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Southerners drink iced tea year-round, and have been drinking iced tea since the 19th century when ice became generally available.
If you order tea in a restaurant in the South, you’ll get iced tea, probably sweetened, so if you want it hot or unsweetened, you’d better say so!
The tea plant, a bushy evergreen shrub that can grow to a height of 30 feet, is thought to be indigenous to a region covering Tibet, western China and northern India. Tea became such a popular beverage by the sixth century in China that merchants commissioned a book extolling the pleasures of drinking tea.
Tea drinking spread to Europe in the 16th century when trade with China became common. Today, England is the world’s number-one tea consumer.
English and Irish colonists made tea a popular beverage in North America up until the Boston Tea Party in 1773, when settlers opposed the heavy taxes and stormed tea ships in the Boston harbor.
The British continued to dominate the tea market until 1859, when Americans George Huntington Hartford and George Gilman began to buy tea directly from the ships and sold it to their customers for a third of the price charged by others. They established the “Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company,” which later grew into a chain of supermarkets under the name “A&P.”
By the late 19th century, Americans were enjoying “iced tea,” which was popularized at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.
Many people still start with bulk tea or bags, but today you can get tasty iced tea in cans, from liquid concentrates and from powder.
One of the latest developments is Lipton’s new Cold Brew Blend. These tea bags are 100 percent natural tea and actually infuse in cold water.
Southern Iced Tea
3 cups water
3 tsps. (heaping) fresh orange pekoe bulk tea
4 cups cold water
Bring the water to a boil in a non-aluminum saucepan. Reduce heat to low and add tea; cover and let tea simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain into a large pitcher and add 4 cups cold water.
Slippery Run Tea
Cranberry juice and tea are combined to make this hot beverage recipe.
3 cups cranberry juice cocktail
1 cinnamon stick
Dash ground ginger
2 tsp. honey
2 tea bags
Orange rinds and cinnamon sticks for garnish
In a saucepan, heat cranberry juice, cinnamon stick, ginger and honey just to boiling. Remove from heat and add tea bags. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and cinnamon stick. Pour into mugs with orange slices and cinnamon sticks. Makes 4 servings.
Orange Mint Tea
A drink with orange juice, freshly made tea, and mint leaves, along with lemon juice and sugar.
2 cups water
2 tea bags
3 Tbsps. fresh mint leaves
2 Tbsps. sugar
4 cups orange juice
2 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice
In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil; remove from heat. Add tea bags, mint leaves and sugar; let stand 10 minutes. Remove tea bags. Transfer to a large pitcher; stir in orange juice and lemon juice. Chill thoroughly before serving. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Tea bags for 2 gallons tea
1-1/2 quarts boiling water
2 cups sugar
1 (48-oz.) can pineapple juice
1 (12-oz.) can frozen orange juice
1 (12-oz.) can frozen lemonade
Place tea bags in bowl or pitcher. Pour boiling water over tea bags. Add sugar, stirring to dissolve. Let tea bags steep in sugar water several hours or overnight; discard tea bags. Pour tea into a large bowl. Add juices, stirring well. Pour equal amounts into two one-gallon jugs. Add water to each to fill jug. Refrigerate. Shake well before serving. Makes 2 gallons.
Hawaiian Plantation Iced Tea
Add more tea leaves for a stronger tea, but do not steep longer or the tea will end up tasting bitter.
1 qt. barely boiling hot water
4 orange pekoe tea bags
1 qt. ice cold water
1 (16 oz.) can pineapple juice
1/2 cup simple syrup (see below)
1 fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into spears
Pour the barely boiling hot water into a large pitcher, and then add the tea bags; steep tea 2 to 4 minutes. Remove the tea bags and pour in the ice water. Pour in the pineapple juice. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about 1-1/2 hours.
Pour the tea over ice, garnish with pineapple spears and serve. Makes 8 servings.
1 cup white sugar
1 cup water
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool.
Carolina Iced Tea
1-1/2 oz Southern Comfort peach liqueur
1 oz Captain Morgan Original spiced rum
1 oz peach schnapps
1/2 oz. vodka
5 oz. sweet iced tea
Using a highball glass, add alcohol and stir lightly. Pour in iced tea. Stir a few more times and serve.
Note: Add a splash of lemon and garnish with a twist for a classy drink or serve in a mason jar for a real down-home feel.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.