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Easy Teasy

April 3, 2014

Just yesterday I heard that my cousin in Philly got his first iced coffee of the year. With sun and warmer weather, people are finally starting to dig out from winter. Kids are playing outside without their coats and gloves. Seasonal soft serve joints are open.

It’s finally starting to look more like spring. I know, I probably shouldn’t say that too loud. Maybe I should knock on wood. What else can one do after tempting fate?

But I’ve been waiting for the weather to warm up just a wee little bit to share something I learned over the winter. It was so incredible that when I first read about it, I thought it couldn’t be true. And then after testing it out, it was so easy and delicious I felt compelled to share it with the world.

Now that it’s starting to warm up, it’s high time you learned this foolproof way for making the best iced tea you’ve ever had with virtually no effort at all. And no, it’s not sun tea.

Perhaps I should qualify that high praise just a bit, because I happen to have a soft spot for southern sweet tea. But that’s more of a tea based beverage. I can’t say that this is better than the insulin spiking burst of joy that comes from sucking massive amounts of freezing cold, sugar-packed tea through a narrow straw after a tart and greasy maw full of slow smoked pulled pork topped with oil and vinegar slaw. That’s some good tea.

And they used to make some pretty great iced tea at Chez Panisse in Berkeley under the guidance of tea guru Helen Gustafson. I’m sure they still do. But if Miss Gustafson was alive today, I imagine she might not approve of the following method.

In the past I used some very fussy and very precise method that Cook’s Illustrated had tested. And it made some great iced tea to be sure, but it was a pain in the ass, so I pretty much stopped drinking it unless Mrs. Fussy ever decided to make a batch as a special treat.

Still, during the height of iced tea season, you really don’t want to be boiling water at all.

Well, what would you say if I told you that brilliant iced tea is only as hard as taking four basic tea bags, placing them in a quart jar filled with cold clean water, and letting them steep in the refrigerator for five hours? I’m not even talking fancy tea bags here. Although I am partial to PG Tips, I hear that regular old Lipton works just fine.

“Hogwash”, you say? That was my reaction too. But then I tried it. You have to try it.

I wish I could take credit for this method, but it came to me via Serious Eats. And I’ve gone through more bags of tea this winter than I think I have at any other point in my life. The stuff is delicious and it’s both a great refresher after salty snacks and a decent pick me up for when I don’t feel like brewing a cup of coffee.

Given its ease and the fact that it costs mere pennies per glass, it kind of makes bad iced tea inexcusable. And man, there is a lot of overextracted, bitter, tinny, muddy, and astringent iced tea out there. My guess is that some restaurants have gone through more effort than this to make worse tea.

Cold brewed. It works for iced tea. It works for iced coffee. Now that you know, please pass it around. Soon summer will be here and your friends will be really thirsty. Better make sure to keep a batch on hand.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 3, 2014 10:48 am

    See, I knew I was a genius. This is how I have been making my iced tea for years.

  2. April 3, 2014 12:44 pm

    Oh yeah, I forgot. If you like PG tips (PG tips loose tea is my everyday tea usually) and are going bags make sure you get the pyramid bags and not the square or round made for the American market. I think the square ones use dust and the pyramids use loose leaf. Although, this might be the secret of the cold-brew iced tea. Dust probably steeps much easier into cold water. I have been using those Tetley green/black same teabag dealies for iced tea lately because I like to tell myself that green tea is magical.

  3. April 3, 2014 1:20 pm

    My mom always made sun tea by setting a jug out on the front porch. Summer tradition.

  4. April 5, 2014 8:21 am

    I grew up on “Sun Tea”. . . my mom would also fill a big glass jug with water and tea bags and set it out on the deck in the sun. The tea was amazing! Only later did I learn how much bacteria quickly grows in your tea when steeping this way. I don’t do that anymore – but I do bow down to the wonderful memories of some of the best tasting iced tea in the summer. I miss sun tea (deadly or not)

    I have been brewing cold tea in the fridge, very similar to what you describe for about 10 years. I use a variety of fruit based teas and it produces a really nice batch. My guests always ask for it when visiting and are sad that I don’t make it in the winter. The base recipe I used came from Martha Stewart. Not that I am a fan of MS – but she does have a few winners under her belt. Like the Mac N Cheese with the home made bread crumbs. I have yet to find a contender that can beat it (little nutmeg and cayenne pepper, gruyere mixed with a really good sharp cheddar). And I do like me some good mac and cheese.

    I just went off topic AGAIN . . I think maybe I could have adult ADD.

  5. Lakesider permalink
    April 5, 2014 1:59 pm

    Tried this morning with plain old Lipton, a slice of ginger, lemon and mint. It’s very tasty after only three hours!

  6. Abby R permalink
    April 7, 2014 9:40 pm

    Blaming you for the serious amount of caffeine I’ve had since you posted this. I am a sucker for Snapple’s plain ice tea. No sugar, no lemon. And until now, couldn’t figure out how they made it taste so good, with tea as the singular ingredient. Thanks!! :)

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