Great Iced Tea in 15 Minutes
A hybrid technique based on traditional brewing and sun-tea steeping results in smooth, full-flavored tea--quickly.
The challenge: A good glass of iced tea should be strong but not bitter, richly colored but not cloudy and dark, and pleasantly--not toothachingly--sweet. To arrive at this desirable result--all the while using supermarket teabags--we tinkered with the brewing method, the steeping time, the type of water used, and the ratio of ingredients.

The solution: Making good iced tea, it turns out, depends on doing a lot of little things right. The key to strong but not bitter flavor was water temperature. If the water the tea steeps in is allowed to come to a boil, it will extract tannins from the tea; it is the tannins that makes tea taste bitter. So the water must be brought to a steamy-but-not-boiling state. Timing counts, too. Steeping for more than three minutes in water at a sub-boiling temperature can also produce bitter-tasting tea. And unless the quality of your tap water is very, very good, spring water is the best way to go; it produces tea with the freshest, cleanest, clearest look and taste. The ratio of water and sugar to tea also makes a difference. We found that a ratio of 5 teabags to 1 quart of water worked best. The amount of sugar can be varied from one to six tablespoons, depending on how sweet you like it. We really recommend using at least one tablespoon of sugar; like salt, a little sugar rounds out flavor. With just one tablespoon the tea won't taste sweet, but it will taste better.

QUICK, SIMPLE, FULL-FLAVORED
ICED TEA

Makes 1 1/2 quarts, serving 4 to 6

Depending on the quality of your tap water, you may want to use bottled spring water to make both the tea itself and your ice cubes. Doubling this recipe is easy, but use a large saucepan and expect the water to take a few minutes longer to reach the proper temperature. For a slightly stronger iced tea, reduce the amount of ice to 3 cups. Garnish with a thin lemon wedge to squeeze into the tea, if you like.

5 tea bags of your choice
1 quart spring water (see note above)
1 to 6 tablespoons sugar, natural cane or regular granulated (depending on desired sweetness)
1 quart ice (see note above), plus additional cubes for glasses

Heat tea bags and water in medium nonreactive saucepan over medium heat until dark colored, very steamy, and small bubbles form on bottom and sides of pan (an instant-read thermometer will register about 190 degrees), 10 to 15 minutes. Off heat, steep for 3 minutes (no longer or tea may become bitter). Remove and discard tea bags; pour tea into pitcher. Stir in sugar, if using, until dissolved; stir in ice until melted. Serve in ice-filled glasses.

MICROWAVE ICED TEA

Using a 2-quart Pyrex measuring cup makes this tea a one-pot drink from brewing to pouring. Exact heating time will depend on the power of your microwave and the starting temperature of the water.
Follow recipe for Quick, Simple, Full-Flavored Iced Tea, heating tea bags and water in 2-quart Pyrex measuring cup or other large microwave-safe bowl covered with microwave-safe dinner plate, on high power until dark colored, very steamy, and water starts to move but not boil (an instant-read thermometer will register about 190 degrees), 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from microwave and steep 3 minutes (no longer or the tea may become bitter). Remove plate; remove and discard tea bags. Stir in sugar, if using, until dissolved; stir in ice until melted. Serve in ice-filled glasses.

MINTED ICED TEA

Follow recipe for either Quick, Simple, Full-Flavored Iced Tea or Microwave Iced Tea, heating and steeping 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, bruised with a wooden spoon, along with tea bags and water. When steeping is complete, remove tea bags and strain tea through fine-mesh sieve to remove mint.

GINGERED ICED TEA

Follow recipe for either Quick, Simple, Full-Flavored Iced Tea or Microwave Iced Tea, heating and steeping 1-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced into thin coins and smashed with broad side of large chef’s knife, along with tea bags and water. When steeping is complete, remove tea bags and strain tea through fine-mesh sieve to remove ginger.

July, 1999

 
SEE ALSO:

Easiest Tea Bag Removal