Sipping homemade iced tea is a lovely way to spend a hot afternoon doing nothing.
I am not going to say it is mandatory to be seated, preferably on a porch, when you drink your iced tea at home, but it sure does help. There is something about relaxing, slowing down, that just fits with drinking tea in general. And even more so with the iced variety. The last several years has seen a rise in the appreciation of iced coffees, but long before this century people were sitting and sipping chilled teas. The practice of drinking tea as a hot beverage stretches back nearly 5,000 years, however drinking it cooled with ice became possible for most with the invention of methods for preserving the ice in the mid 1800s.
Though hot tea is by far the most popular beverage on the planet, when it comes to the US, our preference lies on the chilly side of the gentle leaves; 85% of tea consumption here is of the iced variety. So, as the mercury rises and thoughts of long summer afternoons and nights drive us to wistfully glancing at the shaded porch, let us consider the best way to brew your favorite botanicals for homemade iced tea. The best time to prepare your iced teas (or tisanes, if you prefer an herbal) will be the day before they are needed, so that they can actually reach room temperature before they are chilled. You will need the following items:
- Two 1 gallon pitchers
- Tea or herbal infusion
- 1 metal mesh strainer
Weigh out tea/herbal
- Place tea/herbal into first 1 gallon pitcher
- Place mesh strainer over second 1 gallon pitcher
- Add hot water to fill to top
- Steep for4 minutes
- Strain infusion through mesh strainer into second pitcher
- Cover, date, and label the infusion
- Leave at room temperature overnight
- Chill the following day
Why do we need to let the teas get to room temperature so they will not cloud? There is still more to learn about the phenomenon of teas clouding, but the current industry consensus focuses on the presence of compounds called theaflavins. When the theaflavins are hot, or cooled slowly, they remain in suspension and thus you have clear liquor. If your tea is cooled too quickly, the theaflavins can create that murky look. But wait, don't throw that cloudy homemade iced tea outthe taste will still be absolutely excellent. There is no real change in the flavor component, just the appearance.
We recommend you avoid clouding as it creates a more complete atheistic experience, but if you need to cool your tea quickly, go ahead- it will still taste lovely! If you have the time, you can also choose to steep your homemade iced tea using time instead of temperature. Choose a cool place to perform this ambient style of tea steeping, and make sure it is out of the sun. Though many favor the so-called sun tea method, exposing the steeping brew to direct light, many health-departments consider this to be edging into hazardous territory. The combination of above tepid water with moist botanicals for a period longer than 4 hours creates an ideal environment for bacteria growth. We recommend you keep your steeping tea in the shade. Using the same ratios as for hot infusing, simply place your leaves or botanicals directly into cool water and then strain after 18-24 hours. You can sip a little as you reach the 18 hour mark to see if it is of the density and flavor you prefer. All done infusing? Choose a tall glass, fill it with ice and maybe a dash of lemon, then pour your homemade iced tea. Listen to the soft crack of the ice as it shifts and comes to rest. Then- sit back in the shade and sip.
Let us know what your drink of choice is by leaving a comment below, on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.