Best tea for ICE tea
Here is the DC area the summer heat and humidity has started early this year. Family is shouting for good ice tea. The wife has been buying Arizona and Lipton green tea (the premade stuff).
I am certain, I can do better. Can you recommend Teas by brand and type that you use to make great ice tea. As for sweetner do you go simple syrup, straight sugar, or honey?
I have an extensive array of loose leaf teas but when I was in college, I was using lipton bags or Luzzian (sp?) bags to make pretty good ice tea.
Any insight would be appreciate.
I love iced tea in the summer, and use any tea (often non-caff, since I avoid caff), although I must admit I still like Lipton. I really like Good Earth "original" or Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger. I make about 1 quart of strong tea (usually 6 bags, or as much loose leaf as you would use in a tea pot, but then you will have to strain it out) in a 2 qt pitcher. Once it is brewed, I add cool water (if I don't want it immediately) or ice to fill the pitcher.
I don't like sweet tea, so can't really help with the sweetener. If everyone likes the same level of sweetness it would be easy to dissolve sugar in the hot tea before diluting. Otherwise, I would be tempted to make a simple syrup for ease of adding to a cold beverage.
Anything you do will be better than the premade stuff IMO, and better for the environment -- it is better to reduce than to recycle!
For straight forward sweet tea, I like to use Lipton or Red Rose or Luzianne - basic supermarket black tea in bags. Boil 2 cups of water, add tea bags (2 or 3 family sized bags or 6 regular bags) and steep for at least 5 minutes; add a cup or so of sugar while its still hot and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Then add cold water and/or ice to total a gallon.
If you want unsweetened tea as your base, just skip the sugar and make a simple syrup separately. Once the tea is cold, sugar will never really dissolve well (not even superfine sugar, in my experience). The simply syrup is a great opportunity to flavor it, though: through a handful of mint into the syrup and then strain it out later, you'll have a mint simple syrup that adds a nice flavor to the tea.
I buy Luzianne Decaf Family Size tea bags in the green box.
Boil about a quart and a half of water. Put 2 tea bags in the half gallon plastic pitcher that has the tea stains. Pull the paper tags over the top of the pitcher and clip a clothespin to hold them. Pour the boiling water over the bags. Set timer for 4 minutes. Raise & dunk the bags a time or two and walk away. When the timer goes off, raise & dunk a few more times.
If you want sweet tea, add sugar NOW while the tea is hot. Try maybe 3/4 cup and adjust your next batch up or down. Stir to dissolve. Add ice to fill to half gallon mark, stir, serve.
I too purchase Luzianne Decaf Family sized. I use 3 for a half gallon pitcher. I also like to use water from the brita pitcher both the boiled water and the cold.
I sweeten with 1 tbsp of bulk sweet & low. I used to make both sugar and sweet & low for family events and the sweet & low always goes first.
Two less traditional suggestions -
Lychee tea and rooibos (South African red) tea. The lychee practically needs no sweetening at all and the rooibos can take a little honey, if you feel it needs more sweetness. Both have great natural flavors and, although they are loose leaf teas, take no more effort to brew than tea bags.
Rockycat is right on - Rooibos (Roy-bus) tea is off the charts in benefits and no caffeine naturally. Very good cold or hot. Fragrance is wonderful. My favorite is Celestial Seasonings Madagascar Vanilla Rooibos. If you can't find it at your store, you can get it from Amazon (as they take over the world...).
I love chamomile, but as cold tea, it is a dud.