While the British love their hot tea, citizens in other countries – especially America – are crazy about drinking it cold. Iced tea accounts for more than 70% of the tea consumed by Americans each year. The drink was first introduced to the American public at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and quickly became popular with the masses.
While Northerners tend to consider iced tea a summertime beverage, those who live in the American South drink it all year long, regardless of the temperature outside. They’re especially passionate about their iced tea and endeavor to make the best at all times. If you want to re-create great iced tea, it’s really not a difficult task. Just follow a few steadfast rules and you can be sure that your tea will be perfect every time.
The Process of Making Iced Tea
It’s best not to make just one glass of ice tea at a time but a whole pitcher that family and friends can share or that you can enjoy all day long. To make about 48 ounces of sweet-tasting iced tea, carefully adhere to the following recipe:
- Choose your favorite tea. These days, ice tea doesn’t have to be your garden variety orange pekoe, though most southern cooks will tell you that the traditionally flavored tea bags make the best tea. The berry flavors make rather nice, light ice teas…perfect for hot, summer days.
- Bring one quart (4 cups) of cold water to a boil in a teapot of your stove. (Don’t microwave the water!)
- When the water has come to a complete boil, pour it over the tea bags. Most tea experts believe that 5 to 6 small tea bags are suitable for this quantity of iced tea. Tie the tea bags together so that they’re easy to remove when it’s time. If you’re using “family-sized” tea bags, which are usually 7 oz. versus 2 oz., use 2 large bags (but you may not want to let it steep as long). Glass pitchers are usually best. Metal and plastic pitches are discouraged as they sometimes give off an unusual taste or retain smells from previous beverages they held.
- Put the tea aside and allow it to steep. One hour of steeping time is usually sufficient but if you’re not available to remove the tea bags after one hour, don’t worry. The tea will still be fine. Some people even let it steep overnight and maintain that such lengthy steeping makes a better tea. Others leave it outside and make “sun tea”. Use a sealed container if you’re putting it outside as it may attract bugs if it’s not closed tightly.
- Once you remove the bags, this is the time to add the sugar. “Real” iced tea and “real” iced tea drinkers don’t worry about calories! However, if sugar is a problem for you, you can skip this step. If you are adding sugar, start by trying about 2/3 cup. After a few tries, you’ll know whether or not this is the right amount of sweetener for your tea. Don’t forget to stir until the sugar is dissolved.
- Once the sugar is totally dissolved, add 2 more cups of cold water. Stir again and place in the refrigerator to chill. It’s important not to add ice cubes at this time. It waters down the iced tea and flattens the taste. Chilling should always take place in the refrigerator and ample time should be allowed to achieve a refreshing temperature.
- Never keep iced tea in the refrigerator for more than a day or two. It loses its pleasing taste.
- Always serve your ice tea with a lemon wedge that drinkers can squeeze into their glass. (Lemon slices don’t work because you can’t squeeze them.)
Once you’ve perfected the technique for making the world’s best iced tea, you’ll no doubt make adjustments of your own to fit your taste. Be sure to experiment a bit with flavors and sweetness until you create your favorite concoction. Before long, you’ll be drinking gallons!