Making the Perfect Iced Tea

I tried to make iced tea the other day in my coffee maker. I started with loose leaf black tea and put it through the machine. It came out bitter and cloudy. So today I searched and searched fro a good “recipe” for tea and came upon many that were close to this one. But I found this to be the best explanation and proportions look promising.

The results were wonderful. Crisp, smooth and lovely iced tea for this 98 degree day in April.

A Foolproof Recipe for a Cool Glass of ‘Southern House Wine’

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cover for book Iced Tea
Cover of Fred Thompson’s Iced Tea
Harvard Common Press
ISBN 1558322280 

Susan Stamberg’s friend’s recipe for perfect iced tea (once used by the Union Square Cafe in New York):

2 bags of Darjeeling
2 bags of English breakfast
1 bag of mint tea
in 2 quarts of water — prepare as below.

“There are as many ways to brew iced tea as there are Southern grandmothers.”

From Thompson’s book Iced Tea

August 2, 2002 — Iced tea has been called the “house wine of the South.” It’s a beverage as simple as a black tea bag and water, and as complex and exotic as Thai iced tea with evaporated milk and subtle spices.

Fred Thompson is something of a beverage expert. The author has written two books on our traditional American refreshments, Lemonade and Iced Tea. NPR’s Susan Stamberg talked with Thompson at his vacation home in Myrtle Beach, S.C., about what makes the perfect glass of iced tea. His favorite, he tells Stamberg, is the classic Southern-style iced tea.

from Ice Tea:

There are as many ways to brew iced tea as there are Southern grandmothers. I grew up on iced tea made by bringing a small amount of water to a slow boil and then pouring it over the tea bags to form a concentrate. More water was added to finish the process. I guess I’m biased toward this method, but it definitely does make good tea. The baking soda might seem strange, but it softens the natural tannins that cause an acid or bitter taste.

6 regular-size tea bags (“You can use Orange Pekoe, Oolong, green tea, Lipton — pick your favorite.”)
1/8 teaspoon baking soda (a good pinch)
2 cups boiling water
6 cups cold water
Granulated sugar or other sweetener to taste (optional)

1. In a glass measuring cup or ceramic teapot large enough to accommodate the boiling water, place the tea bags and baking soda. Pour the boiling water over the tea bags. Cover and let steep for 15 minutes.

2. Remove the tea bags, being careful not to squeeze them (squeezing the bags will add bitterness).

3. Pour the concentrate into a two-quart pitcher and add the cold water. Sweeten, if desired. (Some Southerners put in as much as 1 1/2 cups of sugar.)

4. Let cool, then chill and serve over ice.

Makes two quarts.

Tea will become cloudy if refrigerated while still warm. Add a little boiling water to clear up the cloudiness.

The tannins in tea also cause cloudiness when the tea is brewed in hard water. If you know you have minerals in your water, use bottled or filtered water.

Other Resources

• Iced Tea is published by Harvard Common Press

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