Wow - a whole month devoted to that wonderful, refreshing drink. There's a great line in 'Steel Magnolias' about iced tea - Dolly Parton's character (remember her, the hairdresser?) calls it the House Wine of the South. I loved that because it's really true. In the South we love our iced tea, and we drink it year round. It's hard for Southerners visiting other parts of the country in the off-season because you can't get a glass of brewed tea - you can get Snapple, but not tea.
So, how do you make a great pitcher of iced tea? The same exact way you make a good cup of hot tea - bring cold water to a boil, add your tea (leaves or bags), and steep. Most iced teas steep for 3 to 5 minutes, but you can experiment. Once the tea is brewed, add cool water until it's the desired strength. (Note about the photos: the tea in the pitcher above appears really strong, but is actually perfect. Tea appears much darker in photographs - at least in mine - so water it down a bit if you're going to take pics - that's what I did with the tea in the glasses.)
Here are my tips for perfect iced tea:
- don't add ice or refrigerate until the tea has cooled (it may make the tea cloudy)
- choose your tea carefully, many teas that are delish hot are not delish iced
- keeping in mind the previous point, if your favorite flavored tea doesn't work well iced, try brewing it with half black tea - the result may be perfect!
- for basic tea made with tea bags, my favorite is Luzianne (that's also what they serve at Bojangles which has legendary iced tea, albeit very sweet!)
- if your tea is cloudy, add a little boiling water
- when setting the table, it goes on the outer right
- once used, it cannot be placed on the table (this rule applies to any piece of flatware, of course!)
- it remains on the table as long as the beverage does - normally throughout the meal
- the problem that arises frequently is that as the table is cleared, there is nothing on which to place the iced beverage spoon (for example, during the dessert course . . . and you can't enjoy that lemon chess pie without a nice glass of tea!) - the correct place for the spoon in this situation is in the glass - it may seem a bit awkward, but it's preferable to leaving a tea stain on your hostess' lovely tablecloth
So as we quickly move into summer, try to keep a pitcher of iced tea close at hand! You won't be sorry . . . and I'm off to have a glass now.