Rhubarb Iced Tea

Rhubarb iced tea on a shady stoop.

The Tyranny of the Lemon

I like lemons.  Tarte au citron and lemon meringue pie are two of my favourite desserts.  A quick squeeze of lemon adds friendly punch to everything from salads to roasted chickens and pots of tea.


To me lemons are the epitome of our thoughtless dependence not just on imported ingredients, but imported cuisine.  Every week of the year the happy yellow fruits are shipped by the ton into our city to spread the insidious influence of Mediterranean and Californian food.

What is frustrating about our lemon dependence is that our region and its local plants do “sour” very well.  We are awash with tart, flavourful ingredients like apples, highbush cranberries, sour cherries, rhubarb, and all the cordials, wines, and vinegars that can be made therefrom.  There is a time and place for lemons.  In Edmonton, those times are few and far between.

A Simple Start to Overthrowing the Lemon

Lemons hold a particularly firm grasp on our drinking habits.  I’m thinking especially of classic cocktails, lemonade, and iced tea.  A tart syrup made from any of the above-mentioned local ingredients would be most welcome in iced tea in lieu of lemon.  Rhubarb, though, is my favourite.  It is tart, flavourful, and adds a pleasant rosy blush to the drink.

Rhubarb Iced Tea


  • 2 L water
  • 160 g white sugar (this quantity will also have to be adjusted so that the sweetness properly balances the acidity of the rhubarb)
  • 400 g fresh rhubarb, chopped (rhubarb varies widely in acidity, so this quantity will have to be adjusted according to your plant and palate)
  • 14 g black tea (4 bags)


  1. Combine water, sugar, and rhubarb in a heavy pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a very gentle simmer for 20 minutes.  The rhubarb tends to float at the surface so you will need to stir it into the water every few minutes.
  2. After 20 minutes add the tea and maintain the gentle simmer for a further 5 minutes.
  3. Strain the liquid to remove the rhubarb and tea leaves or bags.
  4. Chill thoroughly and serve over ice.

Yield: about 2 L Rhubarb Iced Tea