The great tea debate

This Side of the Pond

By Sarah Pridgeon

Elsewhere in this issue (SEE BELOW), we have published a guide to making iced tea. We have done so despite my protestations that, in light of this newspaper’s staffing configuration, we ought to officially declare ourselves a hot tea establishment. I even threatened to stop using American grammar in all my articles until nasty, cold tea was banished from these premises, but they just threatened to hide my biscuit tin.

Though my fellow staff members cruelly refused to ban the revolting concoction, because they all think it’s delicious, they did suggest I write a rebuttal. Unfortunately, I have already imposed tea schooling on you in a previous column and there seems little more to say on the matter.

So I have devised a cunning plan. It occurs to me that you, my transatlantic cousins, are easily tempted by the notion of covering your Oreo cookies in milk and scoffing the resultant soggy mess. I have embraced Oreos-and-milk as a beautiful thing.

It also occurs to me that tea-and-biscuits (the cookie kind, not the ones you cover in gravy) is a similar experience, though at a different temperature point. One dunks a biscuit or two in a piping hot cuppa and munches the result.

A biscuit won’t melt in a cup of iced tea, which got me to thinking: if I can entice you with a biscuit experience, perhaps I can also tempt you away from iced tea, which I still maintain is a terrible thing to do to a teabag.

Of course, because you can’t really get English biscuits over here, I must rely on the many wonderful bakers in this community to attempt homemade versions and report back. Purely for selfless research reasons, I would be more than happy to sample any experiments.

I shall begin with the recipe for a Bourbon biscuit which, despite the implications of the name, was named for the Royal French House of Bourbon and is not actually a clever way to hide an afternoon tipple. It is two pieces of dark chocolate biscuit sandwiched together with buttercream.
To make a batch, you will need to cream together two ounces each of butter and sugar and then beat in a tablespoon of corn syrup. Sift together four ounces of flour with half a teaspoon of baking soda and two thirds of an ounce of cocoa powder and then work the two mixtures together.

Knead well, cut into rectangles and bake for 15-20 minutes at 160 degrees. While the biscuits are cooling, mix together three ounces of confectioners’ sugar with two ounces of butter and a tablespoon each of cocoa powder and coffee essence (or actual coffee if you don’t have any). Spread the filling on a biscuit, place another on top and you have a Bourbon.

Garibaldi biscuits are even easier to make. Because of the dried fruit, they are often referred to in tea-taking circles as “squashed fly biscuits,” which I’m aware is not a mental image that will immediately compel you to whip up a batch.

To make your squashed fly biscuits, first chop two ounces of dried fruit into itty bitty pieces. Then place four ounces of self-raising flour in a bowl and rub in an ounce of butter with your fingertips. Stir in an ounce of sugar and add a tablespoon or two of milk until the mixture becomes a stiff dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and roll it out to around an eighth of an inch in thickness, then cut it in half. Sprinkle one half evenly with the chopped fruit, cover it with the second half and roll again until it is once more an eighth of an inch thick. Cut into wedges and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes on a greased baking tray.

One of the simplest biscuits beloved by the British is the good old Digestive. It’s sort of the British equivalent of the Graham Cracker, in so much as it’s what we use in their absence to line the bottom of a cheesecake.

Mix together four ounces each of wholewheat flour and oatmeal with a teaspoon of baking powder, a pinch of salt and two ounces of soft brown sugar. Rub in four ounces of butter to create breadcrumbs and add milk until you have a moist, pastry-like consistency.

Pop the mixture in the fridge for a quarter of an hour to firm it up, then roll it out between sheets of plastic wrap and cut it into rounds. Bake on a lightly greased baking sheet for 15-20 minutes at 180 degrees until firm to the touch.

If you’re like me and believe that most things in life can be improved by the addition of chocolate, you could then dip your Digestives in milk chocolate once cooled. Biscuit purists disapprove of this, however, as the chocolate bit does get in the way when you’re dunking.

