by Chas Kroll, ITMA Certified Tea Master
As the warm summer months approach, our tastes begin to shift from wintertime warmers to summertime coolers. In the U.S., iced tea dominates the list of summertime thirst quenchers.
Making iced tea is simple. Making great iced tea is another matter. It takes more than simply boiling water and dropping in a couple of tea bags.
A few important facts. About 80 percent of the tea consumed in the U.S. is served iced. The average American drinks nearly 6.5 gallons of iced tea per year. As much as 60 percent of the tea consumed in the U.S. occurs in the Southern states, most of which (90 percent) is iced.
A few important tips. Fresh tea makes the best iced tea, so don’t refrigerate it for days after you make it. Make it and drink it. Adjust sugar or sweetener to personal taste if used. Thoroughly chill the tea before serving. If you add ice, use cubes, not chips.
Most important. You make great iced tea by starting with a great tea, one that is full of flavor and will satisfy your tastes. Great chefs sauté their cuisine using a wine they would serve their guests. The same principle applies to making great iced tea.
Preparing great iced tea. Measure out the amount of tea according to this formula: Four heaping teaspoons of loose-leaf tea for each quart you want to prepare. Add it to your serving pitcher.
The big surprise. Add spring water at room-temperature, 18°-24°C (65°-75°F), not boiling water, to the pitcher. Set it aside and allow the tea to steep for an hour or so in your refrigerator. Because the tea leaves can be used again, set them aside and refrigerate. You will be able to make at least two more pitchers when you start with a quality, loose-leaf tea.
About lemon. The purpose of lemon is not just to make the glass look attractive. For many serious iced tea drinkers, lemon is a required accoutrement. So, cut a lemon into eight wedges, and serve one alongside each glass. Serve in ice-filled glasses.
About sun tea. We are often asked about “Sun Tea.” Scientific evidence supports the idea that the sun provides the perfect medium for bacteria to grow.