Being born and raised in the South (well, not the traditional Deep South, but Florida counts too), I’ve discovered some unique variations on sweet tea over the years. My mother has always been a tea drinker (her mother was English, so maybe that had something to do with it), and we frequently had a pitcher of tea in the refrigerator to be served with evening meals, especially during the summer. So I’ve always loved discovering new ways to make this time-honored favorite.
Basic Sweet Tea
Everyone has their own preference as to which brand of tea they use; PG Tips (supposedly the leading brand in England) is my personal favorite. But use your own favorite for this recipe. Also, whether you use the sugar syrup or granulated sugar, add it gradually and taste before adding more. You can always provide additional sugar on the table for those who like it really sweet.
6 cups of water
8-10 tea bags (depends on strength of your preferred brand)
½ cup Simple Sugar Syrup* (or ¾ cup granulated sugar)
4 cups cold water
Orange and lemon slices
Bring 6 cups of water to a boil; add tea bags and remove from heat. Let tea bags steep in hot water for 10 minutes. Remove and discard tea bags. Add simple syrup and cold water, stirring well. If you are using sugar instead of simple syrup, add the sugar before you mix in the cold water. Transfer the tea to a pitcher and add orange and lemon slices. Refrigerate so flavors can mix and tea is chilled. Serve over crushed or cubed ice (but not enough to dilute the tea too much).
*Simple Sugar Syrup
If you serve a lot of tea, it’s a good idea to have some simple syrup on hand to sweeten it; the sugar is already dissolved and it saves time wasted on stirring the sugar in.
Bring 2 cups of water to boil and add one cup of sugar. Boil for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is clear. Store any unused syrup in the refrigerator.
Citrus Sweet Tea
This recipe is a fruity version of the classic favorite; and it really quenches that summer thirst. My version is a variation of a recipe from Southern Living Magazine that I adapted for my own use. The original recipe calls for the use of cloves, but I’m not much of a fan of cloves, so I use a little ginger instead.
2 cloves or a small slice of fresh ginger
3 cups water
7 tea bags
2/3 cup sugar (or ½ cup Simple Sugar Syrup)
1 ½ cups pineapple juice
½ cup orange juice
¼ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Skewers of pineapple chunks, orange and lemon slices for garnish
Boil 3 cups of water; add cloves or ginger (whichever you prefer, or nothing if you don’t like either). Add tea bags and steep for 10 minutes. Remove spices and tea bags from pot. Add juices and sugar (or syrup) and stir well. Pour tea into a pitcher and chill for an hour. Fill glasses about 1/3 full of crushed ice and place a skewer in each glass. Fill with citrus tea and serve.
Governor’s Mansion Summer Peach Tea Punch
This is a Southern Living recipe that makes a great summer party punch. Thr recipe makes enough for a punch bowl, so if you’re not preparing it for a large group, you might want to cut the recipe in half.
3 family-size tea bags
2 cups fresh mint leaves (loosely packed)
1 (33.8-oz.) bottle peach nectar
½ (12-oz.) can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
½ cup Simple Sugar Syrup
1 liter ginger ale, chilled
1 liter club soda, chilled
Garnish: fresh peach wedges, mint leaves (optional)
Bring water to a boil and add tea bags and mint leaves; boil for a minute and then remove from heat. Cover and let steep for 10 minutes. Remove tea bags and mint, then discard. Pour into a 1-gallon container and add peach nectar, lemonade concentrate and Simple Sugar Syrup. Chill 8-24 hours.
When ready to serve, pour chilled tea mixture into a punch bowl or pitcher and add ginger ale and club soda. If desired, garnish punch glasses with peach wedges and float mint leaves in punch bowl.
Thai-Style Bubble Tea
I was first introduced to this unusual tea by my daughters who really love it. It’s an unusual version of iced tea, but it bears mentioning if you like trying something different, and it has become very popular in the U.S. in the last few years. Special wide straws are required, as the tapioca pearls that are mixed into the tea won’t fit through a regular straw. The tea mix, tapioca pearls and straws are available on my favorite Thai food website, http://importfood.com/. They also offer a kit for making the bubble tea, which includes all the basic ingredients and a tea filter. The following recipe is from their website, which also offers other Thai favorites and videos on the preparation of Thai foods, as well as lots of hard-to-find ingredients and utensils for Asian cooking. This recipe makes quite a bit of tea, but the final product is a combination of three different parts: the tea, the syrup and the pearls, so you can refrigerate the unused components to prepare more of the mixture at a later time.
8 cups water
2 cups Thai iced tea mix
1 1/3 cups sugar
½ cup mint leaves
1 ½ cups tapioca pearls
1 cup fresh milk
Tea filter (or make a “giant tea bag” from muslin or cheesecloth)
The Tea: Place Thai iced tea mix into a filter or bag and place in a large pot with 8 cups gently boiling water. Simmer for one hour, then remove tea and fill pot with water to same level you started with (8 cups). Let tea cool and pour into a pitcher. Refrigerate.
The Syrup: In a small saucepan combine sugar, mint leaves and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved, then strain out the leaves and place syrup in a separate container. Refrigerate.
The Pearls: Bring12 cups water to a boil, then gently add tapioca pearls. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring to keep the pearls from sticking together. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 30 minutes. If you prefer the pearls more “al dente” you can reduce the cooking time a bit. Strain the pearls, rinse with cool water, and transfer to a storage container. Pour in about half the syrup to keep them from sticking together. They will keep in the refrigerator like this for about 12 hours.
Using a slotted spoon, place pearls into 16 oz. glasses. The pearls should fill 1/3 of the glass. Pour 2 tablespoons syrup over the pearls. Add more syrup if you prefer a sweeter taste. Mix (or shake) tea separately with fresh milk and ice. Pour the ice/tea/milk mixture into each glass and stir. Serve with jumbo straws that allow the tapioca pearls to be sucked up as you drink.
There you have it, some great tea recipes to try this summer. Whether you prefer your iced tea plain, with a dash of citrus or Georgia peach, or whether you like sucking sweet tapioca pearls from it, one of these iced tea creations may become your favorite.
Southern Living Magazine, “Junior League of Austin, Texas, Austin Entertains,” May 2011, http://www.southernliving.com/food/entertaining/iced-tea-recipes/view-all
Thai Supermarket Online, “Thai-Style Bubble Tea,” http://importfood.master.com/texis/master/search/?s=SS&q=bubble+tea