Honolulu Iced Tea

It happens every time I come home from The Islands: serious Hawaii withdrawal. Macadamia nut chocolates, hibiscus plants, endless 50 First Dates reruns–whatever suggestively Hawaiian I can get my hands on is what I surround myself with. If you love Hawaii as much as I do, then I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.At any time, one of the easiest things I can do to feel like I’m back in Hawaii is to make Honolulu Iced Tea, my version of Plantation Iced Tea. You can find this island refresher at random places in and around Hawaii, including Diamond Head Market & Grill and even up on the North Shore at Turtle Bay’s Ola Restaurant.This Honolulu Iced Tea is somewhere between sweet and not sweet. For a more natural taste and color, I like to use raw Turbinado or cane sugar instead of the typical white. Skip the task of making a simple syrup by just adding the sugar directly into the hot tea after removing the steeped leaves.You can use any strong black tea to make Honolulu Iced Tea, but I love to use a tropical, fruit-flavored loose leaf black tea. Today I’m using Golden Sail Brand Chinese Lichee Black Tea. Mango or pineapple flavored brews like Lupicia’s Hua Ki or Sunny Fruits Puer also taste great here, and even the run-of-the-mill grocery market brand of Orange Pekoe will also work fine.Pineapple, lemongrass, and cinnamon are essential for adding brightness and richness to this tea. In addition to pineapple juice, I like to leave large chunks of fresh pineapple floating in the tea to add extra acidity. A crushed lemongrass stalk and cinnamon stick are also added to the brew, but should be removed shortly after the tea has come to room temperature and before serving.This Honolulu Iced Tea recipe yields a strong brew, perfect when poured over ice on a hot day. Pineapple wedges, sweet mint, sugar cane, hibiscus flowers (from my new plant!), and even decorative lemongrass stirring stalks make beautiful garnishes for Honolulu Iced Tea. Enjoy this refreshing sip at a leisurely pace, when you are longing for a sun-kissed taste of aloha.Honolulu Iced Tea

Makes 1 large pitcher. 


8 cups spring water

1/2 cup loose black tea (I used Chinese Lychee Black Tea)

1/2 cup turbinado sugar

1 cup pure pineapple juice

1 large cinnamon stick

1 stalk lemongrass, smashed open

ice cubes

pineapple wedges, mint, hibiscus flowers, sugar cane sticks, lemongrass stalks (optional, for serving)


large heatproof pitcher

water kettle

small mesh strainer

serving pitcher and glasses

drinking straws


1.  Bring the water to a full boil in a water kettle. In a heatproof pitcher, brew the black tea for 3-5 minutes, according to the directions on the package of tea. After brewing, remove and discard the tea leaves using the small mesh strainer.

2.  While the tea is still hot, add the sugar, smashed lemongrass stalk, and cinnamon stick. Stir everything together, and let this brew sit on the counter until it comes to room temperature.

3. When the brew has come to room temperature, place the mesh strainer over the serving pitcher. Pour the brew through the strainer into the serving pitcher to remove the steeped lemongrass stalk and cinnamon stick, then discard those.

4.  Pour the strained tea into glasses filled with ice and garnish each glass with cut pineapple, mint, sugar cane, flowers, and/or straws. Enjoy!

Adapted from Diamond Head Market & Grill’s recipe for Plantation Iced Tea.