Wednesday, September 21, 2011

While You Were Steeping

Cold-Brewed Iced Tea
Ordering iced tea in a restaurant shouldn't be a complicated matter. But somehow it is. "Do you remember if we liked the iced tea here?", Hubs and I furtively whisper to each other as soon as we sit down. We love iced tea you see, and there's nothing worse than taking that first sip and finding something stale and old (or even worse, from a mix) at the other end of the straw. 

Rare is the restaurant that takes as much care with their iced (or hot) tea as they do with their coffee. We tea drinkers are partly to blame. We're just not as bold, robust, and vociferous a group as our coffee counterparts. The differences between us are much the same as how these two drinks act upon my brain: coffee is like jumping out of an airplane, while tea is more like jumping out of an airplane with a parachute... I'm going to hit the ground either way, it's all just a matter of how soon and how hard. This may explain why tea lovers are often mellow, easy-going types who as a group get overlooked by most restaurants and chains.

There are exceptions of course. One of my favorite deli/caf├ęs delivers the ultimate order of iced tea: a tall glass filled to the brim with ice and a small pot of strong hot tea on the side. As soon as the tea has steeped to satisfaction, you pour it over the ice and have the perfect glass of fresh brewed iced tea. This is precisely how I used to make it at home, and still do, when a single perfect glass of the stuff is all I want.

There Goes The Sun (Tea)
There are times though, like now, when the weather is on the warm side and we need more than one  glass of refreshment to get through the day. In the past, lazy-me used to make huge containers of sun-tea, but the inherent problems with that method made it fall out of flavor with me:
  • Making sun-tea presupposes that I have enough sunlight for it to brew in. 
  • It brews during the heat of the day, which is actually when I want to be drinking it.
  • After successfully brewing tea by harnessing the power of the sun... the tea is hot. Lots of ice  and/or fridge time is necessary to make it into iced tea. I want iced tea now.
  • Lastly, it just doesn't keep for long. It goes cloudy, which is... well, it's just not good. I've just spent most of the day waiting for a huge container of tea to brew in the backyard so that by late afternoon I can pour hot tea over ice and get a glass of iced tea? Iced tea that will go bad rather quickly if I don't drink it all up.

To be fair, any fresh-brewed tea will go bad fairly quickly. It's fresh, that's the whole point, right? I have had luck in extending it's life a bit by pouring it through a coffee filter before storing it, but I think that this new-to-me method is better on all levels...

Relax, Cold-Brew It
Just as cold-brewed coffee removes acidity resulting in a smooth yet power-packed perfect iced java, cold-brewing tea has opened my eyes to the easiest, smoothest, and ready-est cold glass of iced tea... pretty much ever. I'm all about the "Big Batch, From Scratch" ideology, but this, this is different. I make only what I think we'll drink the following day... rain or shine.

Cold-Brewed Iced Tea
  1. Before bed, drop a couple of your favorite tea bags into a quart-size mason jar. If you're using loose-leaf tea, just spoon in the equivalent amount.
  2. Fill the jar with drinking water and put the lid on it.
  3. Stick the jar in the fridge. 
  4. Go to bed and let the night-shift take over.  
The next day you will have perfectly brewed, perfectly smooth, perfectly COLD iced tea. Ready to drink all day long. (Loose-leafers: be sure to strain the leaves out in the morning).

Not passionate about tea, iced or otherwise?
Well, if you're a dedicated member of the coffee camp, check out the blog Brewly Noted for some serious low-down on java jiving in, and around, Arizona. You just may learn a thing or two, and have fun doing it.
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  1. Okay, I'm sold. I love the cold brewed coffee too.

    Nice plug for Shelby's "Brewly Noted"

  2. @SharkBait: Yep, I'm a cold-brew convert through and through too.
    (Sounds like a beer commercial, doesn't it?)

  3. I like cold brewed coffee but have never tried tea. I feel the same way at restaurants some get the tea right and some...yuck! I think I've had the same conversation with my husband!

  4. @Half Baked: Crazy isn't it? Don't even get me started on the hot tea served in most eateries! :)

  5. it drives me crazy when i ask for tea at a nice place and i get a bag of the lowest quality powdery tea "leaves" that is impossible to steep to the very fine line between enough flavor and no bitterness. and they charge me $4. on the other hand, i have never been to an asian restaurant that did not offer delicious green tea, by the potfuls.

    have you guys ever had iced tea at a restaurant that tasted like it had a sunscreen aftertaste? i've been trying to figure out if it's just one brand that i can avoid.

    i am a huge fan of cold-brewed tea (and coffee) and any restaurant that serves good tea is highly appreciated by me. :)

  6. @Alicyn: Sunscreen huh? Ick! Not sure if that's a brand thing or a method thing. We just try to remember not to order it again next time we're there. More often than not the bad iced tea we encounter tastes like it's left over from the previous day.

    You're so right about the pots of tea served at Asian restaurants. My fav is the jasmine... so good and plentiful!


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