What could be more refreshing on a hot summer day than an icy-cold glass of tea? That’s why June was chosen as the official month to celebrate America’s longtime love affair with the beverage. The American passion for cold tea, can be traced back nearly two centuries.
One of the most reported iced-tea stories came from the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair when Richard Blechynden, director of the East India pavilion, became frustrated as he tried to offer samples of hot tea under the simmering Missouri sun. In an attempt to boost consumption, he circulated and chilled the tea through a series of lead pipes immersed in ice. The resulting cool, refreshing beverage was a hit with fairgoers, and the iced drink became popular throughout the United States.
We are beginning to brush up on our iced tea–making skills as well. Here are a few suggestions that will leave your guests asking, “How did you make that great iced tea?”
- Think outside the tea-bag box. More than 40 percent of the tea imported into America each year comes from Argentina, where fields of tea bushes are mechanically harvested to make a bagged tea that is inexpensive, quick to steep, and light in color. Consider starting with a full-leaf tea you would normally serve hot in a cup. Your guests will taste the difference because Vietnamese, Indian, Chinese, Sri Lankan, Kenyan, or Japanese teas will infuse more tannins and deeper flavors into your brew.
- Go green. If a light iced tea is what you crave, then green might be your cup—or glass—of tea. Iced tea in the late 19th century was as likely to be made with green tea as it was with black tea. Green tea combines easily with fruits, such as strawberry, cherry, lemon, or lime. As is true for all green teas, don’t put boiling water on the leaves. Steep green tea in 74°C water for 5 minutes for optimum results.
- Turn off the heat. You don’t always need hot water to steep tea. Simply infuse tea leaves into a pitcher of filtered tap water, and place the pitcher in a refrigerator overnight. Remove the spent leaves, and pour your fresh tea over ice. I find that green teas, black teas, or herbals yield the best results when using this cold-brew method. And what about sun tea? The United States Tea Association began cautioning against using this method 20 years ago because of the possible growth of bacteria in longstanding lukewarm water.
- Steep it strong. I like to add an extra minute of steep time when making iced tea to make sure the beverage doesn’t weaken when added to an ice-filled glass.
- Sweeten with fruit. One of the reasons for tea’s current rise in popularity is that tea is considered an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Copious amounts of sugar can negate those healthful properties. The addition of citrus or frozen fruits can enhance the enjoyment of your iced tea without unending amounts of sugar. If you must use sugar, offer guests a small decanter of simple syrup to sweeten to their taste.
- Clear the clouds. What can you do if your black tea clouds after sitting for hours in a refrigerator? It can be salvaged. (Clouding occurs when the solids from the tea leaves are forced out of suspension.) Simply add a bit of boiling water to your tea, and watch the clouds disappear.