Sunday, October 21, 2007

Perfect Iced Tea

Iced tea is a staple in our household because it's wickedly cheap and it tastes good. We make it by the gallon and are usually out by mid-week. The beauty of iced tea for us is that there's always an endless store of tea to choose from since I'm a tea freak and almost always have the pantry stocked with various black and green teas.

As far as iced tea in the United States goes, it's a sad state of affairs. Most of the time, pre-sweetened iced tea is a fountain drink, reconstituted from cloyingly sweet syrup. YUCK! I'm firmly convinced that only the American South knows how to brew and serve a decent iced tea. "The table wine of the South" as they call it is the wonderful sweet tea. Why only the South serves it fresh brewed and sweetened, I'll never know. (Being that my favorite beverages are iced tea and Coca Cola, I was pretty happy with my beverages choices when we visited Atlanta this past summer.)

Practically anywhere else in the US that offers real brewed iced tea offers it unsweetened, with a side of lemon and a plethora of sugar packets to help you on your way. As many a novice iced tea or lemonade maker knows, a cold drink doesn't help dissolve the sugar. I've spent far too many meals waiting thirstily for my sugar to dissolve before being able to gulp down my beloved iced tea.

The answer to this problem is simple. Simple syrup, that is. It's just a one to one ratio of sugar to water, already dissolved. This takes the work out of sweetening your iced tea or any other iced beverage. I like to keep simple syrup on hand for iced tea because I make unsweetened iced tea. While I love sweet tea, I can't have it as often as I like and need to watch my sugar intake. My husband, on the other hand, hates unsweetened tea and needs his sugar fix. I keep my sugar syrup in a handy squeeze bottle for ease of use.

The beauty of simple syrup is that you can flavor it however you like. Add lemon or mint if you like those flavors in your tea. Simple syrup also takes the work out of making lemonade or limeade.

For a gallon of unsweetened iced tea
  • 8 tea bags
  • 8 c hot water
  • 8 c cold filtered water
Heat 8 c of water until just under the boiling point. Steep 8 tea bags in the hot water for about 15 minutes to make a very strong tea. Remove the tea bags and let cool for another 5 minutes. Pour half of your cold water into your gallon container and pour in your hot tea. Pour in the rest of your cold water and stir to combine. Refigerate for 3 to 4 hours or until cold. Serve as desired.

For a gallon of Southern style "Sweet Tea"
  • 8 tea bags
  • 7 c hot water
  • 6 1/2 c cold filtered water
  • 1 to 1 1/2 c simple syrup
For true Southern "Sweet Tea" try to find "Luzianne" tea and follow their directions.

Otherwise, follow the directions for unsweetened iced tea above, except adding the simple syrup in with the cold water.

NOTE: Depending on where you are in the South, Sweet Tea can mean "tea sweetened with sugar" or "sugar water that looks like tea" (ie. Georgia.) Adding the full 1 1/2 c of simple syrup errs more towards the latter definition than the former so unless you like your tea that sweet, try adding only 1 c of the simple syrup first and adjusting to taste.

Simple Syrup (makes 1 1/2 c)
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 c water
Heat your water to boiling and dissolve the sugar in the boiling water. Let cool slightly and then add to your iced tea (for Southern style "Sweet Tea")


Cool completely and reserve in a serving container.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Now I never read that whole, long
diatribe you wrote. But I'll tell
you this. QT in Missouri makes the
best iced tea and an equivalent, or
better, than what is made down in
the south. I remember having theirs as a kid, but now I am ancient and QT makes SWEET TEA like
NONE I've ever tasted. (QT, in case you are wondering, is where
they pump gas and sell not only that wonderful SWEET TEA, but quite a few other things. QT's are all over the area.