In the dog days of summer, few things are more refreshing than a glass of iced tea. Although National Iced Tea Day is June 10, Sunday Aug. 21 is National Sweet Tea Day. If you know anything about me, you know I’m never one to pass up a food holiday.
Popular lore traces iced tea’s popularity to the 1904 St. Louis Louisiana Purchase Exhibition World Fair. There are lots of other treats attributed to that fair, including hamburgers, ice cream cones, cotton candy and peanut butter. But iced tea has been on the menu since the 1870s. What made iced tea novel wasn’t the tea but the ice, which was quite the luxury back then.
Iced tea has the same health benefits as hot tea, mainly being incredibly rich in polyphenols, which are a type of antioxidant. These wonderful nutrients hunt for cell-damaging free radicals in the body and detoxify them. This reduces the risk of heart disease, and possibly helps prevent cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Tomorrow’s holiday celebrates sweet tea. Traditionally, sweet tea is tea that’s brewed very strong with a large amount of sugar added. The mixture of sugar and tea is served over ice. The amount of sugar may offset some of the health benefits of tea mentioned above, so please modify this recipe if that’s a concern for you.
With all that said, it kills me to see people buying premade iced tea at premium prices. Made at home, even if you use high quality tea and purchase spring water, it’s still very inexpensive at less than $1 per gallon. Come on, people! It’s just water and teabags. We can do this!
TRADITIONAL SWEET TEA
The measurements are flexible. Use this as a place to begin, adjusting the recipe until it speaks or sings to your taste buds.
Yield: 1 gallon
1 gallon water
6 to 8 individual black tea bags
1 cup granulated sugar
Pinch baking soda
Fresh mint leaves or lemon slices (optional)
Fill a gallon-size pitcher with good water. If you don’t have a gallon pitcher, you can repurpose a gallon-size plastic water jug. Pour about one-third of the water into a saucepan and heat to a rolling boil on the stove. Once it’s boiling, remove from heat and add the teabags. Let this steep for 5 to 10 minutes depending on how strong you like your tea. I leave mine for 7 minutes, and I think that’s the Goldilocks spot — not too strong, not too weak, but juuuust right. Remove teabags but don’t squeeze them. Add the sugar while the water is very hot and stir until it’s completely dissolved. Confession: I only add 1/2 cup of sugar and my family still loves me and my tea. Add a pinch of baking soda to offset any bitterness in the tea. Let this cool to room temperature and pour it back into the pitcher with the remaining water. Just be sure you don’t pour hot water into a plastic jug. To serve, pour the sweet tea into ice-filled glasses. Add a sprig of mint or a lemon slice, if desired. The sweet tea will keep refrigerated for about a week.
A little tip: When your tea is finished brewing, don’t squeeze the tea bags. Tea leaves contain tannins, naturally occurring compounds with a bitter, astringent taste. When you squeeze, you’re releasing the water where the tannins are most concentrated and compromising the flavor of your tea. In traditional Southern iced tea, a pinch of baking soda is added to offset any bitterness.
So, let’s raise a glass and celebrate the holiday because everything is made better with a little sweet tea and grace.
Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is the penny-pinching, party-planning, recipe developer and content creator of the website ‘Divas On A Dime — Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!’ Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at firstname.lastname@example.org
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