It’s summer again in Pittsburgh, and that means it’s time for bizarre on-and-off rain, sauna-level humidity in the overpolluted streets — and our favorite: Delicious, home-brewed iced tea.
Well, something has to keep us going!
The thing about home-brew tea is that so much can go wrong with it. It will still be refreshing no matter what you do, being a cold, consumable liquid, but the number of ways to ruin black tea here is really astounding. You can overbrew it until it tastes almost chalky on your tongue; you can add the wrong sweetener at the wrong time and screw up your pitcher with a cold, hard mass of gross; you can let it sit in until coliform bacteria grows inside it, making it the most disgusting thing since that video your father forgot to erase that was labeled, “Wedding.”
Does this mean you should reach for that Lipton can? NO. No, no, no! You put that corn-syrupy mess away, and roll out a bag of loose-leaf rooibos.
Rooibos, or “red tea,” is less likely to harbor nasty bacteria than black tea leaves (though, to be fair, it might still be in your tap water). To be on the safe side, you’ll still want to kick off your iced tea batch by boiling, but you can sleep a little better at night with a red iced tea in the ‘fridge, if you don’t plan to finish a batch within a few days.
The other great thing about rooibos is that it’s impossible to overbrew; while you want to take black tea out of your brew within six minutes or so, to make sure it doesn’t get bitter, you can leave a red tea in there forever. It can get as dark as it likes, and it’s never going to make your mouth feel like the woody end of a cranberry bog.
Here is this year’s recipe for iced tea, officially sponsored by your Examiner, including the lovely Pittsburgh shops where the various components were procured:
STEEL CITY TEA
Makes 2 quarts
1 tsp. Sunshine Lemon Rooibos (Prestogeorge Coffee & Tea, Penn Ave., Strip District)
2 tsp. Blood Orange Rooibos (Prestogeorge)
3 tsp. Winter Palace Marzipan Rooibos (Margaret’s Fine Imports, Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill)
2 tsp. Monk’s Blend (Margaret’s)
Mix tea into a large tea ball, or other brewing device that can hold the all and sink to the bottom of a two-quart pitcher.
Pour boiling water over the mixture; let brew no more than five minutes.
Fill the rest of the pitcher with water, up to two quarts.
Shake or stir as desired, until the whole business is colorful! Then take out the tea ball, and place tea into refrigerator.
Add ice cubes to pitcher or pour over ice as desired, if you want to drink it quickly. (And why wouldn’t you?)
If you really must add sweetener, add your desired amount to each cup — recommended in the form of simple syrup or agave nectar.
Why this mix? Well, the Sunshine Lemon gives us a classic lemon taste with a little twist: Lemon grass! This south-Asian favorite aromatic gives our brew a little kick. To add to the citrus, Prestogeorge’s delightfully strong Blood Orange was the subject of an earlier article, on its own, and it lends its refreshing strengths to our brew. The Winter Palace from Margaret’s tempers the citrus with smooth amaretto, rounding out the flavor and keeping it from tasting too acidic, while the obligatory black tea (OK, it’s what makes iced tea taste like home!) we’ve chosen has subtle hints of passion fruit, vanilla, and grenadine, to augment the flavor mixture we’ve already chosen.
(If any of the citrus red teas are out of stock, you can substitute similar flavors, or plain rooibos, or put in different amounts of the rooibos selections. You could add more than the 2 tsp. of Monk’s Blend, but you wouldn’t really be making this tea, anymore — and you might regret having that much vanilla . . .)
The key to a bright summer is a bright iced tea! Use rooibos to your advantage, and make sure that the thirst quencher you reach for this year doesn’t leave you in the dark.