The iconic summer drink goes organic. Barack Obama imbibes organic iced tea, and so do we. So, in effect, did Scott and Zelda on the porch on those sultry Southern nights that side of paradise before synthetic pesticides and fertilizers were invented. Nowadays, organic black, oolong, green, red and white teas abound in blends to suit any taste, from basic Lipton's orange pekoe to Hawaiian Natural passionfruit orange, to Choice decaffeinated mango. The flavonoids and polyphenols in most teas may carry health benefits, Science Daily reported last April. All the healthier if it's organic:  In another study published this year, researchers in India found neurotoxic pesticide residues on tea leaves and warned of possible risk to consumers.  

The fun part is discovering your favorite organic tea. Obama, it is reported, prefers caffeine-free Black Forest Berry by Honest Tea, whose products are also certified fairly traded, which means that workers had better conditions and received a living wage.  And today, a bottle of Steaz organic and fair trade certified diet sparkling black cherry green tea gave us a sweet pick-me-up when the mercury hit 88 degrees.

When you're not trekking across town or cross country on vacation or the campaign trail, it's even cooler (for the planet) and cheaper to make your own iced tea. Saves packaging and shipping of heavy filled bottles. Plus, you can brew sun tea in a jar, using solar energy. Two tea bags make up to a gallon of icy flavor.

Be creative, experimenting with honey, organic sugar, mint leaves, lemon, and organic fruit juices such as Santa Cruz Organics new passion fruit. Honey we got. Lemons, usually. But we're not, and, alas, probably never will be, the sort who has mint growing, ready to clip, at hand. Instead we keep a supply of Numi's organic, fairly traded Moroccan Mint tea in the cupboard.  

For iced tea recipes, check out these ideas from Whole Foods and this citrus-magnolia special from the Washington Post. Finally, for a truly green tea, do pay attention to packaging. Staple-free, non-chlorine-bleached, post-consumer recycled paper or bags reduce waste and are compostable. Best yet, go bagless with tins of looseleaf tea. Use a stainless steel tea straining spoon or ball. Or, we just heard tell you can even use a French coffee press for looseleaf tea..

Story by Mindy Pennybacker. This article originally appeared in Plenty in July 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008