James E. Blair
on August 08, 2009 at 08:31 PM
It wasn't that long ago that "tea" meant "hot tea" everywhere except the South, where it means "sweet iced tea", or just "sweet tea". As iced tea becomes more popular, we're now fortunate enough to have some potential for confusion when we order "tea" outside of the South. Though I still await the day when I can order sweet tea at a California restaurant (along with all the other wonderful preparations of tea to be had).
As a transplanted southerner, I've found that I am making sweet tea in California far more often than in North Carolina. With kitchen space at a premium, I have eschewed the single-purpose kitchen tool, the iced tea machine, and I make mine with a saucepan. In the South, many people are accustomed to dumping most of the ice from their automatic ice maker's bin into half a gallon of tea. I don't have an automatic ice maker, so I experimented to find the most efficient way to make iced tea.
After brewing tea bags in varying amounts of water, I observed that beyond a certain point, the amount of water and the time that the tea bags remain in the water no longer have an affect on the strength of the resulting tea. This is in contrast to green tea which continues to get stronger the longer it steeps, and indeed, is often better in second or later brewings.
That's good news for efficient tea brewers. That means we can use a relatively small amount of water to brew the tea, and then quench it with our single tray of ice cubes and a bunch of cold water to bring it to refrigerator temperature.
Boil 4 cups of water. Steep 14 Lipton tea bags for 5 minutes. Add 4/3 cups of sugar. Maybe less. Maybe more. Stir until the tea is clear again. Observe the amazing deep color of the liquid, and muse on why it's called "red tea" instead of "black tea" in China. Drop in most of a tray of ice cubes, add water to bring it up to 1 gallon, and add the remaining ice cubes.
You're on your own if you want to use Luzianne.