Iced Tea – A Life-Essential in the South
Not so in the North. The Air Force once flew me (and a number of other pilot trainees) up to New Jersey (from Laredo) to attend the funeral of one of our classmates. A sad occasion, but that can be a story for another time. The point was that while I was up there, we went into a restaurant for a meal, and when the waitress asked what I wanted to drink, I said, “Iced tea, please.”
She looked at me for a moment as though I had sprouted tentacles, then she said, “But it’s February!” The idea of someone wanting iced tea in winter was totally alien to her.
In the South, the question is not whether or not you want iced tea, the question is “Sweet or unsweet?”
All this to say that iced tea is one of the life essentials to living in the South.
Sweet or Unsweet?
When I first started drinking iced tea, which was at an age I was too young to remember, I drank only sweet tea. At the time, you had to sweeten it yourself by stirring in sugar – the bright idea of sweetening tea by the pitcher or urnful had not yet been born.
As I got older – high school and college, I realized that if you ate a dessert or other sweet, then drank sweetened tea, you couldn’t really taste the sugar in the tea.
Eventually I asked, “If I can’t taste it, why bother?” So I taught myself to drink tea unsweetened. This saved a lot of “tea tuning,” and the tea always tasted the same, whether I had eaten something else sweet or not.
I also learned, through drinking unsweetened tea, to actually TASTE the tea. And because of this, I learned that some tea is really good, and some tea is not so good. Sometimes this difference has to do with the kind of tea, but more often – especially in restaurants – it depended on how the tea was brewed.
Yum or Yuck?
Because of this, I started adding sweetener to tea again, until I discovered all I had to do was add between a teaspoon and a couple of ounces of water to the unsweet tea, and in most cases, this made it much more drinkable.
Of course, if they use yucky water, it will always make yucky tea.
Tea At Home
Making iced tea at home is always cheaper than buying it at a restaurant, and I can be sure of using good water, of brewing it the right length of time, and of generally having a really yummy batch of tea to drink.
The biggest drawback to homemade tea, of course, is having to make it.
Until recently, my method was this:
- Fill a 2-quart Pyrex measuring cup with filtered water, pour that water into a pot, and turn on the heat under the pot.
- Put the right number of teabags (6) into the empty Pyrex measuring cup, and when the water boils, pour it over the teabags.
- After the steeping is done and the water has cooled (usually to room temperature), take out the teabags and pour the strong tea into a larger container, add water to get the right strength, and refrigerate for use over the next several days.
When you drink a LOT of iced tea, this method can become a bit tedious and burdensome.
So I decided to look into other ways to make iced tea. I thought, “Aha! Cold brew! I wonder if that would work?”
So I looked it up online and found that yes indeed, it WILL!
Cold Brew Iced Tea
The website I found (it’s here if you’re interested) recommended 8 to 12 grams of tea per quart of water.
The referenced website only talked about loose tea leaves, and raved about how good the tea was. However, I don’t have any loose tea leaves, but I do have tons of teabags.
So I got out our box of Bigelow Green Tea bags, saw the net weight (which is the weight of the product but not the packaging) was 340g for 176 teabags, or just over 1.9g per teabag.
I put two quarts of water into my refrigerator jug, and suspended 10 teabags into the water from the jug lid.
For this, I used a twister tie to hold the bags’ tag strings together and fastened the other end to the grid on the lid – it worked perfectly. This also gave me about 18g of tea for the two quarts of water, which would be right in the ballpark for the reference’s recommendation of 16-24g.
The jug is in the fridge now, and tomorrow I’ll find out whether this is successful or not. I’ll be back to report on it later.
For a several-weeks UPDATE on how this works, please see the NEXT POST!