Thursday, May 5, 2011

Iced Tea: A Primer and Some Recipes

(Now, hush, y'all--some folks out there really don't know these things, but I'm a'fixin' to cure what ails 'em)

If you walk into most any ol' Southern restaurant--especially a "down home" meat and three type place or a BBQ joint--and order "tea," you will get what we call "Sweet Tea." This is different from "sweetened" tea and, of course, diametrically opposed to "Unsweetened Tea." Despite my Southern roots, I've developed quite a taste for Unsweet Tea, but I always have to specify "Unsweet" and emphasize the "un." Even at MacDonald's, if you don't specify, you will be served a tankard of Sweet Tea.

So, what is the difference between Sweet Tea and sweetened tea? Simple: when you make the tea, you put sugar in it... a LOT of sugar in it.... When it's cooled enough to pour over ice, you have "Sweet Tea." Now, if you merely add a touch of sugar to take the edge off when you first brew it or add sweetener of some kind once the tea is in a glass, you have "sweetened tea." Two very different drinks. If you've never had "Sweet Tea," think of a tea-flavored punch and you'll have it about right.

It's beginning to warm up enough that my afternoon cuppa is too hot. So, I've switched to iced tea. Since I like mine without the Kool-aid effect, I can brew some up in the morning and simply leave it on the counter all day until I'm ready to pour it over ice. (And I always brew mine in a teapot.) I'll let Megan give us a good recipe for Sweet Tea, since her current community is more Southern than is mine. Here are some of my favorite unsweetened iced tea concoctions--try them just once without added sugar! You'll be surprised by how refreshing they are.

(Oh, and be careful when you start talking iced tea with Southerners. Most have an attachment to a particular brand, such as Tetley or Luzianne. I'm a Tetley girl myself.)

Basic Unsweetened Tea
4 tea bags (or 1 family size tea bag--yes, they do make them that big!)
4 cups boiling water

Pour water over tea bags and let steep ~5 minutes. It will be strong, but the ice will help dilute it later.

Slightly Sweetened Tea (my mom's method and what I grew up drinking)
4 tea bags (or 1 family size tea bag)
4 cups boiling water
tablespoon or two of sugar

Pour water over tea bags and let steep ~5 minutes. Add sugar and stir to mix after removing tea bags. This is just sweet enough to take that edge off; most people who like Sweet Tea will still want to add quite a bit of sugar to their glass. We always added a sprig of mint to the actual glass and frequently added lemon or limes to it as well.

Unsweetened Mint Tea (how my mother-in-law makes it--very refreshing!)
4 tea bags (or 1 family size tea bag)
1 peppermint tea bag
4 cups boiling water

Pour water over tea bags and let steep ~5 minutes. Pour over ice when ready. (It's nice to add some sprigs of fresh mint to this)

Another truly delicious, and different, iced tea alternative is Rooibos Tropica tea served over ice. What are your favorite iced tea concoctions?

1 comment:

  1. Have you ever had American Classic Tea from the Charleston Tea Plantation? I find it to be the best tea for iced tea EVER. They used to carry it in Wal-Mart, but no more. I see you can buy it online, but I have a stash I'm hoarding. We don't really drink tea in our house, but for special visitors, I'm willing to break it out (hint, hint).


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