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Karlonian Iced Tea

December 1st, 2007

iced-tea.jpgSince I have not done a recipe post for a while, I might as well share with you my formula for making delicious iced tea. I have been using the same method and ingredient proportions for the past 20 years or so, and I have yet to find an iced tea that tastes better than this one.

On the surface, there is nothing particularly special about the beverage; it’s basically just a standard black tea solution, with some sugar and lemon added for flavor. However, there are three things that make it somewhat different from most of the other varieties:

1) I use fewer tea bags but let them steep for a longer time, then dilute the mixture to just the right strength. This is not only more economical, but it also reduces the amount of bitterness and caffeine content per unit of volume.

2) When adding sugar, I seem to use less than most other people (except for those who like unsweetened tea, but I usually find this rather bitter), but by “aging” the final mixture in the refrigerator, it seems to develop a sweeter and stronger taste over time.

3) Something about the particular proportions of tea, water, sugar, and lemon that are used, when combined with the standing time, make this beverage especially delicious and refreshing. But then again, this could be just an individual preference. You’ll have to try it and see if you can taste the difference. Here is the actual recipe:

Ingredients:

4 regular size tea bags OR 1 quart size (or “family size”) tea bag
1 1/2 quarts boiled water
2 1/2 quarts cold water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice OR the juice from 2 lemons

Procedure:

Place tea bags in a one gallon pitcher, pour the boiled water over them and steep for 20-30 minutes. If you forget to finish making the tea right away and accidentally steep it for longer than this, you can pour off some of it before adding the cold water in order to dilute it to the right strength. After the steeping time has passed, remove the tea bags, add the sugar and lemon juice, fill the rest of the pitcher with cold water, and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.

At this point, it is important that you let the tea mixture stand in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours before drinking it (at least 24 hours is ideal). If you drink the tea right away, it will taste very weak and watery, and will probably not taste sweet enough for you either. The aging process is very important in properly refining the taste; fortunately, this does not take as long as it does with fermented beverages such as wine or mead.

I usually allow the tea to stand and chill overnight, and use a two-pitcher rotation system to insure a constant supply. The relatively low sugar and caffeine levels (when compared to soda and coffee) allow me to drink it in larger quantities without it becoming a significant health risk. Since the beverage is primarily water, it helps maintain the body’s fluid levels as well.

Substitutions and Alternatives

In some cases, it is possible to substitute other ingredients without adversely affecting the taste or the potential health benefits. For example, lime juice may be used instead of lemon, you can use loose tea if you don’t have bags (although you will either need to use an infuser or strain out the loose tea after steeping), and green tea may be substituted for the usual orange pekoe and pekoe cut black variety. Note that using green tea will alter the taste somewhat, but it still seems to work well with the same sugar and lemon amounts.

I have also figured out that if you use three black tea bags and one green tea bag, the taste remains practically the same as the original formula. Using this option allows you to extract the health benefits from both the green and black varieties while still retaining the flavor of the black tea mixture. Of course, if you actually like the taste of the green tea as much or more than the black kind, then it really doesn’t matter.

This formula does not work as well for teas that have had some type of flavoring added to them, such as orange, blackberry, cinnamon, etc. With most flavored teas, the lemon or lime juice clashes with the flavoring, and the result is usually not pleasant. In these cases, it is better to simply omit the lemon juice and use sugar or honey to bring out the flavor of the tea. This is also the case with most herbal “teas”, which technically are not teas at all, but are actually infusions of some other type of plant such as chamomile or peppermint.

Health Benefits of Tea

Besides for adding water and maintaining fluid levels, there other significant health benefits to drinking tea. All varieties of tea contain antioxidants, which prevent cell damage by oxidation in the presence of free radicals. Noting the effects of tannin and other compounds called flavonoids, many studies have linked tea consumption to various health benefits ranging from lowering cancer risk to preventing tooth decay. A more comprehensive overview of the potential health benefits of tea, along with specific study citations, can be found at www.holymtn.com.



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