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One of the things I most enjoy about my trips in the southern United States is the way they serve iced tea almost unfailingly, wherever you go. Not for them the sickly sweet concoctions premixed, pre-measured, in bottles or cans, that pass for iced tea up here. These places all know exactly how to serve it. Even to producing little packets, much like ketchup and vinegar, of liquid sweetener and lemon juice so that not only your sweetness is exactly as you like it, but so is your tartness. Can we say iced tea bliss???
No matter what the restaurant, snack bar, lunch stop, you name it, ordering iced tea is always a pleasure. You’re asked how you want it. Sweetened or not. Lemoned or not. Now I know this may seem small potatoes to you, but to me, who has always found commercially produced iced tea far too sweet, it’s like manna from heaven.
So, in honour of those establishments, both big and small, who know what it means to serve iced tea, I thought that this month we’d visit a few versions of my most favourite of all thirst-quenching (next to water) drinks for the summer.
For starters, about the tea. Green tea, black tea and oolong tea all come from a plant called Camellia Sinensis. The “tea plant” grows in most of the tropical climates in the world. So, what makes one tea different from the other? Simple really, both black and oolong teas, when being processed, go through a step called fermentation. Green tea doesn’t.
Whatever the colour, tea is a good source of natural anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants are those elements which help neutralize "free radicals". Free radicals are molecules that can damage cells. So drink up, tastes great and is good for you too, can’t beat that!!!
4 regular tea bags (choose your favourite flavour or a combination)*
2 cups fresh cold water
Granulated sugar or other sweetener
Lemon slices (optional)
Please make sure, if your tea bags are wrapped in paper, to remove all traces of paper, including any attached to the strings of the tea bags, then tie the strings together and place them in a 2 quart container that’s non-metallic and heat proof.
Bring 2 cups cold water (you should always start tea with fresh cold water) to a boil. Once you’ve achieved a lively boil, pour the water immediately over the tea bags.
Allow tea to steep for 30 minutes or more. This will be your base and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Remove tea bags, allow them to drip but do not squeeze out excess liquid and discard.
When you’re ready to serve, simply finish filling the pitcher with enough water to equal 2-quarts. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled before serving. If you wish to serve the iced tea right away, then add a dozen or so ice cubes to tea concentrate first, then fill with water to the 2-quart level.
To serve, pour tea over a generous amount of ice cubes in a tall glass, stirring in desired sweetening and a squeeze of lemon.
*You can use loose tea instead of bagged tea. Just measure two tablespoons of loose tea, into a paper coffee filter and seal tightly with a twist tie, or pour water over loose leaves (this is my preference) in a small heatproof container, then when ready, separate the liquid from the tea leaves using a strainer.
Variation: You can vary the flavours by substituting one tea bag for a bag of your favourite flavoured tea.