Monday, 21 November 2011

Ah sweet mystery of life, at last I’ve found you

I have never been a tea drinker. My dear ole dad used to say I must be some sort of alien as I had no interest in sweetened iced tea. You can’t live in the American South and not drink an ice cold glass of refreshin’ tea during the sultry months. Well somehow I managed.  Over here, a cuppa with a splash of milk and no sugar tastes revolting. I’m sorry--but for the most part I think tea tastes like dried grass. Or hay. Like you went to a farm and pulled some up from the ground and poured boiling water over it, put it in a mug and presto--it still tastes of dead foliage.

I used to think that until (cue angelic music) I sampled Lebanese Iced Tea when we were visiting the US recently. This, my friend, is the nectar of the Gods. It was a combination of black tea, lemonade and rosewater and it was like licking unicorn sweat. Or what I would imagine unicorn sweat would be like. OK, maybe that’s a crap analogy. How about this: It was like drinking dew with the fairies. Or squeezing a drop of nectar from a honeysuckle flower into your mouth (which is the only one of these I’ve actually done) Suffice it to say it was delicious--precisely because it did not taste of tea. 

I came home on a mission--to locate and replicate a recipe. Thanks to google there are dozens out there. So I went out and bought some black tea. It was Twinings Rose Garden which is actually black tea with dried rose petals in it. I figured the more rose aroma the better. Then I went in search of rosewater. I found 2 types--one really expensive one that contained propylene glycol (which is in anti-freeze!! Um, no thanks) and a cheaper one with just water, rose essence and citric acid to preserve freshness. Guess which one I chose?

Then I tried to make it in various combinations. None were quite right. They were all missing that je ne sais quoi and so I did more research. Some recipes called for jallab syrup which was a type of sweetened molasses. I was told that middle eastern markets would have it. Not having any of those close by I searched on. Then I found it. A recipe that included pomegranate molasses which I happened to have in my larder. If you don’t know pomegranate molasses then seek it out. I buy mine at Planet Organic in London but again a middle eastern market would have it. All it contains is 100% pomegranate juice that has been boiled and reduced to a sticky syrup. It is tangy and sweet and YUM. This was the added extra I was looking for. So this is my recipe:

Lebanese Iced Tea
2 black tea bags (with roses if you can get it)
1 litre of boiling water
Pour the boiling water over the tea bags and let it steep about 15-20 minutes and then remove the bags and let the tea cool. When the tea is cool add:
2 TB pomegranate molasses
2 TB rosewater
Freshly squeezed juice of ½-1 whole lemon (up to about ¼ cup)
Sweetener to taste
I use stevia as my sweetener and it really doesn’t need much as the pomegranate molasses makes it sweet. For my stevia 1/8 of a teaspoon =1teaspoon sugar so I used 1 tsp stevia for the tea (meaning the same as 8 tsp sugar)

Then pour into a jug and chill in the fridge for a refreshing cold drink. If you want to be real authentic then after you pour yourself a glass float a teaspoon of pine nuts on top.

If this seems time consuming then do as I do--make the tea before bed. Take out the tea bags and let it cool over night. In the morning add the pomegranate molasses, sweetener, lemon and rosewater and put it up to chill. When you get home all hot and tired it is cool and ready and waiting for you. It’s that easy.

This is the best drink ever and completely disguises the taste of tea (which may put you off if you actually enjoy drinking hay) but if you can find the ingredients, give it a go. It is like manna from heaven. Seriously. Slurp. Mmmmm.


  1. I can vouch for the lovely taste of Lebanese Rosewater was yummy.

  2. Found a Lebanese grocery store on Jackson St. (not in the same shopping center as the Little Greek, but not far. Near the old Broussard's on the same side of street. Going to check it out for rose water. I'll keep you informed if I find anything esp. wonderful.