Summertime Teas

Being the child of folks with Southern roots, I was weaned on Sweet Tea. Iced Tea always accompanied the Sunday dinner at Nana’s; in the summer months it would be seasoned with mint from her garden. Apparently, mint tea is popular in the North and West African countries of Morocco, Senegal, Gambia and Guinea so it is wonderful to know some indigenous palate preferences survived the Middle Passage. If Mom made iced tea at home, it was more akin to Arnold Palmer’s preference – almost a lemonade tea concoction, but much superior to anything sold anywhere today.

Much maligned for being something akin to Mrs. Buttersworth, Sweet Tea has its’ detractors who accuse the refreshing brew of being diabetes in a glass – just plain not good for ‘ya! Measures of teaspoons of sugar notwithstanding, is Black Tea, the basis of Sweet Tea, truly bad for us and how did it get eclipsed in popularity by its’ once lesser known sister Green Tea?

The world’s most widely consumed beverage, all tea comes from the tropical plant known as Camellia Senensis. And though no one really knows why Sweet Tea became so popular in the Southern United States, many suggest it is because of teas’ affordability. (My maternal Grandfather was known to love a drink called sugar water, made with just those two ingredients, so affordability is relative). Ice Tea was purported to be an invention of the 1904 World’s Fair; former slave and the first African-American chef to publish a cookbook, Rufus Estes, had in his Good Things To Eat (1911) a recipe for Tea Sherbert, something so seemingly scrumptious I vow to attempt one soon.

As for the health benefits, researchers initially focused on studying Green Tea, but are beginning to uncover that both Green and Black tea are equally as beneficial but in different ways. Both are overflowing with antioxidants but caffeine too in varying amounts. Yet, both may help prevent cancer so that is encouraging news for all tea aficionados.

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil for at least one minute (that removes many of the impurities) and pour hot water into a glass or ceramic pitcher. Take 2 Tablespoons of organic, loose Black tea into a tea ball or reusable tea bag, place directly into the hot water and cover with a top or saucer. Steep for 20 minutes. Remove tea ball or bag(s) and immediately sweeten tea to taste while it’s still warm – this makes it easier for the sugar to dissolve. I like to use Agave Syrup in lieu of sugar because it is sweeter in taste thus you use less and for my diabetic friends, Agave is lower on the glycemic index. Add 2 cups of cold filtered or bottled water, the juice of 2 Lemons and 1/2 of a Pink Grapefruit. Do not add the rind which can make the tea bitter. DO NOT ADD ICE AS IT WILL DILUTE THE FLAVOR. Stir thoroughly and chill for several hours. Serve over ice and garnish with a slice of citrus fruit if desired.

Next Week:  Sorrel Tea

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