We have at last put the bone chilling cold behind us and have tasted summer. That may sound dramatic, but it really was the winter that would.not.end in Southern Ontario (and many other areas, going by the teeth chattering heard around Twitter). Hot chocolate is a distant memory now. Bring on the frosty drinks and cool libations.
Simple enough to make complicated
Iced tea, like a cup of coffee, is one of those things that is so simple to make, but can become complicated quickly. Does the precise temperature of the water matter? If it came to a full boil, should I just dump it and start again? Loose leaves or bags? Sun tea? What should it be sweetened with? Can I use something besides basic black tea? What about flavoured tea? Fruit?
Personally, I don’t bother fussing over it. I take tea bags that I like (because I never have loose tea on hand), pop them into water that’s probably come to a full boil, steep them for 5 minutes or so (or until I remember them) and sweeten it all with a simple syrup.
This time around, I chose Oolong tea bags and lemon simple syrup. If you want to change things up, besides the variety of tea, there are several herbs that work wonderfully in iced tea. You can add them either directly to the steeping brew or to the simple syrup. Mint is an obvious choice, but lemony herbs like verbena and lemon balm are great. So is borage. I’ve even heard of rosemary being used, though it won’t pass my lips. And the syrup can be plain, or flavoured with other citrus flavours (how about iced Earl Grey with orange syurp?).
BTW, this is my favourite because I like having lemon syrup on hand during the summer. It’s perfect for cocktails. Add a splash of your chosen spirit, a little lemon juice, an optional shake of bitters, some of the syrup and some soda water. Voila. A refreshing summer beverage.
Lemon Simple Syrup
2 cups white sugar
2 cups water
zest of a large lemon
In a medium saucepan, combine the syrup ingredients over medium high heat. Bring just to a boil and remove from the heat to cool thoroughly. Resist every urge to press on the zest, which will make the syrup bitter. Strain and store in the fridge.
6 cups water, boiled
3-4 tea bags, depending on variety and desired strength
juice of half a lemon
Steep the tea in the recently boiled water for 5-7 minutes (if you want stronger tea, use another tea bag, don’t steep the brew longer). Remove the bags from the water, again resisting the urge to squeeze. Cool, add the lemon juice and sweeten to taste with the lemon syrup. Serve over ice.