Iced tea is a thirst-quenching and energizing homemade drink, perfect in spring, summer and whenever you feel like it. Here are the secrets to prepare an excellent homemade iced tea!
The tea infusion, which is prepared with the leaves of a plant known as Camelia Sinensis, boasts numerous beneficial properties, in particular due to the presence of antioxidants, such as polyphenols, which help to counteract the harmful action exerted by free radicals. preventing cellular aging and ischemic heart disease, and counteracting tumor formations.
Regular tea consumption is able to regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels, preventing diabetes and atherosclerotic plaques. The tea also contains theanine, a substance with an anti- stress action.
To prepare an excellent iced tea , the important thing is to choose quality tea (and fruit, if you decide to add it), preferably organic, i.e. free of chemical pesticides.
The water to be used to prepare the tea should have a low fixed residue, to prevent the tea from being excessively cloudy. As for fruit, in addition to choosing organic, it must be in season, as it is richer in nutritional and organoleptic properties. Let’s see what the different types of tea are.
The differences between the various types of tea: green, white, black, oolong, rooibos
All types of tea on the market derive from the Camelia Sinensis plant, native to Southeast Asia. They are then distinguished by the different processes, which determine the chromatic differences between them. The only exception is rooibos, improperly called red tea, but which is actually an infusion obtained from the leaves of a shrub, called Aspalathus linearis.
Green tea takes on this color as it is not fermented but is treated with heat that allows it to maintain the green color. It is produced, according to the traditional method, by exposing it to the sun for a few hours, and then subjected to heat in woks or with steam, and subsequently folded and left to dry.
This type of tea has diuretic and draining properties, therefore ideal for those suffering from water retention and cellulite. It has numerous antioxidants, which protect against tissue oxidation. In particular, green tea is rich in an antioxidant known as epigallocatechin-gallate, which helps prevent various types of cancer. The consumption of green tea also allows you to rebalance blood sugar levels, with beneficial effects on diabetes, and to lower bad cholesterol levels. Green tea is mainly produced in China, Taiwan and Japan.
White tea owes its name to the presence of a white down on the still closed buds. It is obtained from the buds of the tea plant before they open, which are dried in the sunlight. It is a very valuable type of tea, which produces a light yellow infusion. The concentration of antioxidants present in white tea exceeds that of other types of tea, which is why it is much more powerful in the preventive phase. In addition, it thins the blood, balances blood pressure and stimulates the widespread immune system. White tea is very valuable, as it is produced in small quantities, mostly in China.
Oolong tea, also called blue tea, is a tea that has undergone a partial oxidation process so it is a semi-oxidized (or semi-fermented) tea, and this process leads to the characteristic blue-green color of its infusion. To make oolong tea, the leaves are not harvested too early, and are dried in the sun in special bamboo baskets. These baskets are shaken to induce fragmentation of the leaves, whose edges take on a reddish color due to the oxidative process. Depending on the degree of fermentation of the tea, one can distinguish an oolong more similar to green tea (which generally comes with rolled leaves) or, conversely, if the fermentation is over 50%, there will be characteristics more similar to black tea ( usually it comes with extended leaves). In any case, it is a tea rich in vitamin C, which stimulates the immune system and strengthens the blood capillaries, and in antioxidants. The production of oolong tea takes place mainly in China and Taiwan.
This type of tea, with a dark color, is produced through several steps. First the leaves are dried, then rolled up and then unrolled and left in contact with oxygen. Oxidation induces fermentation and red coloring of the leaves. Finally, the leaves are dried. This tea, too, has a good amount of antioxidant substances and strengthens the immune defenses, as well as promoting remineralization. Black tea is produced especially in India, Africa but also in China.
As already mentioned, rooibos is not a real tea, as it is not obtained from the Camelia Sinensis plant but from that of Aspalathus linearis. Once harvested, the leaves and twigs of this plant are dried and then crushed and fermented. The infusion obtained from the leaves and twigs of Rooibos takes on a dark red color, and for this reason it is also called African red tea. The infusion of rooibos is rich in mineral salts, antioxidants and vitamin C, has little caffeine and has an adaptogenic action. It is produced only in Africa, in the southern regions.
Tea in bags or leaves?
Leaf tea is preferable to tea bags. First, the paper sachets may contain toxic substances, such as epichlorohydrin. Furthermore, tea is very often present in the sachets in the form of powder and not leaves, in this way it tends to release an exaggerated quantity of tannins, resulting in a greater astringent flavor; for these reasons, to fully appreciate the true flavor of tea, it is better to choose the one in leaves.
Cold brew tea, what it is and how it is done: timing and correct procedure
The method of cold brewing, also called Cold Brew, consists of placing tea bags or dried leaves in water at room temperature.In the latter case, you can choose whether to pour the tea leaves directly into the water and then filter, or if you prefer you can use convenient infusers with small holes, in which the tea leaves are inserted to infuse them in water.
