Beverage & Bar Features
Perfect Iced Tea
Texans love their iced tea. We are not fanatics about it, mainly because we pretty much take for granted being able to get a good glass of tea, properly served, 365 days a year at most any restaurant. And, yes, like all southerners, we drink it year round, not just when summer is searing, but when the snow flies, too.
I've been thinking of writing about iced tea for some time, but have been putting it off for one reason or another. We may all love it, but that does not necessarily mean that we all know how to make it. However, the recent appearance of television ads for a new iced tea concentrate ("New! Easier!"), that you dump into a pitcher of water brought me to my feet and onto the virtual soapbox.
I have traveled outside the southern states enough to know that, for lots of people and restaurants, the preparation of iced tea is a puzzle that has yet to be solved. There are some national chain restaurants (Dallas-born Chili's, for instance) where you can usually get a decent glass of iced tea served with a nice lemon wedge. But there remain so many establishments that serve up a small glass containing a liquid that is barely amber in color with a few fast-melting ice cubes and, worst of all, a thin circle of lemon perched on the rim of the glass.
Canada, well, Ontario anyway, has largely thrown up its hands in bewilderment. They serve you a small glass of tea, only they don't mention that the tea came from a can and is presweetened. You innocently add sugar and try to squeeze that little lemon circle (impossible task), stir, and your toes curl up at the first sip.
Bear in mind that these instructions are not the result of any exhaustive study performed in corporate test kitchens. Rather, they result from my 30-plus years of making tea in my own kitchen, practically every day. I'll start by telling you how to do it, and follow up with a few tips.
How To Make Iced TeaTo make one and one-half quarts of iced tea, put a quart (that's 4 cups) of fresh, cold water in a teapot or pan or whatever and bring it to a boil. When the water comes to a boil, pour it over 5 small tea bags in a heatproof container. Don't gently pour; let it really splash down on the tea bags. Set the container aside and allow the tea to steep for at least an hour. (Actually you can let it steep for hours, overnight even, and it's just fine.) Then fish the teabags out. You can squeeze them to get that last drop of flavor. If you want "sweet tea," add a scant ¾ cup of sugar and stir it until dissolved. Then add two more cups of cold water, stir, and chill. You'll have enough to refresh and satisfy several people.
Now, about the lemon. The purpose of lemon is not merely to make the glass look attractive. For most serious iced tea drinkers, lemon is a necessary ingredient. So you cut a lemon into eight wedges, and serve a wedge with each glass. You see, Canada or Michigan or Rhode Island, a wedge can be squeezed. A lemon circle collapses on itself, resulting in pulp up to your elbows.
National Iced Tea Day is June 10.
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Iced Tea RecipesOkay, I've stepped off the soapbox. Now that you know how to make a delicious pitcher of iced tea, why not get out to the kitchen, put the teapot on and count out your teabags?
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I'll conclude by apologizing to Canada for any remarks that may have offended. Next time you visit Texas, you can come to my house, have a downright delicious glass of iced tea, and poke fun at my complete ignorance of curling, eh?
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