The best way to drink your black tea
After considering all the health benefits of black tea as discussed in part one; in part two of this series on healthy black we address the dangers of diminishing the health advantages of your black tea through adding certain post additives prior to drinking.
The most obvious culprit is of course sugar; it is no secret that sugar is bad for you; hence ideally you should completely eliminate sugar from your tea Nevertheless, for many people this is easier said than done, if you simply cannot stomach your tea without some type of sweetener try substituting your sugar intake with a little honey.
Note: The popular misconception that honey is somehow healthier than sugar is a complete myth. Spoon for spoon honey has the same nutritional value as sugar, however honey does have the edge over refined white sugar because it is twice as sweet and therefore you only use half as much.
The other less obvious and perhaps more surprising fact is the detrimental effects that milk has on tea's antioxidant power. While milk in itself offers many health benefits, research has shown that milk proteins bind to the flavonoids in tea rendering them harder to digest and thus negating their benefit. Serving hot black tea with milk is popular with many groups of people especially among the population of Great Britain, however in order to capitalize on the full benefits of drinking black tea try to refrain from adding milk.
Why not serve your tea iced?
Those who cannot stomach the thought of hot black tea served with only a slice of lemon might like to consider iced tea as an alternative. This method of serving tea is extremely popular in the United States and comes in both sweetened and unsweetened varieties. The unsweetened variety which needless to say is the most healthy option is to be found mostly in the northern part of the US whereas the southern US population are almost exclusive consumers of the sweet variety.
Before proceeding further with discussing the many varieties of iced teas a word of warning regarding the drawbacks of manufactured ice teas. The majority of ice teas produced commercially are not only unhealthy options due to the addition of products such as high fructose corn syrup but certain processes like freeze drying as for instant iced tea can seriously damage the antioxidants of the tea by as much as 90%.
In order to ensure that your ice tea beverage is as healthy as possible it is recommended that the consumer avoid the commercial varieties in favor of homemade ice tea.
Tip one: When making iced tea always use top notch ingredients.
It has been the experience of this author that in using inferior ingredients such as a low grade tea, people tend to compensate for the poor quality in taste by adding copious amounts of sugar. In terms of tea choice always go for the highest quality possible, note that even certain teas marketed specifically for ice tea produce an inferior product.
It’s always best to shop around a little to find a suitable tea; one particular brand that the author finds works extremely well is Tetley British blend, which can be found in most American supermarkets in its distinctive purple box.
In other parts of the world such as the UK tea brands like PG tips and Yorkshire blend are excellent choices for making ice tea. It may also be worthwhile browsing around the loose leaf tea section in the supermarket aisle; although using loose tea can prove to be a tad messy; it does offer superior infusion qualities.
Tip two: Always use filtered water never straight from the faucet.
This is key in producing a great tasting tea; as far as possible avoid using regular water straight from your faucet unless you have a filter attached. The difference in taste between filtered and unfiltered water (all other things equal) is remarkably astounding. If you don’t have a filter then use bottled water instead, be assured it is well worth it.
Tip three: Avoid using sugar.
Everyone knows refined sugar is bad news and we all should be working to eliminate it as far as possible from our diets. If you really must add a sweetener to your ice tea chooses honey for its advantages over refined white sugar as mentioned above.
Selecting a suitable brewing method
The brewing methods for iced tea are categorized into two distinct types i.e., fast and slow brews respectively. The latter category is the one preferred by the author since in his opinion it produces a superior flavor due to the extra time allowed for the tea to infuse.
The first method is termed a hot brew and is the only type which is classified as a fast brew method. As its name suggests hot tea is poured over a pitcher of ice which cools it quickly; frequently it is served with mounds of sugar and fresh lemon.
The latter two methods are slow brew methods, the first of these is known as a warm brew; the tea is added to cold filtered water before being placed in direct sunlight for several hours. A suitable container should be used such as a plastic pitcher or other container that has a lid or screw cap.
This method is ideal for iced tea that is brewed with fresh fruit; since the extended brewing time under the Sun’s natural heat causes an intense infusion of the fruit with the tea. When brewing is completed the tea is removed and it is left to cool in a refrigerator, it is then served chilled.
The third and final brewing method as you may have guessed is known as the cold brew method; whereby the tea is brewed for an extended time in cold water.(two days is recommended) This method creates the highest quality iced tea, as the flavor is drawn out naturally in the absence of any type of heat. It is particularly suited to making unsweetened iced tea using loose leaf tea.
Additional ways to keep your Iced Tea healthy
With all the exciting super powers of black tea we covered in part one, it would be nothing short of criminal to sabotage all that incredible healing potential. Therefore here are a few tips to help you resist the urge of subverting your precious glass of black liquid gold.
1. If you choose to take your iced tea in the unsweetened form, try infusing it with licorice/ginger root or aniseed, not only will these commodities enhance the flavor of your iced tea turning it into a healthy exotic virgin cocktail but you will be less likely to give in to sugar cravings. As if that wasn't enough, consider you will also profit from the additional health perks to be found in these spices. For a real miracle healing power add some panax-ginseng root. (avoid Siberian ginseng).
2. The addition of citrus fruits such as fresh lemon, lime or orange will add a pleasant tangy zing to your unsweetened ice tea, this also will weaken your urge to saturate it with deadly sugar.
3. Before considering sweetening your iced tea try infusing it with fresh fruit, the results may be enough to deter you from any further sweetening. The types of fruit that work extrmely well with iced tea are peaches apricots, nectarines, cherries, damsons, plums, blackberries and pureed raspberries/black raspberries and strawberries.
4. If you simply must add a sweetener NEVER use refined or even brown sugar, and certainly not corn syrup; instead choose honey for the reasons given earlier in this article.
5. A little raw black strap molasses is a great complement to ginger iced tea; you will only need a couple of tablespoons per gallon because of its intense flavor.
6. ALWAYS avoid sweeteners like Splenda, even though many of these products are marketed as natural, results from clinical tests have raised concerns over their safety.
David’s plum ice tea recipe
The addition of fresh thyme adds a pleasant earthy taste to this tea, while adding cinnamon spice complements the flavor of the plums beautifully This recipe produces one American Gallon or four European Liters of plum iced tea
Ingredients and tools
• A gallon pitcher filled with filtered water
• Between 15-20 regular sized tea bags or 4oz high quality loose tea
• Approximately 2lbs of ripe plums
• A few sprigs of fresh thyme or one to two cinnamon sticks (Optional)
• 6-8 Tablespoonful’s of honey (Optional)
• Grated zest and juice of 1 fresh lemon
• Tea strainer (if using loose tea)
Note: if using larger variety of tea bags you will need between 4-6
1. Place tea in the water.
2. Add optional thyme or cinnamon.
3. Stone the plums and set aside 4-6 oz. for garnish.
4. Prick the remaining plums all over with a fork and add
5. Add grated zest and lemon juice...
6. Add the optional honey and stir well.
7. Place the covered pitcher in the Sun for 5-8 hours.
8. Stir occasionally (about every hour). .
9. Remove the tea and place in refrigerator.
10. Serve chilled decorated with a fresh plum.
11. If used garnish with thyme or cinnamon stick.