I thought this year, it was time for iced tea.
Two preliminary comments:
1. I've tagged this post under "Coffee". Yes, I know. I hardly ever make posts about tea, and if I start doing so I'll create a new category and retag the post. For the time being, it's the closest category.
2. The photo above right is a stock photo, by someone named Barbara Webb. (Thanks, Barbara, if you're reading this). That's because I've got nothing to photograph. The recipe I'm posting is deliberately simple, designed to be really easy to make. My idea is that you can buy powdered iced tea, or ready made chilled iced tea. Neither is freshly made, and both cost more than to do so at home. So I wanted something quick, easy and cheap so you can have something fresher and affordable to drink at home. All of which means there's nothing amazing to photograph - it's a recipe for brown liquid!
What I did was read lots of recipes online, on cooking websites and those posted by individuals. I learnt from them, cut out all the components that are faffy, and worked in the components that seemed a good idea. Here's the result: It's easy and it works.
1. Start with water. Fresh water. Tea needs oxygen to brew properly.
2. Boil to 100 degrees. Tea needs boiling water to brew properly. If you're brewing in a ceramic container that will cool the water to below 100, warm the pot first.
3. Add 1 litre of water to a large pot or jug. Add ¼ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda (also known as baking soda in the USA). Why? Apparently, a small amount of bicarb stops the bitter elements of the tea from extracting. Seemed to work, and you do just need a tiny quantity like this.
Obviously this step is where there's a huge amount of scope to vary to taste. You could use loose leaf and strain later - it would improve the taste for sure. Yorkshire Tea is fairly heavy in Indian type teas, but you could use some China tea instead for a lighter taste. Or use one tea bag of Earl Grey for a bit of bergamot. It's up to you.
5. Leave for 5 minutes (or longer if you want a stronger brew - but no longer than 10 because you mustn't overextract). Remove the tea bags.
6. Add sweetener - again to taste. You may not want to sweeten (this is optional), but most shop-bought iced teas are sweetened so if you want to produce something similar you may well choose to. Obviously, you can use artificial sweeteners if you want, but personally I can't stand the taste. Here's what I added: one heaped teaspoon each of soft golden brown sugar, dark brown muscovado, set honey. (I wanted the molasses hit from the muscovado, but not too intense; I wanted the aromatic hit from the honey, but not too intense. Hence the mixture of sugars.)
Remember that sugar doesn't dissolve well in cold liquids, so it's best to add whatever sugars you want now, while the drink is still hot.
7. Leave to cool. When cold, transfer to the fridge.
8. When fridge-cold, add lemon juice. I used bottled juice, 3 tablespoons. I'm sure you'd get a better flavour from the juice of 1-2 fresh lemons (1 lemon contains, on average, 30ml = 2 tbsp juice). But I was about keeping it simple.
Three comments about the lemon juice. (i) Obviously this, too, is optional. (ii) Add it when the tea is fridge-cold. Why? The best flavours of the lemon juice are aromatic, which means they evaporate easily. Add it when the tea is warm, there'll be less of that tang in there when you come to drink. (iii) Because you're adding this cold (unlike the sugar), you really can add this to taste. Add 2-3 tablespoons, try it, and add more if you think it needs some.
9. Serve. Add ice cubes / slices of lemon / mint leaves to decorate - as you wish.
There's probably some scope here to make this double-strength if you wish - add twice the tea bags, lemon and sugar, then add cold water later.
Over To You
Now it's your turn to have a brew.
If you've tried this recipe and have comments or suggestions, please leave them in the comments section below.
Or if you've got a recipe of your own that you're fond of, please share it.