Every Summer of my youth was marked by homemade iced tea. Growing up I lived in New England for 10 years and North East Florida another 10, until I journeyed out on my own to the West Coast, Los Angeles to be exact. During my time on the East Coast I noticed that Iced Tea was one of those recipes that differentiated by region. Much like the contrast of the two opposing ends of the East Coast tea was also quite different in taste, whilst similar in the base tea was a tad on the bitter side up North and always sweetened in the South. Looking back I realize that for me and my family tea was a bridge into Summer and a span between the two States we lived in, both sharing a commonality yet having their own uniquely special flavor.
I remember vividly when my mom would pull out her white Lipton iced tea maker as the whole family clamored with excitement over the brew that was to come, often times resulting with the nagging question of “is it ready yet?”. My mothers tea was always a simple pitcher of Lipton black tea poured into a tall clear glass with the perfect ratio of ice to liquid with a wedge of lemon. Nothing fancy but always a treat. When we moved to the South sweetener became more common in our simple iced tea and plentiful refills of ice for those steaming hot and humid Florida days.
I miss my mothers tea and the excitement we had as a family for the simple pleasures in life, which is probably why I felt compelled whilst running errands the other morning to buy a whimsical red and blue garden motif sun tea jar. I then headed to Whole Foods picked up a box of Oolong Tea proceeded home and began tearing open the tea sachets from their paper packaging and quickly yet carefully pulling off the tea tag and dropping them in one-by-one with excitement into my new favorite tea vessel. I decided by intuition and observation what would be the best ratio of tea to water and concluded that 8 bags would be a great starting point, figuring about 1 bag per cup and a half. Recognizing that this recipe is hard to mess up and freely giving into experimentation as I know in the end I will be able to adjust it to my liking.
Since I spent a good amount of my day in my garden weeding, planting and doodling I was inspired to add fresh herbs to my brew. Landing on the idea of using all things lemon I proceeded to pick all of the lemony plant treasures in my yard. I began by selecting a radiant and firm lemon the brightest of the four that have appeared on my five foot potted tree. I then proceeded to pick lemon balm rubbing my fingers across their fuzzy leaves whilst collecting a handful, lemon verbena was neighboring close by in a pot dangling it’s pungent and pointy leaves in my direction begging to be used in the brew. A whisper came in the wind as a faint smell of lemon grass appeared and carried me away to my back garden patch where tall stalks grow abundantly in deep soil I pulled one out, thinking “what the heck” after all I was going for all things lemon. Carrying my two fresh and fragrant handfulls of herbs over to my white bench where my tea is perched upon while basking in the sun I roll the herbs between my palms in an effort to encourage more flavor from their fibers. I toss the herbs into the tar give the whole pitcher a swirl and left it to bathe in the sun for about an hour and a half. To my surprise the tea was a bright copper color and warm to the touch, warm enough to melt down the dense ice in a matter of a few minutes.
Alex and I took a break from our garden work to share a glass in the last rays of the soon to be setting sun. We were both delighted by the refreshing summer feeling that was both in our hands and mouth from the chilled and sweating glass of sun basked iced tea. I hope you’ll take time this weekend to enjoy the simple things in life by enjoying a tall glass of this bright and mellow sun tea.