Making the Perfect Iced Tea
A Foolproof Recipe for a Cool Glass of 'Southern House Wine'
Listen to Susan Stamberg's report.
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.
Iced Tea is published by Harvard Common Press