We are a tea family. From 2-year old to 6-year old to parents, we drink an industrial quantity of our favorite amber liquid. Hot in winter and ice cold in summer. Correct that, we also drink cold tea in winter. A good cold tea is not just any cold tea. A little grimace here and there with the first sips can attest to the taste of what I am drinking. In the commercial forms, we don't really have a lot of brands to choose from. Five, tops, if I am not mistaken.
Before, I would grab the popular international brands that I know more and grew up liking. Coming to Italy, I discovered a couple of Italian brands, that, when compared to their rival international brands, the taste of the tea is so subtle that you almost think it's not even there. Too light after coming from the tasty brands. They were almost undrinkable for me. But this changed after encountering a wonderful old woman at the supermarket a few years ago who patiently explained to me why there's a big gap of tastes.
There's a small grocery owned by a nice old couple that I used to frequent in the town next to ours. It's a small space with products occupying every single space available. It's little but they always seem to have everything. That day, only the nice signora was around and seeing that I was having a hard time looking for something, she came to my side and asked me what it is that I was looking for.
"Una bottiglia di te' al limone. (A bottle of lemon tea)", I replied.
With one quick motion, she extracted some bottles of different brands. I got the international one of course. She asked me if I had tried the other brands and I said yes but I don't like them because they don't taste of anything.
That was her cue to explain to me why. She got the bottle that I least liked among the Italian ones. Estathe' by Ferrero (producer of Nutella). She informed me that this is one of the very few brands that uses real tea leaves not artificial flavoring. For this reason, the tea is very light. I like to be aware of what I put in my body and her short explanation opened up a wall in my ignorance about the difference between commercially produced food and drinks with low quality ingredients and their simple counterparts using quality ingredients. And that was also my cue to let go of the popular international brands I grew up with and re-educate my senses to appreciate Italian food.
Most of the time, I buy the bottled tea because it's hard to cope with the amount of our consumption at home. When I have the time, I make it myself. Here is a very simple way to prepare iced lemon lime tea.
I would like to share with you two ways of infusing the tea. There is cold infusion as well as hot infusion. Information from Teaway (in Italian).
Cold infusion is putting the tea leaves or bags in cold water between 2 - 5 hours prior to consumption and leaving it in the fridge. This infusion takes less caffeine from the tea which I prefer because of the kids but the taste is less rounder and it's milder. If you are consuming the cold tea days after preparing it, then this is the preferred method because it keeps longer.
The hot infusion however, is putting the leaves in hot water for 15 minutes until it cools down then add ice and cold water to serve immediately. The tea has to be consumed within the day. This infusion extracts more caffeine than its counterpart and it has a more robust and stronger taste.
Simple Lemon & Lime Tea with Mint
Makes 1 liter
- 5 tea bags (I used black tea.)
- 1/2 lemon, juice
- 1/2 lime, juice
- honey or sugar (I used both.)
- handful of fresh mint leaves
- 1 liter water
- lots of ice
- Cold infusion: Put tea bags or leaves in a teapot with cold water 2 - 5 hours prior to consumption. Leave it in the fridge. Discard tea bags after infusion.
- Hot infusion: Infuse tea bags in a teapot of hot water (depending on what kind of tea you have) for 15 minutes. Discard tea bags after infusion.
- Add the rest of the water (cold), lemon juice, lime juice, honey or sugar (amount depends on how sweet you want it) and mint leaves.
- Fill up pitcher with ice.
- Serve cold.