Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sweet Southern Iced Tea


By "the real thing" I do not necessarily mean caffeine laden. (My body doesn't like too much of that stuff.) I mean that it is freshly brewed. I've learned that some people who call themselves "Southerners" actually use instant tea these days or settle for pre-made tea from concentrate, so I'm here to keep the REAL tea tradition alive (and keep some coins in your pocket) by showing y'all how to make it.

Did you know that you'd pay $13/gallon for a catering iced tea service? Full tea service usually includes one (only ONE) gallon of freshly brewed iced tea, lemon wedges, and packets of sugar--that'll make your cold tea gritty!

This time of year in the South you've gotta know how to make it. And I like it sweet. Not SWWEEEEEEET, just sweet!

So, here we go. Go to the store and get something like this, although any kind of tea bags really work...if you think you'll like it cold! Orange pekoe (Lipton's red and yellow box for caffeinated; green, red, and yellow for decaf) is most commonly used for good iced tea.Or, instead of going all the way to the store, just check your cupboards and grab some tea bags you probably already have. If you don't have any tea, maybe you're just not the tea type and wouldn't be interested in making the icy stuff anyway. But for the sake of your future house guests, read on, so you know how to make it for them!

Next, follow the directions on the box and enjoy!

Okay, I won't let you off that easily.

Now, take 3 of these larger iced tea bags (or 5-6 regular-sized Lipton tea bags) and put them into a heat-proof glass or ceramic pitcher. I know there are only two bags in the picture, just go with me on this. The instructions say to use 2 teabags for 8 cups (that's 2 qts.) of water. As long as we're not settling for that other iced tea, let's also not settle for (gasp) weak tea!

I've used a plastic pitcher before, but that's when I wasn't making REAL iced tea. I've mended my ways.
Next, fill the pitcher half full with boiling water. You know how to boil water, right? Start with fresh, cold water and boil it in your kettle.If you want to make your tea faster (since that happens sometimes when you start thinking about iced tea), it's nice to have one of these insty-hot spigot thingys like I do. Now don't get all snooty and tell me about how boiling fresh, cold water is better. This is MY life.
I love my insty hot water spigot because when I need boiling water...POOF, there it is, right there without getting the kettle out. Amazing! I mostly love it because it takes too much time out of my day waiting for our hot water to come clear across our house from our water heater to our kitchen sink. So, now I can fill up my sink with really hot water right away! Love it!

Let your tea bags steep for 5 minutes...or more like 8-10 minutes like I did today since I had to chase my kids back outside because they were running through the house with water-filled squirt guns they got at our neighborhood 4th of July celebration the other day. While you're at it, grab one of these.
No, it's not for chasing around your kids. It's to stir in some of sugar.

Try not to get all crazy and strong arm your wooden spoon into squeezing out every last drop of water from your tea bags like I did. If you do, your spoon may look like mine does now.
Once you have the tea bags removed and the tea is still hot, stir in your sugar--about 1/3-1/2 cup, depending on how sweet you like it.

I'm sure you've had that gritty sugary feeling in your tea before. Or you stir your sugar in and find that you drink mostly unsweetened tea...until the very end, when sugar is all that's left. That's because sugar doesn't dissolve well in COLD tea. So, keep the grit out and stir in the sugar while it's still hot.

Okay, I will confide in you. I DO have some instant iced tea mix in my pantry. I tend to get a little impatient when I'm really hot and thirsty, and sometimes I just want my tea NOW! (So keep in mind, it's best to just make your freshly-brewed tea early every morning in the summertime--before you get really hot and thirsty.) There are some fun instant tea flavors these days, it's hard to resist. It's okay to use it in a pinch. Even when using a mix, it's better to first add a little hot water to the mix and stir it up before adding cold water and ice. It'll dissolve the sugar and leave you with pure non-gritty, refreshing pleasure! Again, that's when I LOVE my insty-hot spigot thingy. Just a little bit of that hot stuff is needed to do the job nicely! Just don't serve this stuff to your guests. You don't serve instant coffee to them, do you?

Okay, let's finish our iced tea now, shall we?

Walk over to your freezer and fill up the rest of the pitcher with ice! Put it in the fridge until you can't wait anymore to have some freshly-brewed iced tea, then get it out and pour yourself an icy glass. And I mean glass...not plastic. It's for your own good, believe me!

If you like, add some lemon wedges. But promise me you won't decorate your glass with those silly circles of lemons. How will you get juice out of them anyway?

Change it up a bit and try this type of tea once in a while. In comes in peach too!
Now you can sit down, enjoy your tea, and watch the pretty Texas sunset. Or if you're not here, just imagine one. They're the realllly beautiful ones you dream about!


Lisa said...

That is funny about your spoon. I do that too - squeezing out every drop. I use Lipton Decaf too. Sometimes I just boil the bags in the water (my Dad would have said "now you will have to wash that pot"). MMMMMMmmmmm. I'm going to have to make some tea right now. I haven't made any in over a week and I am long overdue.

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