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Today, for the first post in the Beating the Summer Heat series, I want to share one of my absolute favorite things to drink when it’s hot out: iced tea!
Have you ever had real iced tea? I mean the real stuff that’s actually brewed from tea leaves, not that glucose-y industrial stuff with fake lemon flavor and god knows what weird synthetic ingredients. I am a tea drinker, so I find that fake tea absolutely horrifying, not to mention that I don’t like very sweet things. Homemade iced tea tastes like real tea because it IS real tea, and you can sweeten it how much you want and with your preferred sweetener, and add real lemon juice if you so desire. It’s so ridiculously easy to make, there’s really no excuse not to!
And, if you’re hesitant to turn on your stove on hot days, there’s still no problem; all you need is a nice sunny corner to steep your tea leaves! Are you trying to limit your caffeine intake? Again, no prob! You can make iced decaf tea, green tea, herbal infusions, or whatever other tea variant you can dream of!
So now that you have no excuses left, let me show you how to make homemade iced tea!
Classic boiled iced tea recipe:
- 1 liter of water
- 2 tea bags (or enough loose tea leaves for two cups of tea)
- 3 Tablespoons of raw cane sugar -or- 2.5 Tablespoons of honey
- one heat-resistant glass container (at least 1-liter capacity)
- one 1-liter bottle
These are the proportions that I use, but they depend on the type of tea used (some are stronger than others) and how sweet you like your tea. You can use any old sugar, but I feel slightly better using raw cane sugar. In any case, I almost always use the honey that a local friend makes. I’ve always been curious to try agave syrup, too, but haven’t gotten around to it. You could also add some lemon juice, but I’m kind of a tea purist and prefer it without, so I quite honestly can’t tell you how much to add. I’d say to start with a few squeezes and take it from there.
For the classic boiled version, first add the liter of boiling water to the tea inside a heat-proof jug, mason jar, bottle or whatever other container that can handle the heat. (One time I used an apparently non-heat-resistant glass bottle, and it cracked, flooding my kitchen counter, drawers and floor in boiling water, tea leaves and broken glass. Trust me, you DON’T want that to happen! If you’re not sure if it’s heat-resistant, put the container in the sink, just in case!)
Cover the container (I use glass saucers), put it on a trivet, and let it sit for about 20 minutes or so until it’s nice and dark.
Remove the tea bags, if you used them. You can add the sweetener either in the brewing container or in the final bottle. I prefer doing it in the final container to make sure that none of the sweetener gets left behind in the brewing container or tea strainer, if using loose tea leaves.
Use a funnel if your final container has a small mouth. Honey can get clogged up in the funnel, but don’t worry about it because the hot tea will melt it and get it through.
Pour the hot tea in, using a funnel and/or tea strainer if necessary.
Let the bottle sit uncovered on a trivet until it cools down enough to put in the fridge.
I use one-liter olive oil or beer bottles with spring tops. I give them a good wash and remove the labels, and they are just perfect for cold drinks. The locking tops are fantastic because they let me store the bottles on their sides inside the fridge!
(These pictures are from two years ago. You can barely see those drawings on the walls anymore because they’ve gotten covered up by other ones!)
Sun-brewed iced tea recipe:
Now let’s say that it’s ridiculously hot and just the idea of turning on your stove makes you sweat. Consider making sun-brewed iced tea! Since figuring out how to do this, I’ve totally converted to this method because it saves energy, heat and time. (Brewing time is longer, but cooling time is shorter, so I find that it’s faster this way.) And I love being able to use the super hot Neapolitan summer sun, as you can see here and here.
*Disclaimer* I’ve heard some claims that “sun tea” can breed bacteria that would normally have been killed off by boiling water, and therefore needs to be consumed relatively soon after brewing. I haven’t had any problems, myself, with this, but maybe that’s because I drink so much iced tea, it’s never in my refrigerator for more than two days. So make your own informed choice!
In order to sun-brew iced tea, you need a container that seals (I make a double recipe inside the same two-liter jar with a hermetically sealing spring top that I use to make limoncello, orange liquor and wild fennel liquor) and a very hot and sunny place (my balcony is perfect).
Put the tea and water in the jar, close it and put it in the sunny spot.
Let it sit until the tea is fully steeped. This will depend on how hot the sun is, but I generally find that 2 1/2 to 3 hours is plenty. You’ll want the water to be pretty dark, like you can see at the right here.
The jar will be warm to the touch, but not scorchingly hot, which makes it much easier to handle and pour, and also makes for a MUCH shorter cooling time. And you also get cool shadows as the sun shines through the brewed tea!
Remove the bottle from the sun and sweeten it, pour it into the final bottle, let it cool and put it in the refrigerator as with the boiled version. And then cool down with an ice-cold glass of tea! My absolute favorite summer breakfast is iced tea and a fresella with Vesuvius-grown cherry tomatoes, garlic salt, basil or oregano and olive oil. Such a yummy and refreshing start to a day!
The one problem with making your own iced tea is that the bottles take up a lot of fridge space, or at least if you make multiple bottles at once, like I do (because I drink so much of it). I’ve attempted making a very concentrated version of iced tea to freeze in ice cube trays and then dissolve in cold water when you’re ready to drink it, but I never managed to get it strong enough that way, so I eventually gave up. But if anyone has a tip for me on how to do that, I’d love to hear it!
This recipe and instructions for making your own healthy iced tea is part of the Beating the Summer Heat series! Stay tuned for more ideas on how to stay cool at home on hot summer days! And don’t forget to Pin this idea so that you can try it out!