Because crystallized sugar is hard to stir in to cold drinks, many people use simple syrup as an easy liquid sweetener in their iced tea recipes. You can easily sweeten iced tea at home by adding plain simple syrup to taste. (Many people use a few teaspoons per serving.)
However, it's also possible to sweeten your tea and other cold drinks with flavored simple syrup. For example, you could sweeten an iced black tea with chai simple syrup.
But why stop there? You could also sweeten sparkling water or milk steamers with tea-flavored simple syrup. Here's how.
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon tea leaves (or 4 teabags)
- 1 cup sugar
Bring the water to the usual steeping temperature you'd use to steep the tea you're planning to flavor your syrup with. (For example, a black tea would need boiling or nearly boiling water, but a green tea would only need simmering water.)
Strain out the tea leaves and bring the tea to a rolling boil over high heat.
Stir in the sugar until it is dissolved completely.
Reduce heat and stir until the mixture has reduced to half its original volume (about ten minutes).
Remove from heat and allow to cool somewhat.
Pour into a very clean jar with a tight-fitting lid.
Keep refrigerated. Has a shelf life of about six months. To extend the shelf life, mix in about one ounce of vodka as the syrup cools.
For Chilled Drinks
Add a teaspoon or two of tea simple syrup per serving, or sweeten to taste. Stir. I particularly recommend this for sparkling water, sparkling punches and exotic lemonades.
For Hot Drinks
Bring slightly more than one cup of cold milk to a simmer, or froth it with an espresso machine steam wand. Add about one tablespoon tea simple syrup. Stir and serve hot. This makes a great hot tea latte.
For Fresh Fruit
Slice fresh fruit (such as peaches, strawberries and apples). Drizzle with tea syrup to taste.
For Cakes and Other Confections
Drizzle over pancakes, cakes or other sweet foods for added flavor. Green tea goes well with fruit and vanilla flavors. Black tea goes well with caramel, chocolate, darker / cooked fruits, vanilla and creamy sweets. For more ideas, see this guide to cooking with tea and this guide to tea flavor profiles.