So there you have it: several new recipes to try and an activity to indulge in once you’ve finished. It’s fun for all the family. Plus, once you’ve dunked a biscuit in a cup of tea, I believe you will understand my indignation at the alternative. Nobody ever got very far trying to dip a cookie in a glass of iced tea, now did they?

 

How to brew the best iced tea

By Vicki Hayman, UW Extension

For me, iced tea reigns supreme in the summertime! It goes with anything and everything. This drink should be celebrated, and, as luck would have it, June is National Iced Tea Month!

A tall glass of iced tea on a hot day is refreshing, and it might also do your body good. Studies show if you drink tea regularly, you may reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and diabetes, plus have healthier teeth and gums and stronger bones. How? Tea is rich in a class of antioxidants called flavonoids, which are most potent when tea is freshly brewed. If you want to keep a pitcher of cold tea in your refrigerator, add a little lemon juice. The citric acid and vitamin C in that squeeze of lemon—or lime, or orange—help preserve the flavonoids.

But making it can be tricky. Brew it too long and it becomes bitter. Luckily, I’ve got two foolproof iced tea recipes that you’ll use all season long. One method is hot brewing.

HOT-BREWING METHOD

Use Fresh Tea. Look for fresh tea at a tearoom or a market with high turnover, because the oils that give teas their flavor break down over time. If you use tea bags, look for larger ones which give the leaves more room to bloom. Look for brands that list the region where the tea comes from so you know exactly what you’re getting.

Start With Spring or Filtered Tap Water. Mineral water contains too many minerals that can create off-flavors when they come in contact with compounds in the tea leaves, and mineral-free distilled water produces a flat-tasting brew.

Turn Up (or Down) the Heat. Use boiling water (212°F) to brew black, herbal and darker-colored oolong teas. But use cooler water (170° to 180°F) to brew green, white and lighter oolongs teas. Brewing teas that need cooler temps with boiling water can result in bitter or astringent flavors.

Use Just Enough Tea. Use 1½ to 2 teaspoons per cup of water when brewing teas with bigger leaves or flowers, like green tea or chamomile, and 1 teaspoon per cup for teas with denser, compact leaves, such as most black teas.

Steep Long Enough to Release Flavors, But Not So Long That Tannins and Other Bitter-Tasting Compounds Dominate. Heartier teas, like black teas and darker oolongs, should steep for 3 to 5 minutes, while green, white and lighter oolong teas need just 2 to 3 minutes. Herbal teas and infusions have fewer tannins, so there’s less risk of oversteeping. Remove the tea from the water and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate.

COLD-BREWING METHOD

Use the cold –brew method for iced tea that isn’t bitter or cloudy. By cold brewing the tea rather than using hot water, the flavor gets extracted without a lot of tannins.

Place 1 cup of loose tea or 10 tea bags in a one gallon glass jar or pitcher with a lid.

Add 12 cups of spring or filtered cold tap water.

Place the container in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Strain the tea or remove the bags and enjoy!

Good iced tea is clear, not cloudy. Avoid opacity by cooling hot-brewed tea completely before placing it in the fridge. To cool hot tea quickly, make it strong and then pour it over a pitcher of ice. This will dilute the tea and cool it down quickly. If for some reason the final chilled tea still comes out cloudy (hard water can cause cloudiness), add a little hot water to the tea before serving and cross your fingers.

Flavored iced tea can be both plain tea with additions or a flavored tea as a base mixed with other ingredients to bring out their natural character. Here are some ideas for add-ins:

• Fresh or frozen fruit can jazz up the flavor of iced tea.

• Try fruit juice or puree to add sweetness.

• Herbs and spices will add complexity to the tea. Try cinnamon, nutmeg, lavender, or a sprig of mint.

• Freeze tea, juice, or fruit in ice cube trays to add flavor, color, and keep with tea cold.

• Rim serving glasses with colored sugar to add a bit of flair!

 

Celebrate National Iced Tea month by having a cold glass of tea. Then sip, savor, and enjoy the moment. Feel good about doing something that is both relaxing and good for your health!