I love iced tea in summer. It has less caffeine than coffee, doesn’t need sweetener, and still tastes delicious and refreshing. I never worry about drinking my calories, because it has hardly any. It’s also incredibly versatile – one can turn pretty much anything into iced tea. I used to make iced tea during my time as a barista in the coffee shop in Cambridge, but I’d never really made it at home. Until this summer that is.
I first made a batch of cold-brewed iced tea from bags of Trader Joe’s pear and white tea. I was trying to use up teas in Boston to reduce the amount of stuff I needed to move, and iced tea was a great way to do so in the hot weather we experienced while we packed up our home.
This week, in Oregon, it’s been pleasantly hot as well. I’ve turned the shady back deck into my own personal office, camping out with my laptop and books to get work done in the great outdoors. What an incredible difference from a few short weeks ago! I get to enjoy the sounds of squirrels chasing each other, bluebirds calling to each other, and the occasional annoying crow. The flowers are in full bloom around the yard, and it feels like it couldn’t be more beautiful.
The memories of my refreshing first attempts at cold-brewed iced tea came back earlier this week. I discovered an old quart canning jar in the basement, picked out some loose-leaf black tea, poured it into a coffee filter, closed it up with a wire twist, and threw in a sprig of mint from the garden. No lemon on hand, but that would have been good too. A few hours basking in the sunshine (where it was hard to photograph without getting a reflection of myself and my camera) and it was ready to go into a glass of ice to savor at my outdoor desk.
Cold-Brewed Iced Tea
1 quart jar (preferably see-through so you can watch the steeping progress)
4 tea bags OR 4 teaspoons loose-leaf tea (herbal, black, green, or white)
1 coffee filter (if using loose-leaf)
Optional: combination of mint sprigs, basil leaves, lemon slices, orange slices, or fruit (berries or peaches are delicious)
1. Fill the quart container with cold tap water (filter if you need to, but please don’t use bottled water). Place the loose-leaf tea in a coffee filter and twist closed with a wire twist like the kind that come with bread or sandwich baggies. Submerge the coffee filter package or tea bags into the tap water. Add any flavorings you like or leave it plain.
2. Set out in a full-sun area (on a windowsill or outside if you have a space safe from roaming pets who might knock it over). Let it steep for at least four hours, up to eight. The longer it steeps, the more developed the flavors become. Taste it the first time you make it so you can decide when you think it’s done to your liking. Remove the tea bags and flavorings and chill it, or serve immediately over ice.