Local readers take warm comfort from good ice tea

HAPPY EATER

July 18, 1993|By ROB KASPER

Tea touches a nerve, or maybe a taste bud. Prompted by a column I wrote four weeks ago describing various ways to make ice tea, tea lovers have written letters, offered comments and sent in recipes.

One correspondent compared the hot tea brewed in Russia with that in China. Others testified to the benefits of cold brewing -- that is, making tea by soaking the loose tea or tea bags in a jar of water overnight.

And one sent in a recipe for quickie tea -- instant tea mixed with instant orange drink.

There is only one way to handle this outpouring of tea information. And that is to treat it the same way you would a big pitcher of ice tea. Namely, pass it around.

On Russian teapots, Chinese tea leaves:

From: Lou True, Pasadena.

Re: Statement in column that I prefer ceramic teapots to metal ones.

Dear Happy Eater,

My wife and I just returned from a trip to Russia. . . . No matter where we got our tea, whether in an airliner, a hotel restaurant, or in our room after a nightmarish night on a Russian "sleeper" train, the tea was always poured in our cups from a big, shiny metal teakettle.

It was a kettle with a wide handle or a wooden or plastic section in the center where your hand went. The kettle had a flat bottom. . . . The outside was chrome-finished and looked as though it held at least a half-gallon. The tea was good, and hot.

Two years ago we had been in China. In China I looked forward to the tea. Since China was another place you had to be very cautious in getting close to the water, I thought the tea would be a great treat.

It wasn't. The tea we had there was tepid. That alone was enough to be worried about, but the Chinese did not filter the tea leaves, and you spent some time taking wet tea leaves from your lips. Chinese beer, however, was very good.

Anyway, I saw that hot tea can be made successfully in metal teakettles.

Eater Comments: Recently, when I was stuck for a teapot, I brewed some tea in an old metal coffee pot, and the tea tasted tinny. Maybe the metallic taste was a product of my imagination. Or maybe how to brew tea in metal pots is the last secret of the Russian empire.

On instant-gratification tea:

From: Janice G. Beck, Columbia.

Dear Happy Eater,

You seem to have found some methods for making ice tea that you like. However, if you want a quick method that gives . . . instant gratification, here is a recipe we have enjoyed for years.

Quick tea

1 cup low-calorie ice tea mix, lemon favored (I use Lipton's sweetened with saccharin, but the one with NutraSweet is OK.)

1/2 cup orange Tang

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Mix ingredients. To make a glass of immediate ice tea, simply place 2 heaping teaspoons of the mixture in an 8-ounce glass, fill with water and ice cubes. Presto! Your thirst is quenched. The drink can be made stronger or weaker by adjusting the number of teaspoons of the mixture that you add to the water.

Eater comments: I used to rail against instant tea, calling it cheating and accusing it of ruining the tea-making art. But a couple of days ago I called the woman who makes some of the best ice tea in the world, my mom. She told me she had this terrific new way of making ice tea. She uses an instant tea mix with lemon and sugar in it.

I am still not converted to instant tea, but I am leaning.

On dark, cold, never-cloudy tea:

From: B. J. Pierce, Aberdeen

Dear Happy Eater,

This is one of our homemade favorites. We call it restaurant tea.

You fill a 1-quart, glass juice container with cold water. You add six family-size tea bags or 12 regular-size bags. Place the container in the refrigerator overnight, preferably 24 hours. You can adjust the strength by adding water.

It is cold, delicious and clear, and does not cloud when ice is added.

Eater comments: I am hooked on this cold brewing method. I am also fond of sugar, and thanks to a tip passed along by another reader, I have figured out how to get the sugar to dissolve in a pitcher of ice tea. I mix the sugar and some warm water in a glass, then pour the sugar water into the pitcher and stir.

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