Tuesday, January 27, 2009
(Image from 1950's book owned by my mother).
When making tea -- hot or iced, never boil the tea bag or tea leaves! That produces a bitter tasting tea. Some purists use a particular bottled water or filtered water for making tea. That is entirely optional; however, be aware that some waters with high mineral contents do alter the taste of tea.
Of course, since I'm a Southern girl, we'll talk about iced tea first. I drink iced tea, or sweet tea as we call it, almost every day, all year round, even on the coldest day of the winter. A true Southernor expects that when ordering tea in a restaurant, the waiter will know that you mean that you want a glass of sweet iced tea. That's the norm, while unsweet tea and hot tea and herbal tea are special orders. There are several ways to make iced tea: place water and tea bags in fridge overnight, use a special tea maker, make sun tea, etc.
The most common way is to make a tea syrup and then dilute it with water or with water and ice. In order to do this, use the amount of tea bags your tea calls for for the amount of tea you want to end up with, plus one tea bag "for the pot". (Iced tea needs to be brewed a bit stronger than hot tea.) For two quarts of iced tea, put about a quart of water in a pan. Heat it just until the boiling point. While it's heating, put a small amount of water into the bottom of your 2 quart pitcher so that the pitcher will not crack when you pour in the hot liquid. When the water you are heating reaches the boiling point, take it off the burner. Stir in one cup sugar (or to taste). Add your tea bags -- as many tea bags as the tea box calls for plus "one for the pot". (Iced tea needs to be brewed a bit stronger than hot tea, as iced tea is diluted.) I use 3 family size tea bags for two quarts of tea. Tie the tags together to keep the tags from slipping down into the tea syrup and also to make it easier to pull them out. Let the tea steep for at least five minutes. Some people brew their tea for up to an hour. I, myself, just go about cooking the rest of a meal I'm making without worrying about the tea steeping too long. However, some people believe that steeping tea for more than five minutes leaves a bitter taste.
When the tea has finished steeping, take out the tea bags, pour the water into the pitcher, and fill the pitcher the rest of the way with water or water and ice. Chill the tea.
For health reasons, I usually use de-caf tea bags, but the best iced tea is just good old black tea with caffeine. Also, there are teas that are especially made for iced tea. These have less tannins than tea normally does. This helps the iced tea to stay clear. If your tea does have tannins that produce a film on the top of the iced tea, it's not the end of the world. But, it is best to use the bags made for iced tea.
When serving iced tea, offer lemon slices. Mint sprigs are also a popular accompaniment to iced tea. If you want to be creative, offer a strawberry or two per person, or orange slices, or pieces of pineapple. You might want to arrange these attractively on a little plate and add a little serving fork or spoon so that guests can help themselves.
Tomorrow, how to make hot tea.