Friday, August 1, 2014

Refrigerator Tea

During the summer, my kids crave sweet drinks.
At a certain point, after pushing ice water all day, I give in to
their urgent pleas--but not with kool-aid!

It's been years since I've kept pitchers of kool-aid or cans of pop (or do you say soda?) stocked in the fridge. The kids know that they won't be getting any of those sugar-bomb drinks at our house, but they still crave something beyond ice water or milk at times (and yes, I'm aware of the gleeful sneaking of pop that occurs when the kids visit the neighbors and the grandparents. It's cool, really).

One drink they love at home is iced tea. When summer started I decided I'd start making sun tea and keeping it on hand, lightly sweetened, to satisfy that sweet-drink-tooth for them.

Then I was stopped in my tracks. As soon as I started googling 'how to make sun tea', I started finding debates about the safety of sun tea. Seriously? Apparently leaving tea to brew in the sun all day can allow dangerous bacteria to grow--without sufficient temperatures to kill them--and that bacteria carries the potential to make us sick. I'm all for bacteria if it's good for our bellies (like the little guys in yogurt, kefir, or kraut), but I really don't want to take any risk, no matter how small, on the 'icky' kinds of bacteria.

All you dedicated sun tea brewers (like most of my extended family), don't be offended. I realized pretty quickly into my research that this sun-tea-is-unsafe debate is pretty dang heated, and intensely personal. I get that! I, too, have warm memories of giant repurposed pickle jars, filled with water and tea bags, glowing on the sun-bathed patio of my childhood home. Here's my take; maybe the risk is very low. Maybe sun tea has never made a single person sick. Maybe I could make and drink sun tea for the rest of my life and never once have a single bout of diarrhea or indigestion. But maybe, too, I am a lazy person, and I found an alternative that avoids sun tea entirely... and it's EASIER!

Enter my discovery: 'refrigerator tea'. It makes a smooth, mild, perfect for iced, tea. I adapted a method I found online just a bit to suit our tastes, and it has become a standby in our house during these long hot summer days.

I put quart jars in the fridge each night to brew for the following day; one for each boy. They have loved having this option instead of the usual milk or water. I've lessened the amount of sugar week by week, and am down to 2 T. of sugar per quart. This is less than soda (which contains about 3 T. per can, and koolaid (4 T. of sugar in a quart). I think it's still too much sugar, so I hope to keep lowering the sugar content, ever so gradually, until they start to complain. :)

You can certainly leave your tea unsweetened, or use honey. I started growing stevia this year and so far it's really tiny, but I'd love to be able to grow enough to make my own stevia extract to use in our tea.

The husband just asked last night "Hey, where's my tea?" Looks like I'll be adding another jar to the daily brew....

....On second thought, looks like my 11 year old will be adding another jar to the daily brew. This method is so simple, he has started taking over the brewing. Score!

Simon 'brewing'. Apparently safety glasses are required.

Refrigerator Tea 
(So Simple it's Stupid)

1. Fill a quart jar with water.

2. Add tea bags. I use three small bags or one 'family size' bag. You can use more tea, or any variety you want; we currently prefer black tea but plan to experiment.

3. Put a lid on the jar, place in the fridge, and let it sit. Timing is your choice. 2 hours, 10 hours, whatever.

4. Add ice, if desired, and enjoy. For the kids, add some sugar, or honey. We're down to 2 T. per jar as we wean off of sugar-overload. 

*Finally: I love my mason jars. I also love my kids. So to keep both of them safe, if the tea going to travel, it should be poured into something safer than glass.

Simon (far left) is not one to be kept indoors. I cringed seeing one of my precious jars outside.
From now on his tea will go into a portable bottle like this one .

Don't forget to get lids for your mason jars
These things are indispensable in my kitchen!

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  1. I am going to try this over the weekend! We rarely drink anything other than water or tea (hot). I think my husband will love this! :)

  2. Interesting.. Tea is a huge thing in Turkey,a drink scolded hot enjoyed after meals in the evenings which I am not a fan of.. I guess I never tasted ice tea before either. But once we have a fridge I will try this. Because I am a dirty dirty soft drink drinker and I have to replace it with something healthier..

  3. I got such a tickle out of the safety glasses on Simon. Love those little boys! Thanks for sharing this. My daughter loves tea and now she can make her own!

  4. I have never even heard of the heated debate on sun tea! I've been meaning to make it for about 3 years now... seriously haha! I have even had my large pickle jar in the cupboard waiting... I am still going to try it in the sun. I didn't even think about the bacteria growing in there before but I just don't care. That's the great thing about all these heated debates. We each get to make our own decision and that's okay too. I think I will also try your method too and see which I like better! :)

    1. The great sun-tea debate, lol. I think you should absolutely try both ways. Maybe I will try sun-tea this on the edge! ;)