Friday, June 19, 2015

The Best Tea in the World

by Shirley Hailstock

Since Father's Day and Independence Day are practically upon us, I thought about my father and one of the gifts he gave me.  I was also reminded of a previous trip to England by several of my friends (who were in Ireland) posting messages on Facebook.  One thing I enjoy and miss about England tea time.  The entire country seems to stop for an hour and enjoy a soothing cup of tea and a little conversation.

Photo Credit: Morguefile

I have a friend in D.C. that I’ve known since college.  She’s a neo-natal nurse.  We met when she was in nursing school.  I tutored her in chemistry and we became life-long friends.  She spent a lot of time in my apartment and used to say I made the best iced tea in the world.  Of course, I thought she was being facetious since I had very little money and tea bags were the only drink I could afford to buy.  Consequently, there was always tea in my refrigerator.  I didn’t find out until long after I'd married and had children that she actually meant it.

My son also says I make the best tea in the world.  He’s unaware of the comments from my nurse-friend.  But he should know.  He’s traveled from Canada to Australia, New Zealand to Ireland, England to Scandinavia, seen a lot of the world and drank a lot of tea (his refreshment of choice).  For several days one summer when he was about ten, he watched me make tea, asking questions about how much of this and how long to let it boil.  Then one of his friends’ parents I ran across in the local grocery store mentioned the tea.  Apparently, my son had gone to her house and made them the best tea in the world.  Once he called me from Germany when he was an exchange student to find out how to make the tea for his German family.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Tea has been a part of human life since the Stone Age.  Yet people used to only drink it iced in the summer time.  Tea has now become an any time drink.  I think my father personally championed this change, since we had iced tea year-round as I grew up in Buffalo, New York.  My father was from South Carolina where tea is a staple.

He didn’t teach me to make it, however.  And I didn't experiment with different ingredients.  I just happened to try a different type of tea when I was low on tea bags and suddenly I had people turning their heads like on a television commercial and asking, “Who made this?”  I will give a little credit to my father for one ingredient although the knowledge came to me indirectly through one of my sisters.  She told me about the baking soda.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Sun Tea was popular about ten years ago and I tried that, but quickly realized it was only a method of getting people to buy more tea bags and therefore making the tea companies more profits.  Quickly, I dropped that idea.  One reason was the inconvenience.  Sun Tea had to sit in the sun for hours to brew.  I’d have to get it ready and put it outside in the morning before leaving for work.  With all I had to do to get three people up dressed, breakfast prepared and eaten, beds made, and lunches ready (with kids who are not morning people), who had time to think about Sun Tea?  And when it was gone, you couldn’t make more on the spot.  Plus my kids didn’t think it was as good and the kind you boiled on the stove.  So following the path of least resistance, I went back to the tried and true.

Photo Credit: Morguefile

In my first book, Under the Sheets, I loaned my heroine the recipe for the tea.  She owned a restaurant and it was a favorite of her patrons.  It was also the defining moment for the hero when he discovers she’s the same woman he’d known and loved in the past.  I put the recipe in that book.  And here it is for you.  I hope you like it.

Photo Credit: Pixabay & Morguefile

Apple Spiced Iced Tea

2 regular tea bags (a cheap brand, store brand is fine)
1 apple spice herbal tea bag
Sugar (to taste or optional)
Baking soda (as much as you can pinch between two fingers)
Cold water

Photo Credit: Morguefile

Fill a small sauce pan half full of cold water.  Add the three tea bags and bring to a boil. Boil for two minutes.  Remove from stove and add a pinch of soda (The box keeping your refrigerator fresh is fine to use.  The soda will make the tea bubble to the top of the pan, so be careful.  It will also give the mixture a rich, dark color.)  Fill a half-gallon size pitcher half full of cold water.  Pour tea into a pitcher and stir.  (Discard tea bags.)  Add sugar to taste.  Fill pitcher to top with more cold water.  Serve over ice.

Note:  Do not add lemon.  The strength of the lemon juice will negate the apple spice influence.

Substitutions:  You can substitute any herbal tea you desire and experiment with the flavor.  I’ve used Orange Spice and Cinnamon Apple Spice with good results.

Shirley Hailstock