Iced tea is a national favorite during the hot summer months. Americans love it so much that commercially brewed and branded iced teas appear on market and specialty food shelves in glorious profusion.
As good as the store-bought brands are, nothing beats the tea you brew yourself. It's quick and easy, although you have to let the tea cool before adding ice.
Blends of Tea
There are three basic tea blends: black tea, green tea, and oolong tea. Black tea leaves are fermented, heated, and then dried; green tea is steamed and dried without fermenting; oolong falls between, as it is made from partially fermented tea leaves.
Small tiny leaves and buds are the key to the finest tea. The leaves yield caffeine, a naturally occurring stimulant. Green tea is known for its healthful properties including vitamin C. Black and green tea are touted for their antioxidant properties.
Black tea, the tea most of us know as "regular" or orange pekoe tea, has a dark color and relatively strong tea flavor. Green tea is light in color and taste. Not surprisingly, oolong tea falls somewhere between the two in color and taste.
Which tea you choose to brew is a matter of preference. All brews make delicious iced teas.
Herbal teas, also called tisanes, are great for making iced tea, too. They are not actual tea but a caffeine-free herbal infusion. A tall, ice-cold glass of flavorful herbal tea will quench your thirst beautifully on a hot summer day.
While loose tea is preferred by many tea aficionados, tea bags do the trick as well. Great tea starts with quality leaves and good water. If your tap water tastes of minerals, it may alter the taste of your tea. Filtered or spring water is preferred.
As a rule, when brewing iced tea, double the amount of tea you use to make hot tea. For iced black tea, figure on two teaspoons of tea leaves (or two tea bags) per cup and one or two for the pot. Increase these amounts a little for iced green tea and iced oolong tea.
Heat the water until boiling, allow it to stand for no more than one minute, and then pour it over the tea leaves or tea bags. The tea should steep for a few minutes. Remove the tea bags after three minutes. Loose black tea needs to steep for about four minutes, oolong for three to five, and green tea for one to two minutes.
Remove loose tea leaves immediately or the tea will taste bitter. Pour the tea through a tea strainer into individual heat-proof glasses or into a large pitcher or teapot.
Good iced tea flavor develops when the brewed tea is permitted to reach room temperature before pouring it over ice. Add a twist of lemon or orange, or a mint sprig for added flavor. Use granulated sugar to sweeten the tea, and add juices such as orange or grapefruit, or lemonade for extra flavor.