The Dabble

-food with a side of life-

Drink Week: Iced Tea and Other Refreshing Variations

Day 4 of Drink Week:
Guess what? No article again today. I spent most of the morning trying to figure out why my largest student loan payment wasn’t accepted after the bank told them my account doesn’t exist…the account I’ve been paying with for years. I’m still waiting to hear from the bank. Just when things were calming down on that front.

You can’t have drink week, in my mind, without tea. My mom is a tea fan. A nice cup of hot tea tickles her fancy. A cold batch does the trick for my dad. The tea I grew up with was affectionately named “sugar water” and was my great grandma’s recipe. Tea bags, water, and eventually lots of sugar made in the sun. (I know that it can harbor bacteria but I’m still alive and I’ve never heard of anyone dying from drinking sun tea.) Today’s recipe doesn’t feature the sun because I don’t have that much shining in the apartment-it takes approximately 3 to 5 hours for a good brew.

My dad will go a great distance for a glass of iced tea-his ideal super sweet style. There are stories that come with this affinity. The two that come to mind involve a trip to Florida, I believe Fazolis, where my dad had “the best tea of his life.” When he claims this, he gets a smile on his face that we adore. It’s childlike, pure joy expressed through his cheeks so round and one of those ohh (low grumble) sounds that let you know this is serious and good. Nearly 15 years ago this happened and yes, we do razz him about this one.

Then came one of the many, now funny, incidents with drive thrus…my dad and drive-thrus are notorious. He gets flustered or puts things together that don’t go (small medium Pepsi…and then we burst into laughter). Once, at Dairy Queen, he ordered a peanut buster para-fat (parfait). He has improved but even as an adult, I sit quietly awaiting a slip and sometimes I think he does it on purpose but it’s still hilarious.

I can’t forget when we were at the Olive Garden, on a vacation, when the server asked if he wanted ‘soup or salad’ and dad thought she said ‘super salad.’ Easy mistake but we don’t let that one go either.

Anyway, the second tea story was at a McDonald’s drive-thru. He ordered iced tea, rather normal, began to drive away with it, took a sip and (I’ll never forget this) had his angry face come out, yelling “Hi-C!” They didn’t hear iced tea over the speaker.

He’s not a man to get in anyone’s face; he took the drink but was ticked. There was a similar time when he went to KFC and didn’t get his coleslaw-don’t part this man from his coleslaw (and biscuits) or you will see the same angry face (and hear ‘bastards’ a few times) but he doesn’t go back-he is a nice guy. Infamous and I’m sure the stories won’t end in his coming grandpa-years. (That begins in August.)

When I started dating Greg, I went to dinner at his parent’s house and he poured me a nice, tall glass of iced tea. Having no other sort of tea, my first sip was unexpected and harsh on my tastebuds because absolutely no sugar was in this tea. I can only imagine the look on my face…I wasn’t a fan but eventually, I grew to like it. I might have taken after my pop and said bastards…not towards Greg or anyone really but just in jest.

Now, I enjoy both kinds and you can use the recipe I’m about to bequeath to enjoy your favorite style, with just the amount of sweetness you desire.

Of course, start off with your choice of green or black tea (I used Lipton because it was leftover in the cabinet). I like to add herbed ice cubes (cubes with herbs frozen inside) or change things up with hibiscus tea bags (imparts a lovely red color). Allow the tea to steep until the color/flavor is to your liking. I know, so easy but I think it’s taken for granted.

My recent obsession is rhubarb iced tea with rhubarb simple syrup. You can add a splash of rum or gin, mix it with lemonade (known as an Arnold Palmer) and as I’ve mentioned before, my grandpa’s favorite.

I’ve made iced tea with mint simple syrup on the dabble before and you can find that recipe here. If you want to change the simple syrup (water and sugar simmered together and cooled), make it with honey in place of sugar.

Basic Iced Tea
Makes 6 cups

4 tea bags of your choice (black tea bags or switch it up with red hibiscus)
½ lemon zest-optional
6 cups water
simple syrup: ½ cup sugar and 1 cup of water

With the ½ cup of sugar and 1 cup of water combined in a saucepan over medium heat, bring to a simmer. Stir to dissolve the sugar and remove from the heat, let cool. If you want to make this with honey instead of sugar, use ½ cup of honey and if you want mint infused, add a handful of leaves and steep until cool, strain and store in an airtight container. To make rhubarb simple syrup, add 1 cup of chopped rhubarb before cooking, cool and strain.

Heat the water (microwave is fine) until simmering. Add to a pitcher with the tea bags. If you want the lemon zest, add that in at this time and steep for about 10 minutes or until your desired color/flavor is reached. Remove the zest and tea bags. Refrigerate until cool. My husband likes iced tea without sugar so I leave out the simple syrup to place in individual servings instead but if everyone agrees on the amount of sweetness, add it to the chilled tea. You can also add lemonade, rum or gin but Long Islands iced teas don’t actually have iced tea so that one is out. Happy sipping!

Sun Tea
Makes 6 cups
4 tea bags of your choice
6 cups of water

Fill a pitcher with the water and add the tea bags. Place in the sunlight for 3 to 5 hours, until it reaches you desired strength. Remove the bags at that time and refrigerate. Make simple syrup (recipe above) or just add sugar.

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