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Iced Tea Basics

I'm always amazed when guests at my table are blown away by what they describe as the best iced tea they've ever tasted. They beg to know my secret, and claim they just can't make decent iced tea in their own kitchens! This is a bit of a mystery to me, but here are a few pointers to ensure success.

  • Start with cold water, freshly drawn from the tap. If your tap water is excessively hard, pour it through a filter pitcher, and proceed with the filtered water. (Hard water can cause tea to be cloudy.)
  • Heat the water just to a boil, on top of the stove or in the microwave. When small bubbles start to form around the waters' edge, it is hot enough. Water heated to a rolling boil is way too hot, and will result in cloudy, murky, bitter tasting tea.
  • Whether using tea bags or loose tea, steep tea for at least 3 minutes, but no longer than 5 minutes. Steep it too long, and guess the result – cloudy, murky, bitter tasting iced tea.
  • Eliminate the need to steep, by brewing the tea in your drip-type coffee maker. Tea bags can be added, "as is" straight to the coffee basket. Measure loose tea into a coffee filter.

Unsweetened Tea

Follow package instructions for amount of water and tea to be used. Fill a pitcher with ice cubes (at least one ice-tray), pour the brewed tea over the ice, stir and add cold water if necessary until desired strength is reached. Let stand at room temperature or chill in refrigerator 15 to 30 minutes before serving.

Sweetened Tea

For 6 to 8 servings of strong Southern Sweet Tea, use 4 cups water to 6 or 7 regular size tea bags. Add 2/3 cup sugar (or more, to taste) to hot steeped tea, and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Pour into pitcher and stir in 2 to 4 cups cold water, until desired strength is reached. Chill in refrigerator until cold (at least 30 minutes). Serve over ice.

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