Whether you are sipping tea alone or as part of a savory or sweet course, there are many ways to enhance its flavor that would appeal to even someone who claims to dislike every variety of tea. My personal favorites are Earl Grey, peppermint, and oolong. My least favorite is chamomile. When faced by a strong and often bitter tea like black tea, my solution is a lot of cream and sweetener. Of course, if you’re looking for a sweet, non-alcoholic beverage, the answer may be chai…which provides a blend of spices that overcomes a multitude of errors that can occur in the brewing process.
Sun brewed tea is the beverage I most frequently cite in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mysteries. This may bring images of a large bottle filled with water and a few tea bags set out in the sun. And that is indeed how most people prepare it. But because of health issues, you may want to follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and the National Tea Association, which I offer below.
Prior to making any tea, you need to determine the type of tea and the volume you wish to make. I have found most recipes use a ratio of 4 tea bags [or 5 teaspoons of tea leaves] per quart of water. Your next consideration is the container you will use for the steeping process. Teapot or bottle, make sure the container is clean. If making a large quantity of tea, use a large glass bottle or jug with a secure cap.
HEALTH SAFETY PRECAUTIONS
The following guidelines for making sun tea are suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and the National Tea Association.
~ Brew tea bags at 195° Fahrenheit [91° Celsius ] for three to five minutes
I believe they mean for one to use a small amount of water for this step in the process
~ Brew only enough tea to be consumed within a few hours
~ Tea bags can be placed in a refrigerator for overnight brewing
For all brewing methods, remember that the longer tea is steeped, the more bitter it becomes
~ Never maintain brewed tea more than eight hours at room temperature
~ Discard unused tea after eight hours
THE SUN BREWING PROCESS
If you choose to place your container with water and tea in the sun, you need to determine the warmth of sunshine in your area that day. I found that many recipes suggest that the optimal environment for brewing sun tea is placing the container in full sun in a temperature of about 100° degrees F [38° C] for three to five hours. Whether on the counter, in the sun, or the refrigerator, the longer you leave the tea in the water, the more bitter the taste will become. That is why traditional steeping in a teapot is for about five minutes.
ENHANCING THE FLAVOR PROFILE
If you are making the tea for your personal consumption, you probably already know how you like your beverage. But if you are in the mood to experiment, or are preparing a beverage for an event, there are some additives you might want to consider, keeping in mind that you want to appeal to the majority of any guests partaking of your brew.
~ You may want to leave your batch of tea unsweetened, if you are using it for a gathering of people whose dietary needs are unknown
~ If you choose to add a sweetener, you have several choices
Be aware that while sugar dissolves quickly in warm liquids, it does not in cold beverages
Honey comes from many sources, and can be very specific in flavor
I find Agave syrup [in varied color and depth of flavor] fairly neutral
~ Fruits and juices, such as lemon, peach, and mango are quite popular
~ Spices such as allspice, cinnamon or clove add a depth of flavor
~ Herbs, such as mint are a classic touch; you can experiment with ones that complement the rest of your menu
~ For those seeking an alcoholic kick, there are many cocktails from which to choose, but we’ll save that topic for another day
~ I often mention using pineapple cores as a decorative as well as flavorful stir stick [This has been a popular feature in Island restaurants for a very long time, as it utilizes a product otherwise ignored and tossed out]
~ Sprigs of fresh mint or other herbs add a final touch of elegance to a tall glass of tea
~ You might even consider making ice cubes with just a few pieces of crushed fresh herbs
I have not specified which herbs you might want to include in your tea making. As mentioned with other recipes, it’s entirely a matter of personal taste. While I enjoy Earl Grey tea, I don’t particularly care for the scent of lavender, so that’s not an herb I put in my tea. Classic herbs for tea include mint, lemon verbena, thyme, and jasmine. Be daring, try something new, in small measure, until you determine your preference!
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