This year in drinks has been animated by a dispute about the origins of Long Island iced tea (was it invented by Robert Butt at the Oak Beach Inn, or in Long Island, Tennessee?). On the nonalcoholic tea front, however, things for the real Long Island iced tea — tea brewed on Long Island, and served cold — are just as action-packed. We’re in the midst of an iced tea boom as robust as those in locally roasted coffee and kombucha.
One company, Subtle Tea, is formally based in Centereach but actually produces its teas at the Stony Brook University Business Incubator at Calverton. Owner Kyle Chandler chose the name consciously when he started the company three years ago. “It’s about tasting the tea first. You don’t need to overpower tea for it to taste good,” said Chandler, whose teas nevertheless come in flavors such as green-apricot orange. Chandler’s hoping to move out of the incubator so he can grow his production beyond the current 2,200 or so cases per month. “The peach and sweet tea especially have been gangbusters.”
Subtle Tea’s plum tea is one of three standout iced teas that I’ve sampled around Long Island this summer; two of them you’ll find at local specialty food stores (and in Subtle Tea’s case, at Best Market) and one is set to debut soon:
Plum iced tea from Subtle Tea: Subtle Tea’s flavors can be offbeat: Among its products are a seasonal sweet potato swirling with autumnal spices. The plum tea, made with dried fruit, feels made for summer: Gently sweet and juicy.
Pineapple-chili infused tea from Pékant Tea Company: This company’s motto is “tea • fruit • heat,” and this piquant tea keeps those elements in balance. After tropical flavors roll across your tongue, they’re quickly followed by a long smolder. It’s one of three flavors that Pékant produces.
Hibiscus iced tea from Ace Coffee Co.: This jewel-toned herbal tea is brewed at the East Patchogue coffee roastery, and will start appearing in local cafes soon. It is peppery, slightly astringent and a solid non-caffeinated refresher for those (such as me) who get easily amped up on cold brew and iced coffee, especially after midafternoon. It also is available carbonated.