Cold infusion times vary from 2 to 5 hours, depending on the type of tea. At fridge temperatures, 2 hours for green and black tea, 3 hours for rooibos and 4-5 hours for oloong and white tea. With a shorter infusion than the recommended one, you will get a lighter tea, especially as regards the content of theine and tannic acid, while with a longer infusion you will get a tea with a stronger and bitter flavor. If you want to get a tea with a more intense and savory taste, without risking a bitter taste, the advice is to increase the amount of tea infused, and not the infusion time. Let’s see the procedure:
- In a glass jug, pour a liter of mineral water at room temperature;
- Add 2 level spoons of good quality tea leaves, directly into the carafe or in the special infusers (alternatively use 3 tea bags);
- Cover the glass jug with a lid and let it rest in the fridge for a variable time depending on the type of tea (minimum 2 hours);
- After the infusion time has elapsed, strain the tea leaves or remove the infuser (or sachets);
- Keep your iced tea in the fridge, ready to be enjoyed whenever you feel like it.
Tea prepared with cold infusion has a sweeter flavor than hot brewing, as there is less extraction of catechins and theine. Furthermore, several scientific studies show that cold extraction allows maximum antioxidant activity as it prevents the degradation of bioactive molecules caused by exposure to high temperatures.
The tea prepared with cold infusion can be kept in the fridge tightly closed for 3-4 days. If, on the other hand, you use fruit to flavor it, it must be consumed within 2 days.
Preparation of iced tea with the hot method: timing and correct procedure
Iced tea can also be prepared with the classic hot infusion method. To do this, you need to put a liter of mineral water in a saucepan and turn on the fire. Turn off when the water is at the first boil and pour the water into a glass or porcelain container (not metal, which alters the flavor of the tea) and put the infuser with 2 tablespoons of tea leaves or two bags. For the infusion times, specific temperatures should be respected for the different types of tea. For green tea, 75-80 ° C is enough for 3 minutes, black tea 95 ° C for 2 minutes, Oolong and white tea 80 ° C for 3 minutes, rooibos 95 ° C for 4 minutes. At the end of the infusion, remove the sachets or strain and pour into a glass or porcelain jug. To cool the tea infusion, you can leave it at room temperature and then put it in the fridge when cold, or you can put the jug with the tea infusion in a bowl containing ice cubes, in order to cool more quickly.
For tea brewed with hot infusion, times are very tight and range from 2 to 4 minutes, depending on the tea blend. Furthermore, the water must not be boiling, generally it is recommended to use water at around 80 ° C. For further information on hot preparation and infusion times, we recommend that you read our article dedicated to tea preparation.
How to sweeten iced tea
To fully benefit from the nutritional properties of tea, the ideal would be not to sweeten it. For those used to sweet flavors, they can gradually decrease the amount of sugar until the palate gets used to it. An unsweetened drink is certainly healthier, because it has no kilocalories and does not raise blood sugar, but it is also more thirst-quenching.
If you just can’t help but sweeten your tea, a stevia -based sweetener is the best choice, as it is calorie-free and does not alter blood sugar. Its sweetening power is very high, a spoonful of it will be enough for a liter of tea, to be dissolved after the infusion, as it is very soluble.
Alternatively, you can add at the end, after the infusion, 2 tablespoons of agave, maple or date syrup, or some simple honey, perhaps acacia, with a more delicate taste. Brown sugar or coconut sugar are also valid alternatives to white sugar, in the amount of 2 tablespoons per one liter, to be dissolved in warm water, stirring well, before putting in the fridge.
Iced tea with fruit: seasonal ideas and combinations
A simple and pleasant way to enjoy tea is to flavor it with pieces of fruit that you can vary according to the seasons. The pieces of fruit can be added at the beginning of the infusion, in the case of the cold method, while in the case of the hot infusion, they must be added once the infusion has cooled, otherwise the flavor of the cooked fruit. In the end, you can choose whether to pour the tea together with the fruit pieces into the glasses or filter them.
Iced fruit tea is an excellent drink to quench our thirst in the summer, refreshing and healthy, as there are no preservatives and artificial flavors found in ready-made drinks.
In summer you can add pieces of fresh pineapple or peach to green tea, or melon or watermelon to black tea. Or, cherries are excellent when paired with oolong tea. Also ideal are the pieces of apricot or medlar with rooibos but also red fruits with white tea.
In autumn you can add pieces of white grapes to green tea or black grapes to rooibos or pomegranate grains to oolong tea. During the winter season, small pieces of apple or pear are excellent to add to white tea, perhaps with a pinch of cinnamon, or slices of orange to accompany green tea.
In spring, green light for strawberries, to be cut and added to black tea or rooibos, or kiwi, to combine with green tea. In every season, lemon tea is excellent, which goes perfectly with all types of tea and is obtained by adding lemon slices to the infusion or directly with lemon juice.