I’m grateful that unsweetened iced tea is available at many restaurants now, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t flinch a little when asked to fork over $3 and change for a single, tall glass of plain old black iced tea, no matter how badly I wanted it. It’s so easy to make your own high-quality iced tea concentrate at home and shake up your own glass with some ice and a little water whenever you need to quench your thirst. Why concentrate? Well, for starters, it takes up less room in the refrigerator than a giant jug-o-tea, but stick with me and I’ll give you some other great reasons including directions on how to make flavoured teas!
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I’m a sucker for a good, arctic cold, iced tea when the weather is hot. My mom used to make sun tea that was just about strong enough to melt the jar in which it brewed. She would stuff a quart jar with eight to ten Lipton tea bags, pour as much water in the jar as it would hold, tighten a lid on it, and stick it out in the hot sun to become sturdy stuff indeed. When it was roughly the colour of tar, mom would decant it over ice and drink it happily. I almost always had to water mine down not only because my mom is far tougher than me when it comes to caffeine tolerance, but because I found it more refreshing in lesser doses. My mom was onto something…
Recently, when I was doing my big spate of travel, I noticed something on the menu boards at the omnipresent Starbucks in every city I visited; Shaken Iced Tea. I happily noticed that it was billed as “black tea, unsweetened, hand-shaken” and thought to myself, “Oooh, hand shaken? I wonder what they do… Put a tea bag in a glass of iced water and shake it like a cocktail? I need one of those.” I ordered one, forked over my $3+ and watched the barista (BARISTA?) walk over to the refrigerator, pull out a pitcher of what looked like my mom’s sun-tea, pour some into a glass of ice, then top it off with water and give it a half-hearted swish before handing it over. I was kind of crushed, I don’t mind saying. Where was my hand-shaking? Nobody said anything about “black tea, unsweetened, kind of maybe swirled a little.”
To be fair, it tasted just like good iced tea oughta. It was wicked cold, refreshing, and had just about the right level of ‘oomph’ for me. It occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, people DIDN’T know how easy it was to do this at home if everyone was paying $3+ for someone to limply swish some tea concentrate and water in a glass. I decided to bring tea concentrate to my beloved Foodie with Family readers, and in my world, there would be HAND-SHAKING OF THE TEA in abundance.
Step one was to grab some of my favourite iced tea materials. I crammed eight bags each of plain old Lipton (my mom’s perennial iced tea of choice) and Bigelow Plantation Mint (one of my favourite breakfast teas) into two quart canning jars. I draped the tags and strings outside the bag and put a ring (but no lid) on the tops of the jars to hold the bags in place and prevent them from sliding into the tea making retrieval later a much easier job. In went water and they rested until they were room temperature. I removed the rings, pulled out the bags and discarded them, put the lid in place and replaced the ring, and refrigerated until chilled.
Next on the agenda was the shaking.
I wasn’t going to wimp out here. I put a couple of inches of ice in the bottom of my jar, filled the jar about 1/4 full of the iced tea concentrate and then poured in water to within an inch of the rim of the jar. I fixed a lid and ring tightly in place and SHOOK THE TAR OUT OF IT. I was rewarded with the iciest glass of iced tea ever to be iced. Bonus: there was a little froth on top from the vigorous shaking. It was the crema of the tea world, folks. It was a Mary Poppins iced tea; practically perfect in every way.
- After going through a box of my black tea with mint bags in three days, I sat down and calculated the cost of once daily jars of the mint tea made with Bigelow Plantation Mint and about dropped my teeth. I have forgone that method of iced peppermint black tea and have since switched to making it with Lipton or Wegman’s brand black tea (orange pekoe, specifically) and adding 3-6 drops of food-grade Peppermint Essential Oil. I actually like it better and it’s far, FAR less expensive. I recommend Spark Naturals Peppermint Essential Oil I also make lemon iced tea this way, using just 3 or 4 drops of food-grade Lemon Essential Oil.
- The beauty of preparing iced tea this way is that you can make enough to last you for several days without committing your refrigerator to holding a gallon jug of tea. You can also please varying tastes. If you like it strong and your loved ones like it weak, everyone can have it their way mixing each glass to taste from concentrate.
- If you prefer sweet tea you can add a little simple syrup to your glass before adding water and shaking.
- Arnold Palmer fans! Simply mix the iced tea concentrate with your favourite lemonade and shake. Tada!