Drinking iced tea is one of the highlights of summer - and is a delightful beverage to enjoy throughout the year. Many people have only had chilled tea from a bottle, soda fountain, or made from an instant powder.
Yet, after you taste the "real deal," the store-bought stuff simply won’t compare. Making your tea from scratch is actually quite easy once you learn the basics.
The Fresher, the Better
Iced tea is only as good as the tea used to make it. If you use stale tea bags, the tea will turn out average at best. Water quality is also important.
For the best flavor, use purified water or natural spring water to make your tea. Tap water has impurities that will affect the taste of your tea.
It’s best to drink your tea right away because it will become cloudy and lose flavor if you let it set in the refrigerator for too long. At most, brew what you will drink in one or two days.
Start with High Quality, Gourmet Tea
Using quality tea is essential to brewing a delectable pitcher of tea. If possible, use loose leaf, organic teas instead of tea bags. Tea bags contain tiny pieces of broken tea leaves that result in dull, tasteless tea, while loose leaf teas contain whole leaves that are rich in essential oils, the basis for flavorful tea.
Use the Correct Measurements and Don’t Over-Steep
Use six heaping teaspoons of loose leaf tea per quart of water. After you bring the water to a boil, pour it over the loose tea and let it steep for a few minutes. Steeping time will vary depending on the type of tea you use.
The tea’s product packaging will most likely have instructions telling you how long you should steep it. Be careful not to over-steep your tea because it will turn out bitter.
To enhance the flavor of your tea, add a few sprigs of your favorite herbs, mint or some citrus peel while it is steeping.
Let the Tea Chill before Refrigerating It
After straining the hot tea and pouring it into a glass container, avoid putting it in the refrigerator right away because it will get cloudy; let it reach room temperature first.
If you want to sweeten the tea, mix the desired sweetener into the brew while is still hot so that the granules dissolve completely. After the tea cools, cover the container, so it doesn’t absorb tastes and odors from your refrigerator while it chills.
When you serve the chilled tea, don’t forget to add ice cubes. Ice cubes made with tap water will ruin the flavor of a perfectly good brew, so be sure to use ice cubes made with spring water.
After pouring the chilled tea into a glass, garnish it with a lemon wedge, chopped fruit, flowers, or herbs. You can also mix fruit juice into your tea to liven up its flavor. Once you garnish and flavor the tea to your liking, grab your glass, sit out on the porch, and enjoy.