I know it’s a weird time to post about iced tea, but it’s going to be 85 degrees around here today, so it seemed the time was right.
This story starts many years ago, at my first spa visit. I went from the hubbub of the Upper West Side to the sudden hush of a Swedish-style spa, and it felt like the Manhattan equivalent of falling down the rabbit hole. An impossibly chic Swede was assigned to take care of me for the day, and her style and calm matched her surroundings so utterly, I found it easier to imagine that she lived there, right there in the spa, rather than that she clocked out and retired to a cramped city apartment at the end of the day, like the rest of us.
At some point between a stellar massage (natch) and when she whispered the secret to a good-looking pedicure (choose high-contrast; so if you have pasty white toes like me, go with a dark color), she slipped a cup of hot liquid into my freshly-polished fingertips. Its scent was reminiscent of coffee, but not quite; and a sip had the bitter, clear body common with many Japanese teas, but a flavor I had never experienced. Roasted barley tea, said the Swede, and I knew on the spot that I was hooked.
Years later, when I moved upstate and couldn’t find the tea in any of my new supermarkets, I went online. And bought this by mistake. I certainly didn’t mean to buy extra-large teabags that could make a quart of tea at a time. But wait—it said right on the package that it could be brewed with cold water to make iced tea. The lazy tea-brewer’s dream! Who wouldn’t be on board with an iced tea that just requires a pitcher being filled with cold water? And caffeine-free to boot, so you could drink the entire said pitcher in one day? And so a new addiction was born. But I now realize it wasn’t just me. I’ve been serving this tea to guests for years, and they often tell me that they’ve started buying it themselves. So I think it’s time that barley iced tea has its Moment.