Special-Tea Drinks: Tasty Summertime Treats

A Touch of Fruity Nectar or Other Flavor Brightens Summer's Workhorse
Drink

Thursday, May 23, 2002

By ANN MALONEY
New York Times Regional Newspapers

How to Keep Tea Clear

It's blazing hot outside and all you can think about is a long, tall
cool glass of iced tea. Summertime and iced tea. In the South, they go
together like moonlight and magnolias. Barbecues, pool parties and
picnics just wouldn't seem complete without a big, sweaty pitcher of
freshly brewed tea, served sweetened with a squeeze of lemon and a
sprig of mint.

After all it was hot weather that brought us iced tea in the first
place. The story goes that Richard Blechynden, an English businessman,
had planned to give free samples of hot tea to visitors at the World's
Fair in St. Louis in 1904. A heat wave hit and Blechynden, being a
smart merchant, added ice to his brewed tea, serving the first iced
tea.

The idea caught on. Americans drink 2.2 billion gallons of tea a year
and 80 percent is consumed over ice, according to the Tea Council of
the U.S.A. Tea is second only to water in consumption.

While many families have their favorite recipe for "sweettea" -- often
pronounced as one word in the South -- this summer staple can also be
dressed up for company.

Add a shot of flavor with homemade syrups or dress up your amber brew
with wine and fruit. The combinations are limited only by the
imagination.

To start, master the simple syrup. The basic recipe is equal parts
water and sugar, boiled for a short time, cooled and kept
refrigerated.

With so many people giving up white sugar to lose weight or because of
diet restrictions, you may prefer to brew plain tea and allow everyone
to flavor his own glass. Simple syrup eliminates the problem of the
never-dissolving sugar crystals that end up at the bottom of tea
glass.

The syrup can also be flavored with herbs and spices, which add not
only sweetness, but flavor.

The selection of tea can add flavor as well. If you've only tried
making iced tea with commercial, orange pekoe tea in bags, consider
seeking out loose-leaf blends that are richer and more aromatic, such
as Jasmine, Darjeeling or Keemun.

Tea also can be the base of a punch or cocktail for a summer party.

Experiment with loose-leaf teas and you may come up with your own more
exotic concoctions, such the Iced Tea With Lemongrass Syrup, which is
made using Jasmine tea.


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ICED TEA WITH LEMONGRASS SYRUP

Serves two

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
6 stalks fresh lemongrass, coarsely chopped and mashed
2 tablespoons Jasmine tea leaves
1 quart cold water
Garnish: 1 lemongrass stalk

Make the syrup by bringing the sugar and water to a boil. When
boiling,
add the chopped and mashed lemongrass. Remove from the heat and let
stand until cool. Strain through a fine mesh, extracting as much
liquid
as possible. Pour into a glass jar, refrigerate.

Brew the tea by heating water to 180 degrees. Infuse for 3 minutes.
Strain and reserve.

Pour about 1 tablespoon of lemongrass syrup into a tall glass. Add tea
and ice. Garnish with a lemongrass stalk, if desired.

NOTE: This syrup recipe makes more than two cups of syrup, so you can
keep it covered in the refrigerator for your next glass of tea, or try
using it to flavor salad dressings or drizzled over fresh fruit such
as
pineapples or starfruit.

-- From "Cooking with Tea" (Tuttle Publishing, 2001)

SIMPLE SYRUP

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Pour water into a heavy medium saucepan over a medium heat. Add sugar
and stir until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil mixture for
about 2 minutes. Pour into a clean jar or small pitcher with a cover.
Allow syrup to cool at room temperature, covered.

Note: Make your syrup about three hours before using so that it has
time to cool. If the syrup is boiled, it can easily keep for a couple
of weeks, covered in the refrigerator.
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Here are a four ideas for flavoring your syrup. To your boiling sugar
syrup, add one of the following:

3 tablespoons packed, coarsely chopped fresh mint.

1 cinnamon stick, broken in pieces.

1 tablespoon packed, minced peeled fresh ginger

1 vanilla bean, sliced open.

After any of these additions, allow the syrup to cool to room
temperature. Strain through a fine mesh. Store, covered, in the
refrigerator.

Flavored ice cubes can cool tea without diluting the flavor.
Commercial
flavorings and nectars are available in the supermarket.

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TROPICAL ISLAND TEA

Nectar Cubes:
1 can (11.5 ounces) tropical-flavored nectar (such as pineapple-
orange,
passion fruit, guava or pineapple-coconut)
Tea:
4 cups hot brewed tea
1/4 cup honey
2 cups sparkling water
Pineapple or kiwifruit slices for garnish.

For nectar cubes: Pour nectar into one ice cube tray. Freeze until
cubes are set.

For tea: Add honey to hot tea and stir until combined. Allow tea to
cool to room temperature; add sparkling water. Stir and serve poured
over nectar cubes. Garnish with pineapple or kiwifruit slices.

-- Adapted from Nestea
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Tea can be the base of a flavored punch for parties. Here, with fruit
and a splash of wine, iced tea becomes a festive sangria.


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ICED TEA SANGRIA PUNCH

Serves 8 to 10

8 cups water
4 tea bags (any black tea)
8 tablespoons sugar
1 thinly sliced lemon
1 thinly sliced orange
1 cup freshly squeeze orange juice
2 cups dry red wine
Ice cubes

Bring water to boil in saucepan. Remove from heat. Add tea bags; steep
4 minutes. Remove tea bags; pour tea into pitcher. Add sugar to taste
and stir until sugar dissolves. Cool to room temperature.

To serve, combine tea, fruit, juice and wine in a punch bowl. Ladle
sangria over ice into wide-rimmed wineglasses or punch cups.