You may not find this shocking, but I love iced tea. What you may find shocking is that I am not crazy about sweet tea.Most Southerners serve what I call "Tea Syrup". So cloyingly sweet it makes my teeth hurt. I am not exactly sure why, but my Mother only served sweet tea as an option when we had company over, and she used very little sugar.
However, Mom did like to add mint from the garden, or a slice of lemon from time to time. I liked her additional flavors to the tea, and that influenced me in trying out adding some touches of my own.
One summer my apartment in Brooklyn was sweltering hot. I remember buying frozen peaches and eating them straight from the freezer. I had the idea to throw some into my iced tea, and I loved the results. It flavored the tea, kept it cold, and gave it a lovely aroma without watering it down much. Once the tea was gone I would eat the tea flavored peaches. It was yummy.
Another variance I experimented with was not only adding fruits and garnishes, but with the actual tea itself. I was raised on Lipton. I think most Southerners are Lipton drinkers. Even though Lipton is the "go to" iced tea in the South I like to change it up sometimes.
I remember arriving in Tokyo, Japan where I was to teach a dance improvisation workshop. My host took me to a nice restaurant and I was thrilled to see they had iced tea! It was a 14 hour plane flight, and I knew that tea would do the trick in keeping me awake. I thought the brew could help me fight some of the jet lag. When the iced tea arrived the waiter brought it on a small silver tray and it was served in a glass about half the size I was used to getting in the South. He also brought with it your typical artificial sweeteners, but with also what looked like to be one of those creamers that come in s small plastic cup with a peel away lid. I picked one up and examined it. My host explained to me that it is "gum syrup" used to sweeten the tea. Basically, it was a simple sweet syrup packaged in a creamer cup. I thought this was a great idea because you would not great grains of sugar floating down in the bottom of your glass.
Although the presentation was beautiful and the gum syrup ingenious, what really wowed me was the tea itself. It was iced Earl Grey. I like Earl Grey hot, but had never thought of it iced. It was delicious. In fact, so delicious that I threw back the first glass in two gulps and then asked for another. After about 6 glasses of tea during the meal I felt hydrated and awake. I did notice the waiter and my interpreter's eyes widen when I kept asking for more tea. I thought it was like the South where they bring a pitcher around and fill up your glass with no extra charge. However, each time I asked for more tea the silver tray came out and a fresh glass. Little did I know each tea cost $6 per glass! Oh well, it was worth it, and it gave me the idea of making iced Earl Grey at home.
I drink a lot of iced tea, so I like to try out different brews for serving iced. I keep the Southern proverbial stained plastic gallon pitcher of tea in my refrigerator. Sometimes I will add a bag or two of Twinings Black Tea with Lemon, Earl Grey, or Constant Comment. When putting it on ice if I want to sweeten it a bit I might add a splash or two of orange, mango, or peach juice. The bit of juice I find refreshing, and it is not so sweet that I can't drink three of four glasses without feeling like I might go into a sugar coma.
Here is my standard brew.
Gallon of water
4 small bags of Lipton tea
2 bags flavored tea such as Earl Grey, Constant Comment, Twinings with Lemon
Splash or 2 of juice, such as peach, orange, mango
Frozen peaches or mango
Lots of ice
Lemon or Lime Wedge
Sprig of mint
Boil water then add tea bags and remove from heat.
Let steep for about 30 minutes to an hour.
Remove tea bags and pour into pitcher. Refrigerate.
Once cooled pour into a glass filled with lots of ice and frozen fruit.