14 July 2009

Tea-riffic

I have a confession to make: I'm a tea person who doesn't drink much tea.

I love everything to do with tea. The ritual, the cups and pots, the various steeping mechanisms, the fancy little sugar cubes and swizzle sticks, even the names of teas and the way they're packaged. I have a decent-sized collection of tea paraphernalia. But I just don't drink it.

I blame this on my innate abhorrence of hot beverages. I don't know why but I prefer my drinks ice cold, or, if I must--lukewarm.

And then there's my fear of making iced tea.

The only greater mystery than the process of iced-tea making is the mystery of why I found it so intimidating in the first place--it's just about the easiest thing in the world to make. And yet for far too long, if I wanted my tea sweet and cold (which of course I did), I was forced to resort to the kind that came pre-packaged in bottles and cans. A sad state of affairs.

I even ended up buying an "Iced tea maker," (that's how it was described at the time, anyway) hoping it would demystify the process. It didn't. It does, however, steep the tea nicely and then strain the leaves out for your convenience.

But as my tea stash threatened to gain control of the pantry in a hostile takeover, I had to put my fears aside and just go for it. With no small amount of trepidation, I boiled, steeped, strained, sweetened, and chilled. And it turned out great. Who woulda thunk it?

So in the interest of helping out anyone else who might also be intimidated by the mystical tea-making process, I offer a tutorial of sorts.

Easy Iced Tea

You'll need:

--a container in which to boil water
--a container in which to steep the tea (this can be the same as the pitcher, if you have an easy way to strain out the leaves)
--a pitcher
--tea bags or leaves (general guideline: 1 bag or tsp per cup of water)
--sweetener, if desired

Boil water. Meanwhile, place tea in steeping container. If using a sweetener that doesn't instantly dissolve (like honey), add to the pitcher now. Remember--it's easier to add more sweetener later than it is to correct tea that's too sweet.

I'm a honey fan. Doesn't it look gorgeous?

When water is ready, pour over tea in steeping container. Check the guidelines on the package to figure out how long your tea needs to steep. Generally, 3 to 4 minutes is fine for black or green tea. Four to six minutes works well for herbal tea.

If you want to get a handy gizmo like mine, they're not too expensive. Just keep in mind you need to get a pitcher with an opening that is smaller than the base of the tea maker (the base needs to fit over the rim of the pitcher to work).

If you don't have such a gizmo, remove tea bags (easy) once steeped, or strain tea through a sieve into the pitcher to catch the loose leaves (messy, but still pretty darn easy). It might be worth it to you to invest in a large tea ball or removable strainer so you don't have to worry about sieves and whatnot. That also saves you needing a separate steeping container.



Once the tea has been strained, you can add it to your pitcher--stirring if necessary to dissolve any sweetener you added. Let it cool to lukewarm before putting it in your fridge to get properly cold. Theoretically you can use it right away by adding ice cubes, but in my experience that just leads to watery, warm tea rather than cold tea. It's worth waiting for it to get cold in the fridge.


Our steeping gizmo is on the small side (it holds about 3 1/2 cups, give or take), so I make two batches and pour it all into the much larger pitcher. In total, we get about 6 servings.

Once it's cold, you can pour it into your fanciest cups and add ice, lemon slices, more sweetener, fancy paper umbrellas, swizzle sticks shaped like naked ladies--whatever you like (I won't judge, honest).

As for me, my tea stash doesn't stand a chance.

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