Homemade Iced Tea
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If you’re used to buying ready-to-drink (RTD) or instant iced tea, you’ll be amazed at the difference in freshness and flavor once you learn how to make iced tea at home.
Having spent a good deal of time in the South, my husband developed a taste for iced tea. He introduced me to the concept of keeping a freshly brewed pitcher on hand. I quit drinking soda pop — that’s “fizzy drinks” to any Brits reading! — several years ago, and good riddance. Now cold tea is my beverage of choice.
Should you use tap water, filtered water or purchased water? This depends on whether you like the taste of what comes out of your tap. We’re lucky enough to have delicious tap water at our home. When I live in Los Angeles, I bought big jugs of water from nearby springs because the tap water tasted awful. The bottom line is: if there’s a taste you dislike in the water, that taste will still be present after you’ve soaked some leaves in the water. Or frozen the water into cubes. Stands to reason, no? That said, experiment and see what works for you. That’s what learning how to cook is all about.
Tea (see below for amounts)
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon Superose (liquid saccharine)
Fill a one-quart saucepan with water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat.
Remove from heat. Place the tea bags (or loose tea) in the water. Cover.
Let steep for 7 minutes. (Five to 10 minutes is a good range, if you want to experiment with the different flavor qualities you can get as different compounds are released from the tea leaves.) This will make a sort of super-strong tea concentrate.
Empty one tray of ice into a 2-quart (half-gallon) pitcher. Add sweetener, if using.
Using the lid to keep the tea bags back, pour your concentrated tea into the pitcher.
Now use a long spoon and stir until all the ice and sugar (if using) has melted.
Fill the saucepan with fresh cold water, pouring it over the tea bags. This will release more tea flavor and color from within the bags. Pour again.
Repeat until your pitcher is full.
At no point should you squeeze or otherwise apply pressure to the tea bags! That will express unpleasant, bitter flavors into your beverage.
Tea stays good about 24 hours. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated, so it’s great for filling 20-ounce bottles and taking on the road with you. You can take the bottles to work, or take them along in the car when you’re going for a drive.
Here are some teas we like, with the amounts needed to make a 1/2 gallon pitcher.
7 tea bags
If you can find it, this makes a wonderful iced tea. The bags are shaped like a pyramid, and have no strings. There’s a bit more tea in each bag than cheaper brands contain. We always keep this stocked in our cupboard.
Lipton Family Size
4 tea bags
I like the taste of Lipton tea, but I detest the wastefullness and bother of the individually wrapped tea bags. The Family Size tea bags are larger, so there aren’t as many packets to open.
If you’re using loose tea, you’ll need a strainer. We use a French press coffee maker to separate the loose leaves from the steeped tea juice.
8 tea bags
Luzianne is another fine tea. No individual wrappings on the bags, but you do have to deal with all the strings.
Tetley British Blend
7 tea bags
This is the tea my husband would drink on the road when he was cab driving in the early 2000’s. Two bottles of Tetley would keep him going through the long shift. On the road, he would drink it unsweetened, as he found that the most refreshing. The tea comes in a round bag without string and superfluous packaging.