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Some Things I’ve Learned About Iced Tea

Iced Tea and Accessories (ETS image)
Iced Tea and Accessories (ETS image)

I don’t drink hot tea anymore. I wrote about it here, so I won’t cover it again except to say that it’s always iced tea season for me. But here in the northern hemisphere spring is in full swing and summer is approaching, and so one could safely say that it’s coming up on iced tea season for all of us.

With that in mind I shall endeavor to share a few things I’ve learned about tea over the years. Not that I’ve found out any great and mysterious secrets of iced tea or anything like that. One of the first things I would share about iced tea is that as far as taste and quality are concerned, it’s not really that much different from hot tea. You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear and you’re not likely to make a good cup of tea – hot or cold – unless you start with good tea.

After that, most of the same cautions that apply to hot tea apply to the iced kind. Time and temperature are critical, so make sure that you’re not steeping your tea too long. If you want “stronger” tea use more leaves rather than steeping the leaves longer. Understeeping is a no-no too but probably not nearly so common. I can think of numerous cases where I’ve seen people throw a bunch of tea bags and hot water in a container and let them sit for a very long time in preparation for making iced tea. Which is iced tea that’s likely as not going to end up being very bitter.

Temperature is the other key part of the tea equation. While most people here in the United States will make their iced tea using black tea it’s safe to say that just about any type of tea that tastes good hot will also taste good iced. I can’t think of any exceptions right off the top of my head. Hot or cold, you can sum up tea and temperature by saying that it’s important to make sure the robust teas like black are steeped at high enough temps while you should beware of overheating the more delicate ones like green.

As far as how to make iced tea, I’d wager that just about any method that obeys the rules above should turn out good iced tea. My own method is to heat water in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave and then steep four cups worth of loose leaves in a gravity type infuser. Which I mix with cold water and pour into a one-quart plastic bottle which I’ve filled halfway with water and frozen.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

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