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Ice Ice Baby

3rd August 2011

When the weather gets so hot even boiling the kettle makes you break out in a sweat, you could be forgiven for thinking that a cold glass of juice is a better bet than a cup of tea. Just...

But there's no reason why you should stop supping the world's favourite brew just because the mercury is rising. While hot tea can help you cool down just as much as a cold drink, a glass of iced tea can be a refreshing alternative to the classic cuppa during Summer. By Alex Fullerton.

With all the health benefits of normal tea (including the high levels of antioxidants tea contains) iced tea also offers drinkers plenty of room for flavour experimentation. You can customize your drink with any number of additions although lemon, lime and mint are the most popular (and tasty) add-ons. There are a multitude of bottled and ready prepared iced teas on the market if you're short of time but to ensure you get the freshest, healthiest and most delicious drink it's easy to make iced tea yourself.

Despite the variety of iced tea recipes out there, don't be fooled into ordering a Long Island Iced Tea! With the same rich brown colour of a good cuppa this alcoholic drink has a misleading moniker - it doesn't actually contain any tea! The cocktail's mix of vodka, gin, tequila and rum is nice enough but it doesn't have tea's health-giving properties and could quite possibly leave you with a thumping head. Tea, on the other hand, will always keep you alert and refreshed.

Drinking something hot on a warm day can help to cool your body as the high temperature of the beverage will make you perspire (and therefore takes heat away from your body). During hot weather it's particularly important to take in enough fluids to keep properly hydrated - tea counts towards your daily target of 2litres. So, as well as your daily recommended quota of four cups of hot tea, iced tea is an excellent addition to your warm weather drinking schedule!

Where does iced tea come from?

The spiritual home of iced tea is the Southern states of America. The USA has been a tea-drinking nation since the 17th century when the first European settlers began to trade with the rest of the world. By the late 1800s, green tea from China was the most common tea in America and in the hot and humid Southern states a popular 'punch' of green tea mixed with a variety of other ingredients (sometimes including cream, alcohol or juice) was often available. The earliest known recipe calling for green tea to be used in a tea punch dates from a 1839 cookbook, The Kentucky Housewife.

But, as time passed, black tea became more common and the punch recipes were streamlined to create a simpler (and tastier) brew which was often actually served cool and not iced, due to the fact that ice was a luxury in the 1800s - the fridge / freezer was hardly the household staple it has become today! Although Southern households had been serving iced tea for years, one of the first printed references to 'iced tea' was in 1890. At the Camp Jackson reunion of Confederate war veterans in Nevada, 880 gallons of it were served to thirsty soldiers.

But despite this evidence, the man often credited with 'inventing' iced tea is the English owner of an Indian tea plantation, Richard Blechynden. At the St Louis World's Fair in 1904, Blechynden had a stall offering hot samples of Indian and Ceylon teas. The uptake was slow so Blechynden added ice to his drink and queues began to form... Although iced tea wasn't a new concept, Blechynden certainly helped it become a hit!

Iced tea continued to gather fans throughout the 20th Century, particularly during the prohibition years in the 1920s when alcohol was banned. It's still a satisfying hot weather drink, while new variations such as iced Chai tea (flavoured with cinnamon, cloves, ginger and Indian spices) and iced Jasmine tea are becoming popular. Now the UK is coming round to the idea that the drink known as 'the house wine of the South' is as good a thirst-quencher as the classic hot cup Britain is famed for.

Here's how to BIY or Brew-It-Yourself...

* Black teas such as Assam or Ceylon make the best iced tea.

* Always brew the tea at double strength as the melting ice will dilute the flavour. What might taste just right when hot will weaken as it cools.

* If you want to add sugar, add it when the liquid is very hot to speed dilution. However, if you forget, stir in a little sugar syrup on serving.

* Fancy a stronger brew? Add more tea bags - but never lengthen the brewing time.

* Some recipes call for the addition of a pinch of baking soda. It reduces potential bitterness from the tea's tannins, which can occur if the tea is left to brew for a very long time. But be sure to add just the smallest amount so as not to taint the tea!

* The biggest problem with iced tea can be cloudy liquor. Although the cloudiness doesn't affect the taste it doesn't look attractive so follow these steps to avoid it...

There are several methods for making iced tea but if you're using hot water, always let it cool fully before adding the ice or putting it in the fridge. Hot liquid plus a cold fridge will equal instant cloudiness! You could also search out a tea that has been specifically blended to be brewed cold. These teas have less cloud-causing tannins in them which results in a clearer brew. If your tea still looks like a grey day on the Solent, add a dash of boiling water or squeeze of lemon juice.

There are several iced tea-making machines on the market but the process is as easy as just boiling the kettle - if not simpler!

Follow these methods for perfect iced tea...

The Basic method

To make a jug-full of tea, place four of five tea bags (or the equivalent amount of loose tea) into a jug. Boil 2 cups of cold, filtered water and pour this onto the tea. Steep for up to five minutes (depending on the tea and your strength preference) then add two more cups of cold water. Remove the tea bags or strain and serve over ice.

The Fridge method

The simplest method, there's no need to boil the kettle!

Fill a jug with four cups of cold, filtered water and six tea bags. Place in the fridge overnight. Remove the bags and serve the drink over ice, adding any garnishes you like. Slices of lemon and orange are especially good in black tea.

The Sun method

This will give your tea a mellower flavour. It's more environmentally-friendly too, as it doesn't use any electricity or fuel to produce.

Place six tea bags, or equivalent loose tea, into a bowl and add four cups of fresh, cold, filtered water. Cover and leave in direct sunlight for up to four hours. Strain or remove the bags then serve over ice.

If you're a fan of green tea and don't want to switch to black for the Summer, try refreshing Moroccan Mint Tea as an alternative. It's still a hot drink but the mint creates a cooling sensation. You could always let it cool before drinking, too...

Boil water, as usual, and pour a small amount into a teapot. Add 10 sprigs of fresh mint, 3 tsps of loose green tea and 3 tspbs of sugar (or more if you have a sweet tooth) then add the rest of the water. Brew for three minutes then pour the tea into a glass, then pour it back into the pot. This step helps to dissolve the sugar and ensure it doesn't get stuck to the bottom of the pot! Serve the tea in little glasses. When you pour, do so from a height as this helps to aerate the drink. Garnish with mint leaves.

So, however you decide to drink your tea, keep cool and try it iced!


Moroccan mint tea picture from
Press cutting from
Jugs and glasses:

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