JULY 11, 2018
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I’ve received many questions lately regarding iced tea. This is no surprise given that we are on the cusp of summer. As the weather gets warmer, our taste for hot beverages lessens while the idea of an ice-cold glass of tea becomes more enticing. For those of us that usually drink tea one cup at a time, the transition to brewing a whole pitcher can feel a little daunting. How much liquid does this pitcher hold? Do I use the same ratio of tea-to-water as I do for hot tea? Do I boil the water and let the steeped tea cool or can I just use cold water from the start? These are all questions that have come up every year when summer rolls around. Today I’d like to answer those questions and better prepare you for the summer.
Pitchers and decanters come in all shapes, sizes, and materials. If you have a really decorative or oddly shaped one, it can be difficult to determine how much liquid it holds. You can approach this problem in one of two ways. First, you can brew your iced tea in a different container of a known size and transfer it to the decorative pitcher when serving. The other method—and this may sound silly—is to take a measuring cup and pour water into your pitcher one cup at a time to get a feel for how much it can hold. You can even take a picture of it with one or two quarts of liquid and keep that photo as a reference when you want to use the pitcher again. Alternatively, you can mark the water level with a rubber band or a dry-erase marker. You should also consider the material of the pitcher. Plastics don’t insulate as well as glass or ceramic and they can be etched by fruit acids, such as lemon or the orange in our signature cinnamon-orange tea. At the same time, plastic is durable and might be preferable if you have small children. Only you will know which material is best for your iced tea needs.
Next, you need to consider how to brew your tea. I like to brew my tea hot and then chill it. I find this gives the most well-rounded flavor and it’s typically faster than other methods. Boil your water and steep 1 teaspoon of loose tea (or one teabag) for every 8 ounces of water. Steep for 5 to 10 minutes and then remove the tea. Let it cool to room temperature before chilling it in the fridge or pouring it over ice. A dramatic change in temperature can affect the taste. If you plan on serving the tea with ice, double the amount of tea or halve the amount of water because you will be effectively diluting the tea with the ice. Alternatively, you can freeze your tea in an ice tray and use the tea-cubes instead of regular ice. Freezing fruit juice can also be a great way to add a fruity twist.
At our retail store in Pike Place Market, we cold brew our iced tea the night before. Use 2 teaspoons of tea (or two tea bags) for every 8 ounces of cold water and let it steep overnight (or 8 hours) in the refrigerator. Then, add the same volume of ice and serve.
A word about sun teas: if you’ve made sun tea in the past and enjoy it, don’t let me rain on your parade, but I find that the flavor just doesn’t compare to hot brewed tea. Apart from that, sun tea can harbor and incubate dangerous bacteria. If you do choose to make sun tea, do not keep it longer than a day, even if it’s refrigerated. Just make a new batch the next day. Better to be safe than sorry.
Let’s talk sweeteners. You may be tempted to use granulated sugar, but I’m going to steer you away from that. Granulated sugar doesn’t dissolve well in cold water and can leave a sweet sludge on the bottom of your glass. It’s generally recommended that you use a syrup to sweeten your iced tea. You can make a simple syrup ahead of time by combining equal amounts of sugar and water in a saucepan over heat, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved and then allowing it to cool. This syrup can be kept for up to 4 weeks in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Another syrup that comes to mind is agave nectar, but feel free to experiment with other sweeteners like honey or even maple syrup.
Now if you want effortless iced tea our Iced-Tea packs take out most of the guesswork. Each package contains six jumbo-sized tea bags pre measured to brew 2 quarts of iced tea. Tea brewing instructions are printed right on the label for your convenience. We have seven flavors to choose from that we feel are ideal for summer. As always, our signature cinnamon orange is available, but we also offer Lemon Up, Pomegranate Splash, Passionfruit, Mango Berry, Peaches & Coconut and Cranberry Mint.
The above teas all have black tea as their base. A cup of black tea usually has about half the caffeine of a cup of coffee, but some of us would rather have no caffeine at all. So here are my favorite herbal teas for iced summer bliss. Raspberry Splash reminds me of pink lemonade. This is a green rooibos-based tea with bits of lemon peel and dried raspberry. Lemon Meadow is another great herbal tea for the summer. Once again, we have a base of green rooibos with lemon peel, lemongrass, lavender buds, rosemary and a touch of mandarin. Feel free to experiment with other teas, too. White teas can be quite refreshing iced. There are no wrong answers here and you have all summer long to experiment!