When it's scorching outside and all you want is a nice, refreshing glass of iced tea to quench your thirst, there's no bigger bummer than taking a sip and realizing you've made a bad batch.
And for a recipe that's as basic as it is, there's still quite a bit of room for error. Steep for too long and the drink will become tannic and bitter. Only add sugar when the tea is still hot otherwise it won't dissolve as quickly and evenly. Make sure to use filtered water.
To help you avoid the pitfalls, we rounded up 10 favorite iced tea tips:
1. Tea type. While the tea you choose to use depends on your personal preference, be aware that darker teas will yield stronger flavor.
2. No loose ends. Tie the tea bags together with a long piece of string so that you don't have to do any fishing to remove them.
3. Pay attention to water quality. Be sure to use clean, filtered water to make your batch. And on that note, don't overlook the ice you're using to serve the tea with poor quality ice can make a good brew go bad in no time.
4. Don't just use any old container. For best results, make and store the tea in a glass container such as a pitcher or Mason jar. Plastics absorb and release flavors, and metal will (not surprisingly) give the drink a metallic taste.
5. The baking soda theory. Some Southern cooks insist that adding a pinch of baking soda to the hot water as the tea bags are added will result in a superior tea.
6. Keep the brewing time short. Only steep the tea bags for 10 to 12 minutes, any longer and it risks becoming bitter.
7. The sweet spot. Always add the sugar or sweetener when the tea is warm so that it dissolves easily and evenly.
8. Cool it. Some people advise waiting until the tea has cooled down to room temperature before refrigerating in order to get the best clarity (cloudy iced tea is not preferable).
9. Don't forget to seal. For the same reasons you don't want to store your tea in plastic or metal containers, it's important to keep the container sealed so that it doesn't risk taking on the flavor of other items in your fridge.
10. Shelf life. It's always good to make a little extra than you think you'll need, but don't plan on keeping your iced tea in the fridge for too long. Most recommend drinking the tea within 24 to 48 hours.
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