PA Dutch Iced Mint Tea
What is meadow tea? Meadow Tea is a popular summertime beverage among Lancaster County residents, particularly the Amish and Mennonites. It is a simple refreshing drink made from fresh mint leaves.
And having grown up Amish in that area, fresh iced meadow tea was kept in our refrigerator almost all summer long. It's a perfect drink for a hot summer day.
And even to this day, this delightful beverage made with fresh mint remains one of my favorite summer drinks. Its invigorating and refreshing qualities are truly unmatched.
Why is it Called Meadow Tea?
Traditionally, meadow tea was made with wild mint leaves found in the meadow, and yes, that's where the name came from. But you can use any variety of fresh mint leaves for this recipe.
I love fresh herbs! Typically they are easy to grow, and they bring a burst of refreshing flavor to so many dishes and drinks. So I encourage you to visit your local greenhouse and purchase a pot or two of mint. (I recommend trying at least two different kinds.)
It's relatively easy to grow in home gardens, preferring well-drained soil and a sunny or partially shaded location. Regular watering is also essential if you live in a dry climate.
Be warned, though, that mint loves to spread, and it can quickly overtake a flower bed or garden! So I encourage you to plant it in a dedicated location where it will be free to spread, such as a large pot, raised bed, etc.
And if you have a garden bed where mint thrives abundantly, Meadow Tea presents an excellent opportunity to utilize the surplus leaves.
What Kind of Mint Should I Use?
I'm familiar with a few kinds of mint, including peppermint, spearmint, apple mint, and chocolate mint. Each of them has a distinct flavor, and opinions may vary on which one is best.
Personally, I find that apple mint creates the most delicious and flavorful iced mint tea, making it my mint of choice.
However, I also enjoy different combinations. For a sweet and mild tea, I like using a mix of apple mint and chocolate mint. It creates a lovely blend of flavors. Additionally, a combination of peppermint and spearmint is another great option that yields a refreshing and enjoyable taste.
Ultimately, the choice of mint for iced tea depends on individual preferences and the desired flavor profile. It's always fun to explore different combinations to find the perfect minty blend that suits your taste buds.
Apple mint, also known as Mentha suaveolens, is a hybrid herb that belongs to the mint family. It has round, light green leaves with a slightly fuzzy texture. Growing up to 1 to 2 feet tall, it spreads through runners or rhizomes.
Apple mint gets its name from its pleasant apple-mint fragrance. Its leaves are commonly used in cooking, such as in salads, desserts, and drinks, or brewed into tea for a refreshing beverage.
Chocolate mint is a variety of mint that has a slight chocolatey flavor and aroma. It is a hybrid mint plant, typically a cross between peppermint and spearmint. The leaves of chocolate mint have a dark green color with a hint of purple, and they release a faint chocolate scent when crushed or bruised.
Chocolate mint is often used in culinary applications, particularly in desserts and beverages. It can be used to infuse flavor into chocolate-based recipes, such as cookies, brownies, or ice cream. The leaves can also be steeped in hot water to make a fragrant and soothing herbal tea.
Spearmint is a type of mint known for its refreshing and sweet flavor. It is a perennial herb that belongs to the mint family. The leaves of spearmint are vibrant green and have a characteristic spear-like shape, from which it derives its name.
Spearmint is widely used in culinary applications, particularly in beverages and desserts. It is a popular choice for making refreshing iced tea, as its flavor adds a cool and invigorating element. Spearmint leaves can also be used to garnish salads or mixed into fruit salads.
Peppermint is a well-known and highly aromatic herb from the mint family. It is a hybrid mint, created by crossing watermint and spearmint. Peppermint is recognized for its bold, cooling flavor and invigorating scent.
The leaves of peppermint are dark green with a serrated edge and it has reddish stems and veins. It releases a strong minty fragrance when crushed. The flavor of peppermint is intense, with a refreshing, menthol-like taste that provides a cooling sensation.
How to Make Mint Tea From Your Garden
Take a bowl and scissors to the garden and snip a couple of large handfuls of mint.
(When mint is not regularly cut it will go into seed/flowers will grow on the top. I don't like adding the flowery part to the tea water because it will need extra fine straining to catch all the seeds. So I try to cut it before that happens. But if it has gone to seed, you can always snip off the tops.)
Do I Add the Stems or Only the Leaves?
Now this is where you will need to decide whether you want to strip the leaves from the stems or just use the whole stems for making tea.
