Serves a Crowd

Thyme Tea Soda

June  2, 2011
3 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes 10 drinks
Author Notes

This recipe is a riff on a delightful iced tea that gets served in the summer at both Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant and Stumptown Coffee in Portland, Oregon. At its essence, it's just black tea with thyme, but it's surprisingly delicious and refreshing. The added bourbon makes it an easy-to-drink cocktail (maybe too easy—don't say I didn't warn you). —hardlikearmour

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Hardlikearmour is a veterinarian by day, iced tea aficionado by night.
WHAT: A bubbly, herbaceous iced tea (or cocktail) with Northwest roots.
HOW: Allow tea bags, thyme, and cinnamon to steep in a simple syrup, then combine it with lemon juice in a highball glass. Top with a splash of soda—and some bourbon if it's one of those days.
WHY WE LOVE IT: If a tea can be described as alluring, this would be it. The thyme garnish drew us in, and the refreshing clean citrus finish kept us sipping. While it's delicious on its own, a splash of bourbon adds a whole other layer of attraction. —mitschlag

What You'll Need
  • For the soda:
  • Ice, as needed
  • 2 tablespoons Tea Thyme syrup (see recipe below)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 ounces bourbon (optional)
  • Seltzer, cold, as needed
  • Sprig of fresh thyme or lemon wedge, for garnish
  • For the syrup:
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) water
  • 8 ounces (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
  • 6 bags or 6 teaspoons loose-leaf black tea (I used Darjeeling)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons dried thyme or a handful of fresh thyme sprigs (about 1/4 ounce)
  • one 1/2 inch stick cinnamon, broken (optional)
  1. For the soda:
  2. Fill a 12-ounce glass halfway with ice. Add the syrup, lemon juice, and bourbon (if using it). Top the rest of the glass off with seltzer and stir gently to combine. Garnish with a sprig of thyme or lemon wedge. Repeat with the remaining syrup, or save the rest for another day. Enjoy!
  3. Note: Feel free to play with the proportions of the lemon and syrup. I find this recipe to yield a refreshing balance of tart and sweet the way it is written, but you may prefer otherwise.
  1. For the syrup:
  2. Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Boil for 30 to 60 seconds, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat.
  3. Add in the tea bags to steep, thyme, and cinnamon (if using), then cover. Allow to come to room temperature. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a glass jar, squeezing tea bags to extract as much syrup as possible. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Brenda
  • Caryl
  • Susan Lopez
    Susan Lopez
  • vvvanessa
  • Chef Lisa
    Chef Lisa
I am an amateur baker and cake decorator. I enjoy cooking, as well as eating and feeding others. I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with my husband and our menagerie. I enjoy outdoor activities including hiking, mushroom hunting, tide pooling, beach combing, and snowboarding.

64 Reviews

Brenda May 28, 2018
Thank you for a really flavorful tea recipe. I used half Lapsang Souchong and half loose green tea from China. Thought I had opened black but it was green, worked well anyway. The Lapsang tastes fresh and savory with the thyme.
Caryl May 29, 2016
This is lovely! I'm always looking for alcohol free cocktails so I nixed the bourbon and added just a splash of lemonade. I too used Earl Grey. Thanks!
Susan L. March 7, 2016
I used Earl Grey as well and the results were incredible! I was looking for something special to serve as a non alcoholic option ( many people driving small children). This was like something from a top London hotel bar. I also used citron press instead of the lemon juce as that is what I had on-hand and fresh thyme. Taking care to float it in the order given over clear ice blocks in a tall glass made it look very much like the photo. Will certainly serve this again.
cookinalong June 1, 2015
Thank you for posting this! It's inspired! Bourbon has been waiting for this. A match made in heaven.
PhilB May 18, 2015
Made this today! Absolutely delicious! Used earl grey instead of Darjeeling and I loved the flavour!
vvvanessa April 30, 2015
Oh, man this sounds so good!
Chef L. April 30, 2015
This sounds great! Mat offer it as an alternative for the Mint julep on Derby Day.
boulangere April 29, 2015
Warm congratulations, Sara
hardlikearmour April 30, 2015
Thanks you, Cynthia!
Jessie @. April 24, 2015
Congratulations! This looks like such a tasty drink! Cheers!
hardlikearmour April 30, 2015
Thank you!
hardlikearmour April 23, 2015
Thank you all! This makes me very happy because it's one of my all-time favorites.
gingerroot April 23, 2015
Yay, hla!! Well deserved congrats on being a finalist. This is such a fabulous, refreshing drink.
Panfusine April 23, 2015
This sounds absolutely DIVINE!.. definitely a WINNER in my books.
congrats on the finalist pick!
hardlikearmour April 23, 2015
Thank you kindly, Panfusine!
cookinginvictoria April 23, 2015
Congratulations, Sara! How did I miss this? Love the idea of a thyme infused iced tea soda. On the must try list for those warm PNW summer days that are hopefully just around the corner. :)
hardlikearmour April 23, 2015
Fingers crossed! We were up to 80ish on Monday, but now we're back down to the low 60s.
ChefJune April 23, 2015
mmm what an interesting twist on iced tea!
hardlikearmour April 23, 2015
Thanks. I can only take credit with turning the combo into a soda. When I tried the iced tea at Stumptown a few summers back I was hooked at first sip.
Alexandra V. April 23, 2015
Sounds great I have never seen this at Stumptown (hooked on the nitro cold brew), but looks like I can make it at home....and add some Bulleit!
hardlikearmour April 23, 2015
I'm not sure they still have it at Stumptown -- it was/is only a summer thing. I have to avoid their cold brew with milk combos as they are insanely addictive (the winter spice one especially).
Alexandra V. April 30, 2015
Yeah they are totally addictive! Congrats!
susan G. April 23, 2015
This has been a must-have for the summer, since (my comment below says) 4 years ago. A classic here, and deserves our votes!
hardlikearmour April 23, 2015
I remember you being an early fan :-) I also like to keep it on hand during the summer -- so good after doing yard work on a hot day.
mrslarkin April 23, 2015
Congrats, Sara! Definitely making this soon.
hardlikearmour April 23, 2015
Thanks, MrsL! You'll have to let me know whether or not you like it.
aargersi April 23, 2015
YAY SARA! Congrats! This needs to go on our summer poolside roster for sure!!!
hardlikearmour April 23, 2015
Thank you! definitely would be great pool-side during your 100+ heat waves.
lapadia February 18, 2013
Love everything about this refreshing soda, love the name, and btw, I thought I had commented before!
hardlikearmour February 20, 2013
Thanks, lapadia! I like to make a good-sized batch of the syrup, and add the lemon juice right to it so it keeps longer in the fridge. Then I can have afternoon tea thyme, whenever the urge strikes!
lapadia April 23, 2015
EmilyC July 27, 2012
Just tried these...what a nice, unique, refreshing drink! I'm not big on sweet tea but in soda form, I realize I'm a big fan! Love how concentrated the syrup is, which means I can drink these all week long.
hardlikearmour July 27, 2012
Thank you, Emily! I'm not a big sweet tea fan either, as I don't find sweet beverages to be refreshing. I think the combination of tannin from the tea, herbal notes from the thyme, tang from the lemon juice is what makes this refreshing and yummy to me.
NanP June 9, 2011
oops sorry for the over commenting! I didn't see that any of them were successful in getting posted