Watermelon iced tea is tropical Asia in a glass. You get a whiff of the sweet aroma of pandan, but only a whiff because you don’t need to use a lot of sugar syrup to make this drink. Remember that watermelon is naturally sweet and that sweetness will get infused into the cooled tea once you throw them together.
If you’re not familiar with pandan, it is to Southeast Asia what vanilla is to the West. It’s a non-edible fibrous herb.
How pandan leaves are used in cooking
A fibrous herb used widely in Southeast Asian cooking, pandan (Pandanus amaryllifolius) has an aroma that is all at once sweet, floral and nutty with a hint of grassiness.
Right. You can’t eat it. You just want to extract the sweet floral scent and get that into your sugar syrup. No, the sugar syrup won’t turn green in this case. You don’t want it to turn green, really, because that will make the watermelon iced tea look awful.
Now, about the watermelon… Unless you want to spend a long time prying the seeds out of regular watermelon — who wants to do that? — I really recommend the seedless variety.
Loose-leaf jasmine tea is used here because that’s what we keep at home since we’re not fans of tea in teabags. If you prefer the convenience of teabags, feel free to substitute.
But does it have to be jasmine tea? Floral tea is ideal for this drink. But if you prefer something bolder, you may use oolong.
Props to my daughter, Sam, who came up with the idea of dropping fruit into glasses of iced tea.
Watermelon iced tea
Pandan-infused sugar syrup
- 2 pandan leaves - tied into a knot
- ½ cup white sugar
- 1 tablespoon loose-leaf jasmine tea
- ¼ seedless watermelon - well-chilled
- Place the pandan leaves in a pan, add the sugar and half a cup of water.
- Boil until the sugar is fully dissolved.
- Turn off the heat and leave to steep until cool.
- Discard the pandan leaves.
Brew the jasmine tea
- Place the tea in a heat-proof container.
- In a pan, heat five cups of water until boiling. Turn off the heat and leave for a minute.
- Pour one cup of the hot water into the tea, leave for a minute then strain.
- Pour the remaining hot water into the container with the tea.
- Allow the jasmine tea to steep for four minutes then strain.
- Cool the strained tea.
Make your iced tea
- While the tea cools, cut the watermelon into small cubes.
- Sweeten the tea with as much or as little pandan-infused sugar syrup as you like.
- Drop ice into glasses, half fill with the sweetened tea then top with watermelon cubes.