By Laura Coffee, Marketing & Owner Services Manager, Co-op Owner
There are few things more refreshing than a tall, cold glass of iced tea on a hot summer day. But what if you can’t have caffeine, don’t like the taste, or just get bored drinking the same thing at every family barbecue? Iced Tea is a much more versatile beverage than most people realize. Here is a primer on a few of the methods and variations that will take your iced tea game to the next level!
(See the video here.)
Sun Tea: Scrub and sanitize your glass (not plastic) container to make sure you won’t have any nasty critters in your tea. This is very important because Sun Tea gets hot enough for bacteria to reproduce, but not hot enough to kill them. Place tea bags and fresh water in your container and let sit for a few hours until the water has changed color. You can add sweetener at this point. Never add your sweetener to Sun Tea before brewing! Refrigerate immediately and consume within 24 hours.
Stove Top Tea: Heat 4 cups of water to boiling in a saucepan. Remove pan from the heat and wait for the boiling to stop. (Actively boiling water can give your tea a “burnt” taste.) Add your tea bags. Let steep* to desired strength, remove tea bags, and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Add sweetener to hot tea if desired. Fill your pitcher half way with cold water, then pour in your tea. Top off with additional cold water or ice cubes.
Cold Brew Tea: Place your tea bags, with tabs hanging out, in your pitcher and fill with cold water. (You can also use loose tea in a tea ball. Fill the ball only to the halfway point, as the tea will need room to expand as it absorbs the water.) Place in the fridge and leave for 6-12 hours. Tea made right before bed will be ready in time for breakfast, and tea made when you get up will be ready in time for dinner. Remove tea bags or tea ball and serve.
Herbal Iced Teas: Traditional iced tea is usually made with black tea, but there are many other options. Whether you’re looking for a caffeine free tea, or just want to try some new flavors, herbal teas present a world of possibilities. Peppermint is wonderfully refreshing, as are citrus teas. Spiced or Chai teas are a nice variation, and go well with Indian food or desserts. Lavender is an aromatic, if unusual tea, that pairs nicely with a slice of lemon, or fish dishes. If you like it hot, try it chilled. Odds are you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Fruit Infusions: Another way to add new flavor to your teas is with an infusion of fresh fruit. Try adding sliced oranges to a Chai or spiced tea, crushed berries to Rooibos or green tea, or slices of cucumber to peppermint tea for a clean refreshing taste. If you are using fresh produce in your tea, just be sure to wash or remove any peels that will be placed raw into your beverage, to decrease the likelihood of any food-borne pathogens being introduced to your tea.
Simple Syrup: Liquid sweeteners work best in iced tea**, they should be added after the tea has brewed and is ready to chill, this helps eliminate the chance that unwanted bacteria will feed on the sugars. One classic sweetener is known as Simple Syrup—basically a combination of sugar and water. Combine 2 parts water and 1 part granulated sugar (use Turbinado or Sucanat for a deeper flavor) in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar is completely melted. Once syrup has cooled, add to tea or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 months. If you prefer to use a ready-made sweetener, try agave syrup, which has a mild flavor and dissolves well even in cold liquids.
How many tea bags: As a general rule, 8 tea bags, or 1/4 cup loose tea, will make a gallon of iced tea. You can use more or less depending on personal taste.
*How long to steep it: For caffeinated or decaffeinated teas steeping time should be no longer than 10 (I prefer less than 3.) minutes if you do not want to sweeten the tea. Longer times will produce a bitter result. Herbal teas will not get bitter and can steep as long as you like, though after 20-30 minutes there isn’t much flavor left to extract.
**How much sweetener: You do not have to sweeten iced tea. Sweetness is a matter of personal taste and many iced teas are delicious with no sweetening at all. It is best to start with a small amount of sweetener, taste, and then add more if needed. 1/4 cup of simple syrup per gallon will yield a moderately sweet tea.