In its 99 years, iced tea has more variety than ever - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

In its 99 years, iced tea has more variety than ever

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Posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2003 9:51 am | Updated: 2:21 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

To hear Fred Thompson talk about iced tea, you’d think it was strictly a beverage for people living below the Mason-Dixon line.

It is true that folks in Dixie love their iced tea — so much so that Thompson, author of a book called "Iced Tea," has dubbed it "the house wine of the South.

" In fact, he says, there’s an old saying that underscores the region’s addiction to the stuff: "In the South, never marry a man until you know how to make his mama’s tea."

But Southerners don’t have a monopoly on it. Not by a long shot. Each day, it’s estimated that 20 million Americans, from Bangor to Bakersfield, will reach for a frosty, refreshing glass of iced tea — especially in the summer.

And, for the record, iced tea didn’t even make its debut in the South. Brewed tea has been around for almost 5,000 years and is the second-most-popular beverage in the world, next to water.

But it wasn’t until the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis that iced tea was born. It was hot that year at the fair, and fairgoers were passing over the hot tea being offered by tea plantation owner Richard Blechynden. That’s when he did what any Southerner would do as second nature today: He added ice to his hot brew, and a beverage craze was born.

It was an easy creation then; it’s just as easy to make now. What’s changed from that auspicious day in 1904, though, is an explosion in the variety of iced teas that can be made at home. There are the classics like Southern-style sweet tea and sun tea. There are versions infused with mangos or berries. There are recipes for spritzers, cocktail (adult) teas and other refreshingly different tisane"teas" made, not from tea leaves, but from flowers, herbs and spices.

Another thing that’s changed since 1904: The amount of research on tea, most of it supporting the idea that drinking tea — at least the black, green and white versions — is good foryour health because it contains antioxidants.

Jeffrey Blumberg, chief of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, notes that antioxidants might help prevent chronic disease.

"For example, studies reveal the antioxidants in tea may inhibit the growth of cancer cells and support cardiovascular health," he says.

Lately, white tea — which is minimally processed and high in antioxidants — is making news for possibly preventing wrinkles.

So let’s see: It’s refreshing. It’s easy to make. It has apparent health benefits. It may even fight wrinkles (take that, Botox). With so much going for iced tea, why not take a break and mix up a pitcher?

Here are Thompson’s six rules for making good iced tea. Use plenty of tea bags or loose tea. Otherwise, the tea will have a wimpy flavor when it’s diluted with ice. Don’t oversteep. The tea will get bitter. Start with about a two-minute steeping time. Make it sweet. That would be the Southern no-brainer. To cater to a variety of taste preferences, offer a pitcher of simple sugar syrup (see directions on cover) on the side. Each person can add syrup to his/her liking, and it will dissolve more easily in the glass than granulated sugar. Don’t refrigerate hot tea. This will make it cloudy. Cool the tea before putting it in the fridge. Make it fresh. Make only what you can drink in two to three days. Usefresh lemon.

For the best tea Bring fresh, cold tap water to a full, rolling boil. Use one teaspoonful of loose tea or one tea bag per every 5 to 8 ounces of water. Pour the boiling water over the tea. Brew three to five minutes. If you prefer your tea less strong, add more water after the brewing period.

Sources: "Iced Tea," by Fred Thompson; Tea Association of the United States

For iced tea For small quantities, proceed as forhot tea and pour over ice. Forlarge quantities, prepare a concentrate as follows: Bring one quart of cold water to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and add 8-10 regular-size tea bags per quart of brewed tea desired. Steep three to five minutes. Cool to room temperature.Toserve, pour into tall glass filled with ice. Garnish and sweeten as desired. (Note: this recipe uses 50 percent more tea than is used to make hot tea, to allow for dilution by ice.

Sources: "Iced Tea," by Fred Thompson; Tea Association of the United States

Types of tea

Black tea: Themost popular in the world. It’s fermented, meaning that it goes through a total oxidation process before being heated and dried. It has a dark color and strong flavor. Among the more wellknown are Darjeeling, English Breakfast and Lapsang Souchong. White tea: Is not fermented. Comes from the same plant as black and green tea but is gathered when the first leaves and unopened buds appear. The buds have a whitish down; the tea has a pale amber color and mild flavor.

Green tea: Is not fermented. It has amild flavor and is pale green. Two of the better known are Tencha and Gunpowder.

Oolong tea: Is fermented somewhere between black and green tea. It has a smoky flavor. The best known is Formosa Oolong, from Taiwan. In addition to these main tea types there are specialty teas that are flavored with flowers and spices such as jasmine and chrysanthemum blossoms, orange and lemon peel or cinnamon. Herb teas, known as tisanes, are not true teas, but rather an infusion of various herbs, flowers and spices.

Sources: "Iced Tea," by Fred Thompson; "Food Lover’s Companion," by Sharon Tyler Herbst; Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Scattered cloudiness

Tea get scloudy if refrigerated while still warm. Adding a little boiling water may clear it up. One other consideration: Hard water can cause cloudiness. If you know there are minerals in your tap water, use bottled or filtered water. Source: "Iced Tea," by Fred Thompson.

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