Raise your hand if you drank iced tea today!
If you’re waving at this page, you’re in good company. More than half of all Americans drink it on any given day. And of all that tea being consumed, about 80% is cold.
Tea is considered an environmentally sustainable product that is extremely economical to drink averaging 3 cents per serving, and consensus is it’s good for you. Sounds like a dream potion.
The Tea Association of the U.S.A. tracks the consumption, production, pricing and research surrounding the health benefits of tea. It should come as no surprise that regionally, the South (and the Northeast) have the most tea drinkers.
There are various ways to make iced tea, flavor it, and sweeten it. There’s sweet, and then there’s sweet.
“Sweet tea is a southern staple,” said Jennifer Sutton of Palm Bay, who prefers to get her daily dose from McDonald’s. Other sweet spots cited by locals include Chick-fil-A, Sonic and heavy favorite Sonny’s BBQ.
Then there’s the tea you can buy at the grocery store.
“People love [prepackaged] iced tea but it’s loaded with fructose because it has to be chemically preserved. It doesn’t have the health benefits like from good quality tea,” said Dr. Sal Giorgianni, owner of Dragonfly Botanica in Suntree.
A pharmacist, Giorgianni runs the shop with his wife, Joan. They get in fresh teas three times each week. He recommends making sun tea: Use a gallon of “quality” water and add an ounce of tea. Stir and set in the sun for two to three hours. Let it set for an hour or so indoors, then strain the liquid into a pitcher and put it in the refrigerator.
Another way to make iced tea is cold brew. Julie Primus offers it alongside hot teas at tastings Saturday mornings at Julie’s Gift Shoppe in Downtown Melbourne. Primus and her husband retired to Melbourne in 2005 from Liverpool, England, where life is all about hot tea.
Cold brew means letting the tea diffuse into water without heating. “Sometimes it feels like you’re drinking punch with the fruit flavors,” Primus said of common iced varieties. “You wouldn’t know you were drinking tea. English people don’t like fruit tea at all, we were raised with black.”
As for sweetening iced tea, Giorgianni said the natural tastes can be lost with too much artificial sweetener, and sugar doesn’t always fully dissolve. He recommends honey or simple syrup — one part sugar blended into one part boiling water. Or try putting honey in when making sun tea.
“A person who wants to enjoy the taste of tea should not sweeten it,” Primus said. “Go light. We’re so used to throwing sugar in everything. We don’t take time to taste it without the sugar in there. We lose the essence.”
Primus recommends a drop of honey or agave nectar if you must sweeten it, but to first try without anything.
How some readers like their iced tea:
- Brew it with a cinnamon stick
- Add strawberry puree
- Green tea with honey and ginseng
- Earl gray steeped in white grape juice
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