Troubleshooting Iced Tea

Achieving the Perfect Glass
Achieving the Perfect Glass
Welcome summer! Welcome Vitamin D, photosynthesis, and aviator shades. And, of course, welcome back iced tea. But as more and more of us submit to the everyday time crunch, RTD — or "ready-to-drink" — iced tea becomes the go-to solution. Cheap and fast, it's a neat container of caffeine and L-theanine that you can tug around the office, or whichever tight space you're crammed into today. Sweet. Yet as time goes by, the joy of convenience starts to taste like nail varnish. In that case, why not make your own iced tea? That way, you're guaranteed deliciousness. Plus, it's sure to impress a crowd when you're entertaining at home. All you need is a 4:1 ratio of tea to water, brew it hot, add ice, and serve. For cold brew, keep the ratio and stick the mess in your fridge overnight. However, those are a lot of steps. If you normally don't have time for proper tea shenanigans, then homestyle might present a couple of challenges. Not to worry! Here's how to fix the most common iced tea mishaps: Problem #1: The tea isn't strong enough.
Solution: Add more tea. Sometimes all it takes is an extra bag or two, or an extra teaspoon if you're working with loose leaves. Certain teas, like hibiscus, take better to cold water than others. Whites and greens, however, need a little more coaxing to release their flavor. Problem #2: It's bitter.
Solution: Cut the batch in half, add water, and resteep half as much tea in each new batch. A bitter batch usually occurs because you ran into Problem #1 and tried to fix it by letting the tea sit for an extra five minutes. Lesson learned, right? (Unless, of course, you like it that way. Oversteeped rosehip tea has a charming tendency to turn into Sour Patch Kids.) Problem #3: There's still not enough flavor.
Solution: Gussy it up. If you're used to RTD or teabags, and haven't yet had time to get chummy with loose leaf, then chances are that your palate is seeking more pronounced flavor. This scenario calls for extra ingredients: spices, herbs, fruit, and your preferred sugar to taste. Especially if you started off brewing a single origin tea — some are reluctant steepers when brewed cold. For instance, Chinese greens like Mao Jian have delicate flower-flavors that can be easily masked in the presence of ice cubes. To bring out the best in them, consider adding those complimentary flavors by borrowing the sangria method, steeping the tea with actual fruit. Problem #4: Nobody drinks it but you.
Solution: Not actually a problem. Congrats! You are now ready to make the best iced tea ever, and all types of tea can eagerly participate in your experiments. But occasionally the most adept mixologist may slip up. Too much sugar, or a spill of rooibos in the pot, and suddenly you have an undrinkable batch. Don't even bother to Instagram the mess. Laugh it off, dump it on the plants as fertilizer, and keep the story for your friends. (Much more entertaining than the one about your ex.)