Ah, summertime. Don’t you just love those long days, vacations, open windows? Not to mention the food. Sweet corn, tomatoes, peaches, strawberries. Cold beer, cream soda, and iced tea.
Delicious, real iced tea is so easy to make. You don’t even have to put a kettle on. Just dump 10-12 teabags in a gallon jug, fill it almost full with fresh, cold water, and set it out in the sun. In a few hours, when it turns a rich, deep reddish-brown, add sugar and lemon juice to taste and maybe a sprig of mint. Serve over ice. Heaven.
Nothing at all wrong with that recipe, but how about a few tips to make it even better? I’ve been making sun tea for twen--thir--fort…er, a long time, and I’m happy to pass along a thing or two I’ve learned.
First, use a glass jar. Plastic ones are cheap and easy to find, but they have a nasty tendency to develop an unpleasant aftertaste. Glass stays clean and unscented. Plastic heats up fast and cools down fast; glass coddles your tea, warming and cooling it gently, so the tannins don’t get overcooked and bitter. If you can find a jar without a spigot--like the ones old-fashioned deli pickles come in--so much the better. The spigots inevitably leak and they’re almost impossible to keep mildew-free. If all else fails, remove the spigot, take the jug to a good hardware store and find a seal that fits. Wash it well and use a little silicone to hold it in place.
Try different tea blends. If you like a tea hot, you’ll probably like it iced. Replace a couple of the black tea bags with herbal teas or fresh herbs. Mint, lavender, and rosemary make lovely tea. (If you use fresh herbs, start with small amounts until you learn how you like them.) Try sweeteners other than sugar. With the tea brewed so gently, you may find you need less or even no sugar. Stevia is very sweet and calorie-free. Some people like honey. Use a few berries or other fruit instead of sugar, but put them in each glass. They’ll get kind of goopy in the jug. Substitute orange or lime juice for all or part of the lemon; my favorite is about 1 part lime to 3 parts lemon.
One last thing. Try making moon tea. Start it before bed and it will be ready when you get up. Because it won’t get as warm as sun tea, it will have a delicate, subtle flavor. Use a light hand on the add-ins, and serve it to your sweetie for a little romance under the stars.
How do you like your tea?