Last week on Steeping Around, your host recounted the short but colorful history of iced tea and made honorary mention of some of the delicious variations that have become popular in different cultures and regions. Among these were the infamous Southern Sweet Tea, the rich and creamy Thai Iced Tea, and the increasingly available gourmet blends at coffee shops. On behalf of the Maya Tea company, I would like to apologize for leaving your mouth watering.
But never fear—we wouldn’t leave you hanging for too long! In show five, Manish begins to detail the art of making iced tea at home, so the next time you tune in you can do so with a chilly glass in your hand and a fully satisfied collection of taste buds.
“My favorite way of making iced tea is literally one glass at a time,” he begins. This allows the drinker to sip on whichever flavor of tea they crave on a whim. To do so, you have to make a tea-concentrate of sorts. Begin by heating your water to the appropriate temperature for the type of tea that you intend to use. If you can’t recall the temperature guidelines, refer back to episode three or take a quick look at our blog. Once the water has reached its optimal temperature, add your tea leaves. This is where the recipe differs from the hot tea instructions: you will use twice the amount of tea leaves that you would typically use for a cup of hot tea. Generally, this is about two to three tablespoons per eight ounces of water. Allow these leaves to infuse with the hot water for the same amount of time that you would use for hot tea; meanwhile, grab a tall glass and fill it completely with ice. It is important to brim your glass with ice—once your tea has steeped, you will strain it slowly over the ice, melting it little by little and diluting your tea to the proper concentration. “The end result is an amazing iced tea—it cannot be more fresh, more personalized, with greater clarity—really, it’s a way that you can enjoy virtually any tea that you have iced at a moment’s notice.”
Of course, some of us would prefer to reach into the refrigerator for a large pitcher of pre-made iced tea. If you’re preparing your iced tea in a large batch, use the same techniques that you would employ in making a pot of hot tea over the stovetop, using about two and a half grams of tea for every six ounces of water. There are, however, two special notes to make about icing your resulting tea: one, allow your tea to cool to room temperature before transferring it to your refrigerator. This is a standard safety practice for storing hot foods, and tea is no exception. And secondly, only make enough tea to last for two to three days. As with most food and beverages, tea reacts and changes with time and your brew will remain in prime form for only a few days.
Here’s another easy, hands-free way to brew: your coffeepot. This method is favorable among many consumers, as it is a process that many people practice daily. There are two potential problems with this method however: first, tea needs to remain in contact with hot water for a longer time than coffee grounds, and coffee pots are designed to allow water to quickly pass through the grounds and filter. To lengthen the leaf exposure to water, simply use an additional filter or two for your brew. This will slow the water flow enough to properly brew your tea. The second notable issue is in flavor-mixing. If your coffee pot is used as it is intended, for coffee, it will likely impart some of those roasty flavors into your tea. The only way to avoid this, aside from routine and thorough cleaning, is to invest in a second brew cone for your pot. One would be used strictly for tea, and the other for coffee. If you are able to tend to these issues, brewing in your coffeepot could be the perfect alternative for you.
There are several considerations to keep in mind when making iced tea, no matter the method you choose. First, make sure you use good, filtered water. Your ice cubes should be of the same quality as the water itself, as they will melt and impart their flavors on your finished drink. Second, moderate the amount of ice you use in your glass. Using too much ice can have a numbing effect on taste buds. The third consideration is in storage: tea should be stored in a glass container, rather than plastic or metal. Also, as I mentioned before, only keep your iced tea for two to three days for optimal flavor and clarity. Finally, savor your tea. “While I am encouraging you to use your tea quickly, I’m not encouraging you to gulp it down. If you’ve taken the time to do all these steps, use good water, use good tea, use good ice, savor your glass of iced tea. Drink it slowly. Sip it, enjoy it, and let it do for you what you want: let it chill you out and bring those temperatures down, because right now it’s hot—and nothing soothes like a really, really excellent cup of iced tea.”
Our question of the week came all the way from London. Karen asks: “How do you yanks manage to get through the afternoon without a tea time? If we’re all human beings, how is it that we can’t survive without the daily boost, yet across the pond you hardly touch the stuff?” Ironically, we at Maya Tea are probably the worst people to answer such a question, as we (like Karen) never pass up an afternoon boost. Manish suggests a host of other things that Americans use to raise their energy levels a bit—some go to the gym to get their blood pumping, and others consume alternative beverages: coffee, soda, or energy drinks. “But I’m with you,” Manish affirms, “I believe that if more people took a little tea time at 4:00 the world would be a much better place.”
Indeed it would. While we have been dissecting the ways to properly make tea, let us not forget the purpose of it all: Enjoyment. Relaxation. Peace. So once you’ve made your perfect glass of iced tea, take it to the porch and watch the afternoon slip past the horizon—revel in your tea time. We sure do.
To listen to episode five, click here.
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The first time I tried chai was in the kitchen of my parent’s house, and served by my younger sister. “You have to taste this—” she insisted, pushing a mug across the countertop to me. She refused to elaborate on its contents. The flavors, she said, would speak for themselves.
The quality of water affects the taste of your tea; this is beyond dispute. The relative quantities of mineral salts, oxygen and trace elements determine the relative "liveliness" or "flatness" of a particular cup. To that simple substance we add the basic flavor of the leaf itself or an herbal substitute.