Young, thin, fresh stems of mint are the best to use for making iced tea. And when using young stems, I add the whole leafy stems to the water.
But if you haven't cut your tea in a while, and the stems are thick and long with giant leaves, it is best to remove the leaves and discard the stems. Thick woody stems tend to add a bitter flavor. It takes a bit longer to remove all the leaves, but it's worth it.
Wash the Mint
Obviously, anything that you bring in from the garden needs to be washed before consumption. And how well you need to wash it will depend on how dirty it is. I like to mulch around my mint as it helps to keep it clean as well as preserve moisture.
I typically wash mine by swishing it around in a large bowl of cold water at least three times to make sure I get any bugs or dirt. If the water is still looking dirty after removing the mint, then you know it needs to be washed again.
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Boil Water and Steep
In a large pot (at least 4 qt. size), bring approx. 3 - 3 1/2 quarts of water to a boil. Add the washed tea leaves/stems. Use a large spoon and submerge the leaves into the water.
Remove from the heat, cover with the lid, and let it steep for 5 - 10 minutes (depending on how strong you want the flavor).
Fill a gallon pitcher or jar approximately 1/3 full with ice.
With a large slotted spoon, remove the majority of the tea leaves from the pot. (Feel free to lightly squeeze a bit of that extra minty goodness out of the leaves). Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Then strain the tea into the gallon pitcher with ice.
Stir and fill the gallon pitcher with more ice or water as needed. Then go ahead and enjoy your heavenly creation!
Can I Use Dried Tea Leaves?
In case you're wondering if you could make Amish meadow tea with dried tea leaves, The answer is "No". I mean, you could make iced tea with dried mint leaves. But it will not taste anywhere close to the same as when making tea with fresh mint leaves.
If you don't have any mint in your garden, you may be able to find some fresh mint at the supermarket.
Freezing Meadow Tea Concentrate
Whenever I have lots of mint leaves that need to get used, I like to freeze some concentrate for use over the winter months.
It is made in much the same way as when we are making one gallon of tea. Only we use more leaves and steep it a little longer.
Boil 4 quarts of water. Steep 4 - 8 cups of tea leaves (removed from the stems) for 15 minutes. (Most Amish recipes say 4 cups of leaves, but that's not strong enough for my taste. I like to use approx. 8 cups of mint leaves.)
Add 3 - 4 cups of sugar (Here again, Amish recipes say 4 cups. But if you prefer less sweet tea, you can cut back on the amount) and cool. Pour the concentrate into quart freezer containers and freeze. (Leave a bit of space at the top for room to expand.)
To serve, combine 1 quart of tea concentrate with approx. 3 qt. water.
Health Benefits of Mint
Not only does mint tea have an amazing and refreshing flavor, but drinking mint tea also offers potential health benefits.
Mint is known as a remedy for digestive problems, relieving indigestion and bloating, and promoting relaxation.
Fresh Mint Iced Tea Recipe
The beauty of this drink lies in its simplicity, capturing the essence of natural flavors and pure enjoyment.
Embrace the cherished tradition of this Lancaster County staple, relishing each sip and savoring the rich flavors from your herb garden's bountiful yield. Indulge in the simple pleasure this drink brings and allow it to transport you to the serene meadows of Lancaster County.
Four words come to mind that perfectly describe this fresh mint tea: Refreshing! Minty! Cooling! and Exhilarating! It's one of my all-time favorite drinks! And honestly, I've never met anyone who didn't like it.
I hope you get to try Amish meadow tea. And if you do, I would love it if you left a comment and star rating below.
Amish Meadow Tea Recipe
- a couple handfuls of mint (stems and leaves) or approx. 1 quart of mint leaves
- 3 qt. cold water
- 3/4 - 1 c. sugar
- Snip a couple of large handfuls of mint from the garden and wash well.a couple handfuls of mint (stems and leaves) or approx. 1 quart of mint leaves
- In a large pot, bring 3 - 3 1/2 quarts of water to a boil.3 qt. cold water
- Add washed mint to the pot of boiling water. Push it into the water to submerge, and cover with the lid. Remove from the heat and allow it to steep for 5 - 10 minutes (depending on how strong you like it).
- With a slotted spoon, remove the majority of the leaves (you can lightly press them with a spoon to squeeze out more of the minty goodness). Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.3/4 - 1 c. sugar
- Fill a gallon pitcher about 1/3 full of ice and strain the tea into the pitcher. Fill with ice or water as needed.Ice
- Chill and enjoy! Keep refrigerated.