I Heart Iced Tea

Yesterday was National Iced Tea Day.  Although you probably already knew that right?  I celebrated with a glass of iced tea.  Actually whether it’s a holiday or not, I drink a glass or two of iced tea.  There’s not a lot of beverages I drink.  My mainstays are water and iced tea.  I’m not big on bubbles.  I no longer drink coffee.  So tea, cold or hot is my drink.  Apparently this is true for many people, as tea is the most popular drink, worldwide.

Whether you brew it from a tea bag, buy a bottle or order at a restaurant – there are lots of options.  What kind of tea?  Is it caffeinated?  Plus there are the sweeteners to consider.  Watch out…  Many bottled versions have high fructose corn syrup.  Or there’s the fake sweeteners that are full of chemicals.  And you never know what you’ll get in a restaurant – Lipton, Nestea, fresh brewed, flavored, etc.

These are a few of my favorite iced teas…

My first is the Mighty Leaf, African Nectar.  This is good both hot and cold, but the first time I had the cold was at the Nob Hill Spa.  Brewing this at home or ordering it out (they also brew it at La Boulange) reminds me of my annual stress free day at the spa.  Mighty Leaf makes all kinds of teas in bag, loose leaf and iced tea forms in a huge variety of flavors.

My next favorite is Honest Tea’s Oo-la-Long Peach.  Honest Tea makes quite a few flavors and uses red, green, white and black teas, but this is my favorite.  Just enough sweetness and no chemical taste.

Finally our staple at home (my husband is an iced tea guy too) is Tejava.  This is bottled, plain black tea without sweetener.  This is good all on it’s own.  We stock up on the big bottles.

I have a few iced tea recipes in my book, Petit Appetit: Eat, Drink and Be Merry.  The antioxidants in many teas, hot or cold, can benefit everyone.  Just be sure to make decaf for the kids.  Adding a slice of lemon or orange makes it extra special.  The best way to sweeten iced tea is with simple syrup, as it mixes well with the cold liquid.  Granular sugar just adds grains without flavor. (My friends who endure my “iced tea with a splash of simple syrup” order at restaurants will attest for me).  Below is a recipe for a mint simple syrup that is a refreshing addition to hot and cold teas.

 

Minty Iced Green Tea

This is the standard and favorite “iced tea” in my family’s refrigerator. The mint syrup sweetens the sometimes bitterness of green tea. Despite the name this tea will not be green in color, much to my son’s dismay.
Yield 4½ cups

4 cups water

4 bags green tea

½ cup Mint Syrup (see below)

Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from heat and add tea bags, cover, and let steep for 5 minutes. Carefully squeeze tea bags and discard. Let cool.

 

Pour tea into a glass pitcher and add syrup. Serve over ice.

 

Mint Syrup

The symbol of hospitality, mint has been used for scores of culinary and medicinal purposes over the centuries. This simple mint syrup can be added as a sweetener to hot and cold teas, as well as lemonade and plain water (see below)
Makes 2 cups syrup

3/4 cup turbinado (raw) sugar

2 cups water

2 cups fresh mint (1 bunch), torn into 2-inch pieces
In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water, and mint. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until sugar has dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and let stand for at least 30 minutes.

Pour though a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl or pitcher and discard mint.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

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Drink Up for the Challenge

So what we were drinking during the challenge?…lots of things.  Most of what I drank was water.  Although I did factor in two bottles of Tejava iced tea.  This was mainly for my husband, but I didn’t realize how much I missed it too.  I don’t reglarly drink coffee (sometimes a decaf drip or cappucino).  However I do have a glass of unsweetened iced tea per day (either fresh brewed or Tejava).  I woke up with a headache a few days into the challenge.  My mid-day I think I missed the caffeine and had a glass of iced tea.  Abracadabra!  I felt better.

My kids drank their usual – milk, water, juice (1/3 juice mixed with water) and splashes.  What’s a splash?  It’s simply a way of getting more flavor from water, but lots less juice.  This is a good money saver (and sugar saver), which works well anytime and especially during the challenge.  I even put it in my book, but there’s really no recipe required.  Simply add a splash of juice to water.  We had orange juice this week, but would also usually have cranbery or pomagranate.  We also do this with bubble water.  Makes a refreshing drink (and good non-alcoholic drink) for all ages during the holidays, etc.  Along the same lines of adding flavor to water is what I call “hints”.  This is simply squeezing a citrus slice into water.  Kids love to do this.  This week we used some lemon and lime slices.

There were two other drinks we made this week with the ingredients on hand – smoothies (see previous post) and a watermelon juice.  This simply means place fresh watermelon (remember we had a whole one) in the blender.  You can even add some bubble water (not this week) for a special watermelon spritzer.  Super refreshing.

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