I’ll be honest, I usually use the cheapest teabags I can find. I’ve heard that cheap tea doesn’t taste as good as better quality tea. I agree with this statement. However, if you are adding sugar to your tea, the quality of the tea itself becomes far less noticeable. If you prefer unsweetened tea, the quality of your tea may be more important.
I admit to buying 8-ounce boxes of loose tea now and then, when I find them on sale, and I have to say, that when unsweetened, it tastes a far sight better than the cheap teabags I normally buy. Loose tea doesn’t seem to turn bitter, even when I over-brew it, because I’ve forgotten it in the kitchen while I’m busy overseeing a complicated science experiment.
Good quality, loose tea is sometimes on sale. Ounce for ounce it costs only slightly more than the cheapest teabags. The brand I find most often in supermarkets is Lipton Loose Tea. If you want the best quality for the best price, then loose tea is a good bargain. If you prefer the most savings and the most convenience, and especially if you prefer sweet tea, then the cheapest tea bags are fine.
Another admission, I’ve switched up the way I make tea over time. I used to brew it for 10 minutes. Then for a while I brewed it for 20 to 30 minutes. When made with cheap teabags, brewing tea for this long made it bitter. Then I tried brewing my tea for 5 to 7 minutes. It wasn’t as strong as I like, so it needed more teabags. This avoided the bitterness sometimes present in cheap tea, but it cost more. What I’ve come back to is the 10 minute brew.
With loose tea or the cheapest teabags ($1.29 for 100 teabags is the lowest price tea I can find), 10 minutes of brewing seems to be the best compromise between economy and quality. I always add lemon juice to my tea. A small amount of lemon juice adds a certain sparkle to plain tea, or even sweetened tea, that plain tea simply doesn’t have by itself. For a gallon of tea, 2-tablespoons of lemon juice isn’t really noticeable to the flavor, but it does make the tea taste fresher and better. I’m not sure how it works, I just know it does. If you prefer a stronger lemon flavor (like me) simply add more lemon juice to taste. I prefer to make tea a gallon at a time, but you can make more or less as you prefer. The recipe divides or halves very easily.
Perfect Iced Tea
- 12 teabags, or 2-tablespoons loose tea in a large tea-ball
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar, optional
- 2 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice
Fill a 2-quart saucepan halfway with water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. When the water boils turn off the stove but leave the pot on the hot burner. Place the teabags or the tea-ball in the boiling water. Allow the water to steep for 10 minutes, no more, no less. After steeping remove the teabags and toss them out. They’ve served their purpose and can be tossed without a modicum of guilt. If you compost then cut open the tea bags so they will decompose more quickly.
While the tea is steeping, fill a gallon-sized pitcher half full of water. You do this to buffer the hot tea. The tea is hot when it’s done steeping. If you pour very hot tea into a plastic pitcher it may melt. To avoid this possibility half-fill the pitcher with cool water before adding the tea. Add the sugar and lemon juice to the half-filled pitcher if desired. Stir until the sugar dissolves. When the tea is finished brewing pour it into the pitcher. It will be hot so be careful not to burn yourself.
Add enough water to fill the pitcher full. Stir briefly to blend. Chill until needed. Tastes best served cold.
If you prefer very sweet tea then use up to 1-cup of sugar per gallon of tea. To me it’s overkill but there are plenty of good decent folks who disagree with me, so I reckon it’s not for me to judge. When I make tea just for myself I don’t add any sweetener at all. Unsweetened with lemon is my favorite.
Makes 1-gallon or 8-servings; 2-cups each.
Per 2-cup serving: 33 Calories; trace Fat (0.3% calories from fat); trace Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 5mg Sodium.
Exchanges: 1/2 Other Carbohydrates. (Assuming 12-teabags, 1/4-cup sugar and 2-tablespoons lemon juice.)
- Green Tea and Herbal Tea can be brewed just like black tea.
- Add herbal teabags to black tea for extra flavor, or mix and match to make favorite combinations.
- Green tea is especially good with both lemon and sugar.
- To make Mint Tea prepare a gallon of tea using 12 teabags. Add an extra 4 bags of herbal mint tea. Brew as directed. You can omit any lemon juice or retain it to make Lemon Mint Tea. I prefer this version sweetened with 1/2-cup sugar to a gallon of tea.