After sweet tea, a refreshing glass of lemonade is the quintessential summer thirst-quencher in the South. I have memories of gallon-sized pickle jars filled with white sugar-laced lemonade that my maternal grandmother used to make at her home in Memphis.
These days, we have a Meyer lemon tree in our backyard that produces enough fruit for us to make a gallon of lemonade every week during the hotter months, and my wife and I experiment with different combinations using fresh fruits, herbs, essential oils, tea leaves, honey, agave, and flavored simple syrups.
Here I have combined Chinese gunpowder green tea with spearmint syrup and fresh lemon juice to make an invigorating, minty green tea lemonade that is perfect for a 4th of July cookout.
To ensure the flavor isn't too bitter, I use the traditional Chinese method of preparing green tea, where the leaves are rinsed with hot water before being steeped.
Green tea has a high number of antioxidants, and studies have found that drinking it is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Of course it also has caffeine, so you might want to make a batch sans the tea leaves so the kids won’t be bouncing off the walls.
For the spearmint syrup (makes 1 cup):
For the lemonade:
9 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Ice, for serving
Spearmint sprigs, for garnish
To make the spearmint syrup: Combine the sugar, water, and spearmint in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir well until hot to touch and the sugar is completely dissolved, about 3 minutes. Let steep for 8 hours or overnight. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a glass jar (compost the mint).
To make the lemonade: Put 2 cups of the water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Let cool for 5 minutes. Add the tea and swirl around for 10 seconds to rinse the tea. Immediately drain the tea leaves in a fine-mesh strainer, discarding the liquid.
Put the remaining 7 1/2 cups water in the same saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Let cool for 7 minutes. Add the tea leaves, swirl around for about 5 seconds, and cover. After 2 minutes, strain the tea through a fine-mesh sieve into a heatproof pitcher. (Compost the tea leaves.)
Add the lemon juice and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the spearmint syrup. Taste and add more spearmint syrup if desired. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours. Serve in tall glasses over ice, garnished with a sprig of spearmint.
- Leftover Spearmint Syrup: You will have some leftover spearmint syrup after making this recipe. It will keep in the fridge for about a week and can be used in cocktails, mixed with sparkling water, or tossed with fresh fruit.
Reprinted with permission from Afro-Vegan by Bryant Terry, copyright (c) 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc.