Outside it’s hot and sticky but inside the convenience store a luminous array of cold beverages promise refreshment, taste, spirit, health and vitality. In front of the glass door I almost believe those rows of cheerful labels, especially teas “brewed from real tea leaves” (Lipton) and made from “the best stuff on earth.®” Cherry blossoms and Japanese lettering suggest ancient Eastern healing powers (Arizona); images of sunbursts, lemons and tea leaves make these bottles and cans seem wholesome.
But I shake myself out of the trance. Would I add “natural flavors” to my drinks at home? How about sweetener? Snapple has 42 grams of sugar per bottle. (What? I was going to drink one serving—half that bottle? I don’t think so.) At approximately 5 grams of sugar per teaspoon, that’s about eight teaspoons of sugar in one Snapple. Yikes. And neither am I about to dump in artificial sweetener and make it “diet.”
Oh, there’s sometimes an unsweetened version. But by the time I’m considering this one, it’s already too late in the day for caffeine, and besides, I’ve already admitted to myself that tea brewed from real tea leaves and then chilled—not bottled or canned in a factory—actually (wait for it) tastes better.
Yup. It takes a little extra time, but it’s worthwhile making your own iced tea. Think of all those “natural flavors” and possibly preservatives you are not consuming; sugar, corn syrup or artificial sweetener you’re not drinking; and all those bottles you’re not wasting. And the money you’re saving. Refreshing!
Iced Tea Secrets
- Pour hot water over tea bags and steep for at least five minutes. I use one tea bag per cup of boiling water (and since my electric kettle makes about 4 cups, that’s how much I make at a time).
- Add your chosen sweetener, if desired, while the tea is still hot. I use two to three teaspoons of agave syrup (low glycemic, vegan sweetener) to four cups of tea, depending how sweet I want it. Honey or white sugar work in similar quantities.
- Add a couple handfuls of ice (depending how impatient you are to drink the tea). After it cools off, decant into a pitcher and refrigerate for a couple hours or until you run out of patience.
- Serve over ice, perhaps with a slice of lemon.
- Decaffeinated: I use decaf tea so I can drink it all day if I want.
- Lemon tea: Sometimes I’ll use Bigelow’s “Lemon Lift” to give it a slightly spicy lemony flavor.
- Fruit teas: Combine herbal fruit tea and black or green tea. Or go all herbal. I like raspberry and black tea best. I understand some people like peach tea, which I don’t get, but hey, it’s your tea.
- Iced Chai: You can make your own easy chai iced tea without all that artificial flavor and over-sweetened taste of pre-made. Try a flavorful chai tea in a tea bag and use honey as a sweetener. When it is chilled, fill the glass half with milk or soymilk and half with the tea.
- Iced Moroccan Mint tea: Mint and green teas sweetened with sugar–a true treat. Some companies make a bagged tea variety called Moroccan Mint, some of which include lemon, but you can also experiment with your own combo, and/or using real mint leaves.