It's summer, and every tea lover across the globe are looking for that killer iced tea recipe that will not only impress their friends and make them famous. Well maybe not quite exactly but if looking to make a lovely jug of ice tea to accompany a summer barbeque or indulge in during those long summer evenings, then there are a few things you may want to remember.
Be creative and experiment a little, ice tea does not have to be just about orange pekoe (black) tea. There are some great teas out that will make excellent bases for the perfect jug. Why not try using Rooibos, Honeybush or even other tisanes like peppermint or one of the fruit many teas on the market. Or what about green ice tea - all the rage the last few years!
Rooibos tea (red-bush) and Honeybush are great caffeine-free alternatives from South Africa. They are low in tannin and packed full of antioxidants and other minerals, perfect for kids and to drink all day long. The best part is they are incredibly versatile and can flavour with just about anything: think vanilla, mango, strawberry or even as a base for alcoholic iced-teas and cocktails...
Glass pitchers or jugs are usually always best. Metal and plastic pitches are not recommended as they sometimes give off an unusual taste or retain smells from previous beverages they held. The same applies to make tea in a different teapot or cleaned very well if you are making a different variety.
If using tea bags, remember to tie them together as it makes it easier to get them out of the jug or bowl afterwards. We like to use individual loose leaf tea pouches like T-sac, they come in big sizes so can put enough tea in for a whole jug and easy to drop in and take out afterwards. Alternatively, a large tea filter works equally good, just as long as the tea leaves are fully submerged in the water.
Let the tea steep overnight or few a good few hours. If you need to run out and play tennis, petanque or a round of golf - make sure to cover the pitcher as the insects will love it! Some experts maintain that lengthy steeping makes a better tea, and you want as much flavour as possible; so the longer, the better.
Only add sugar once you remove the tea bags or tea leaves, not before! 'Real iced tea' and 'real iced tea drinkers' don’t worry about calories – or so they say! Well, at least those in the deep American south - the home of the original ice tea. But if you wanted a much healthier detox version why don't you try adding fruit juice instead? Grape or apple juice is perfect for this and better absorbed by your body without the spikes in blood sugar.
Make sure it’s well chilled and allow ample time to get to that perfect temperature - just above freezing - on a hot summers day what else would you want! Never, however, keep iced tea in the refrigerator for more than two days. Remember you have made fresh homemade ice tea so not packed full of the preservatives you get in the regular supermarket varieties - so it will go off much faster. Although if you have done a good enough job, it probably won't last for more than a few hours.
Lastly, always serve your ice tea with a lemon wedge that drinkers can squeeze into their glass. Lemon slices don’t work because you can’t press them. Cut up a couple of chunky wedges. To add some varieties why not add some slices of orange or experiment with cucumber for a Pimm's with a twist.
Best of luck with your summer ice tea experiments and remember, once you get the fundamental right there are no rules. Forget about tedious old jugs of cordial, ice tea is in this summer so make sure yours is chilled.
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Seán Farrell – Founder, Chateau Rouge