Making good iced tea is an art, as simple but as exact as preparing the perfect martini. Here are some tea-making tips:
Certain water makes poor tea because of the minerals that it contains … so watch out!
When making iced tea, bring the water to a full, rolling boil. Careful, though, as overboiling cooks away oxygen, resulting in flat-tasting tea.
On a related note, start with freshly drawn cold water. Running the tap for a few minutes allows the water to become aerated (full of oxygen), which helps bring out the tea’s full flavor.
To keep tea at the peak of perfection, store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place (not the refrigerator). However, a cold pitcher of tea made from boiling water can be kept in the refrigerator safely for up to a week. If you’ve brewed the tea using a cold-water method (e.g., Sun tea), it’s best to dispose of it after 48 hours because bacteria can grow in water.
Sweet Tea or Unsweetened Tea?
If you’ve ever been to the South, you know that when ordering tea, it’s not really necessary to specify iced. Or sweet. Few tea traditionalists complain of tea that’s too sweet!
Expert tea-makers put the sugar in while the tea is still hot, as this allows for improved sweetness saturation throughout. When sugar is added, swirl the tea in the pitcher several times. For a glass of tea, put in sugar first, swirl several times, and then drop in ice cubes.
Here are some ideas for non-traditionalists with a sweet tooth:
For an unorthodox approach to sweetening tea, add a spoonful of your favorite jelly or preserves to a cup of hot tea, then pour over ice.
Sugared glasses add a sweet touch; just dip the rim in lemon juice, then in sugar.
Serve tea in a watermelon-boat punch bowl. After making the boat, fill it with a delicious drink by blending the watermelon pulp (no seeds, please) with a pitcher of iced tea brewed double-strength. Add lemon juice to taste.
Chill tea with frozen cubes made from your favorite fruit juices such as guava, apple, mango, and green grape.
For fruity tea pops, fill plastic ice molds two-thirds full with cut-up berries, melon, or citrus fruit. Pour in sweetened tea to cover pops. Place holder in pops. Freeze for at least 4 hours.