This Sweet Tea Granita with Lemon Syrup is a Southern take on a refreshing Italian dessert. Cold-brew iced tea is frozen into light and fluffy crystals and topped with fresh lemon syrup that makes for an irresistible summer treat!
About the recipe
While we are still in the dog days of summer, you know I'll be on a quest to post as many cool down treats as I possibly can! Even though we are in the middle of August, I am legitimately unable to give the slightest consideration to making anything with pumpkin in it until temperatures are below 70°F. Can you relate?
This sweet tea granita with lemon syrup was created in an attempt to get more granita recipes onto my site. The world needs more granita! It is a truly underrated but totally magical dessert when done right.
If you've never had the pleasure of a granita or don't even know what it is, let me tell you! Granita the Italian name for what we Americans call Italian Ice. It originated in Sicily with the traditional flavors of almond, lemon, and strawberry.
A granita is is very much like a shaved ice or snow cone, since it has a fluffy, crystalline texture. Typically, granitas are dairy free, lower in sugar than sorbet, and are made by scraping liquid into crystals as it begins to freeze.
My sweet tea granita takes this Italian classic and puts a Southern spin on it by making a frozen treat our of the South's favorite beverage. Add a drizzle of lemon syrup, and it tastes just like an Arnold Palmer. Let's make some!
This sweet tea granita with lemon syrup is only 3 simple ingredients if you don't include the water! It's full of flavor though and tastes like summer in a cup. You will need:
- Filtered water
- Single-serving black or English breakfast tea bags
- Pure cane sugar or an alternative sweetener
- Lemon rinds from 6 used lemons (make this Fresh Peach Lemonade!)
Step 1: the night before, you'll soak your lemon rinds in sugar and steep your tea bags cold-brew style in some filtered water. Everything will hang out in the fridge while you sleep.
Step 2: The next day (or 8-10 hours later), remove the tea bags from the water and toss the lemon rinds around in the sugar to encourage the release of juices.
Step 3: Add ½ cup of sugar (or an alternative sweetener like Splenda) to the tea and stir until it dissolves for 1-2 minutes. Pour the tea in a non-reactive stainless steel square pan. Place it in the freezer and set the timer for 45 minutes.
Step 4: Strain the lemon syrup from the container through a fine-mesh strainer and into a jar or bottle. Use a lemon squeezer or potato ricer to crush any remaining juices from the lemons into the strainer. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Step 5: After 45 minutes, use a fork to scrape and fluff any frozen bits into the remaining liquid. Do this every 45 minutes for 4-5 hours, until the tea is completely frozen into tiny, fluffy crystals resembling shaved ice. Now you're ready to serve it!
Below are some of my best tips for making this sweet tea granita with lemon syrup, as well as some answers to commonly asked questions!
How long can you keep granita in the freeze?
Once granita is frozen into light and fluffy crystals, it will remain that way when stored in an airtight container in the freezer, provided you do not let it melt. If it starts to melt, it will freeze into a solid unless you scrape it throughout the freezing process.
You can enjoy granita for several weeks when stored properly in the freezer. However, it tastes the freshest during the first week.
How do I make granita extra fluffy?
The more often you scrape your granita as it is freezing, the fluffier it will be. I think setting a timer and scraping it every 30 minutes-1 hour results in a nice, fluffy granita.
What containers should I freeze granita in?
My favorite container for freezing granita is a stainless-steel one, like a baking pan. Liquids tend to stick more readily to the sides of glass and ceramic pans when freezing and can make the granita difficult to scrape. I find that the ice releases better when frozen in a stainless steel pan.
Since granitas are so light and refreshing, I find it best to serve them as a dessert after a heavier meal. It also makes a really good frozen mocktail option! This sweet tea granita would be delicious served with any of the following meals:
- Pulled pork BBQ or brisket dinner
- Fried chicken dinner
- Fish fry
- Seafood boil (like these Grilled Shrimp Boil Foil Packs)
- At a brunch with a tomato tart and pimento cheese finger sandwiches
Are you ready to make this Sweet Tea Granita? I’m so excited for you to try this recipe. Once you get the chance to make it, please let me know how it turns out for you!
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Sweet Tea Granita with Lemon Syrup
- 2 cups cold filtered water
- 3 single-serving black tea bags (or English Breakfast Tea)
- ½ cup pure cane sugar, or an alternative sweetener (like Splenda)
- 6 medium lemon rinds from used lemons, cut into chunks
- 1 cup of turbinado sugar or pure cane sugar (or ½ cup cane sugar, ½ cup Splenda)
The day before:
- Let tea bags steep in the water in the fridge for 8-10 hours or overnight.
- Combine the sugar and the lemon rinds. Cover and refrigerate for 8-10 hours or overnight. Give them a toss when you can to encourage the release of juices.
The day of:
- Remove the tea bags from the water. Add the sugar to the tea and stir until it dissolves for 1-2 minutes. Pour the tea in a non-reactive stainless steel square pan. Place it in the freezer and set the timer for one hour.
- During this time, strain the lemon syrup from the container through a fine mesh sieve and into a bottle or jar. Use a lemon squeezer or potato ricer to crush any remaining juices from the lemons into the strainer.
- Label and date the lemon syrup before storing it in a glass container in the fridge for up to 3 months.
- After one hour, use a fork to scrape and fluff any frozen bits in the tea. Do this every 30-minutes-one hour, for 4-5 hours, until the tea is completely frozen into tiny, fluffy crystals resembling shaved ice. Keep scraping every hour until the liquid is fully frozen into crystals and is loose like shaved ice.
- Fluff one last time with the fork and serve in bowls with the lemon syrup drizzled on top to taste.
- Granita will stay frozen in crystals once all the liquid has been scraped and can be kept in the freezer for 1 week. Fluff before serving.