Something a bit more enjoyable: Iced Tea!

Homemade Iced Tea in-fact.  (cause I need cheering up)

This started out several years ago.  In an attempt to loose weight I cut all soda’s, and sugary drinks out of my day.  I lost less than 5lbs.  Sigh.  Anyway, I discovered that although I didn’t miss the soda’s (which I now only have if we’re eating out, and then only ONE and don’t let them refill my glass), I DID get sick of nothing but water, or lemon water, all the time.  I looked at the iced tea’s sold in the stores, and cringed at the list of ingredients.  Next thing I knew I was making my own.  It took some trial and error to find a method that was easy, and worked consistently to produce really good iced tea.

The first thing you need is a slow cooker (or crock pot, same difference) that will hold at least 3/4 the liquid contents of your chosen pitcher.  Yes, a slow cooker trust me.

Next you need tea.  Sure, you can use anything you like, but I grew up in a family of tea snobs.  I’ve been ordering loose leaf tea from Upton Tea since I was a teenager (well, ok, my dad was the one ordering tea when I was a teen, close enough).  I’ve looked around, and for the quantity, and quality, there’s no match for price.  Which isn’t to say that the other tea companies are no good (there are some really nice teas out there), but if I find one that has good tea, their price is higher than Upton’s, at least at the quantities I buy it in.  For the recipe below I use peppermint, spearmint, and honeybush vanilla.

I also buy teapot sized tea bags from Upton cause I hate trying to strain the tea after the fact, but you can do whatever you feel like.

Now, my tea pitcher holds a full gallon of water, my slow cooker is an itsy bitsy model that holds about 3/4 of that, which is actually perfect for what I do, if your slow cooker is bigger you may have to play around with the exact amount of water to use.  At any rate, I fill the slow cooker with water and turn it on high, don’t put the lid on yet though.

I “measure” out the tea as follows:

3 very heaping teaspoons (tableware teaspoons, not measuring spoon teaspoons) of the honeybush vanilla
6 very heaping teaspoons of the peppermint
9 very heaping teaspoons of the spearmint
(I know, awesome measurements huh?  I guess I ought to weigh it out or something one of these days)

since I use teabags everything is put into the teabags, closed with a clip (purchased from Upton as well, but they’re reusable), and then dump teabags into the slow cooker.  If you’re not using teabags just dump it all in.  I’ve tried infusers, but they don’t seem to make them big enough, that will actually stay closed and won’t leak tea leaves.

Put the lid on the slow cooker, and set a timer for 2 hours.  Yes, two hours.  Now walk away.  Come back when the timer goes off.  Turn off slow cooker.  If you use teabags, or infusers or whatever, remove them from the tea, if you’re going to filter it set your filter up.  Pour tea into pitcher (this can take practice so don’t panic when you miss the pitcher the first time, just make sure the pitcher is set in the sink so spills aren’t a problem).

Now, the mints do need sweetening to bring out the flavor, what you use is up to you though, I use plain old white sugar, but there’s no reason why you can’t use honey, or artificial sweeteners or what have you, but whatever you’re going to use, put it in now while the tea is still hot and stir it up well.  Once its all stirred add enough extra cold water to the pitcher to fill it the rest of the way, cover and set into the fridge.  It’ll take a few hours to cool down though you can have a glass earlier with the help of ice cubes.

Now, everyone who actually “does” tea is cringing right now, first off, a SLOW COOKER, and for 2 HOURS???  Yes, I’m serious.  The slow cooker heats slowly enough that by the end of two hours the temperature is barely 150 degrees (at least in mine), which means that no, the tea doesn’t get bitter, cause although its a long time, its no where near high heat.  And this method produces more consistent results than boiling water then timing the brewing for the right number of minutes.