Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Good Slap in the Face

My Brother-in-law is visiting from Italy.  He mentioned once on a previous visit that green tea is very expensive in Italy, so I always have a bag of his favorite Japanese Sencha on hand during his visits.  I brewed it for him once or twice using the brewing instructions my mom and I painstakingly created for Two for Tea. Each of our bags of hand packed tea came with brewing instructions for maximum enjoyment.

Mr. Brother-in-law laughed when I pulled out the timer the first time. "You take tea way too seriously," he quipped.

Of course I take it too seriously, I thought--duh!

I have actually heard him say, on more than one occasion, that he likes his Sencha so strong "it jumps up out of the cup and slaps him in the face." Yuck! Apparently my perfectly timed brew is a bit weak for his taste. We shared a laugh about his comment, but to me over brewing is no laughing matter. Because I drink mostly Black tea, when I want Green or White tea I have no shame in referring to the instructions, getting out the measuring spoon and setting the timer.

Here are my key points on appropriately brewing tea: Use good water (spring or filtered tap) and measure both the tea and the water. Using too much tea can taste as bad as over brewing. Generally speaking you will want to use 1 heaping teaspoon for each 6 ounce cup. For Green Tea the water temperature is critical! Heat the water to 185 to 190 F. How the heck do you know when it is 185? If you don't have a programmable kettle--and I don't--heat the water until the first few wisps of steam start to escape.


Follow the manufacturer's steeping time suggestion and pour all the tea from the brewed leaves at once. Any liquid left in the pot continues to steep. Green and White teas usually brew for 1 to 2 minutes, Black tea for 3 to 4 minutes.

Adjust to suit your taste. Or for a good slap in the face.

Sharing the love of tea,


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Minty Fresh Summer

I am not a big fan of iced tea.  This is mainly the result of many disappointing glasses of mediocre restaurant iced tea.  In the summer however, I do tend to indulge, but I prefer to make it at home in the style of my paternal grandmother, Elvira Jackson.   Grandma Jackson made amazing iced tea!  During my annual summer visits to Bessemer, Alabama, she'd make what seemed like endless pitchers of it--brown, super sweet and with sprigs of fresh mint.  In all my worldly adolescent travels, I knew of no other person clever enough to use mint in iced tea.  Genius, I concluded. 

My involvement in making the iced tea, or anything else in Elvira Jackson's kitchen, was usually relegated to picking some vegetable or herb in the sprawling backyard garden behind the house.  Under heavy direction from one or both grandparents, I'd select the best possible sprigs.  In that garden, during those long, summer days, I learned a lot about gardening.  Much of the knowledge  I employ today in my own garden was obtained, by osmosis, on iced tea afternoons. 

photo: dara jackson wiggins

So, when the mint plant near the garage at my own home started taking over our sunny border,  I came up with the idea for making Mint Simple Syrup to jazz up regular Black Iced Tea.  This homage to my grandmother borrows from her original "recipe" but uses more mint and keeps nicely in the fridge for a month or more.  

I still put a fresh sprig in my glass as a tribute to Elvira.   I think she would approve.

Sharing the love of minted iced tea,


Mint Simple Syrup
1 cup mint leaves
1 cup sugar (I prefer brown sugar)
1 cup water

Bring the mint, sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from heat and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid into an airtight container like a mason jar and refrigerate until ready to use or at least three hours. Syrup will keep in the refrigerator for about a month.

Using Mint Simple Syrup in Iced Tea: Brew your favorite tea according to instructions for making iced tea. Add simple syrup to taste.  Stir, taste and add more if desired.  I usually start with about a 1/4 cup for 2 quarts of tea.  Unless you like really, really sweet--like Southern style--iced tea, DO NOT ADD sugar!

Blog Archive