craft beers and small-batch locally roasted coffee, ready to soothe, comfort, and enliven us year-round, even through the massive overdue earthquake everyone's talking about (yet again) when we're all drinking from rivers and rain barrels and cutting down every tree in town for fuel. Dried peppermint would be a lightweight, cheap addition to any emergency kit.

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