Australians love their tea, almost as much as the English, but one thing we’ve never quite grasped is this whole iced tea thing.
With summer on the way, however, and a realisation that not everyone is into the whole coffee game, were giving it a try and showing you how to make it with and without gadgets.
The electric way
Iced tea isn’t exactly a new concept, and is consumed all over the world. In Australia, we’re beginning to adopt a taste for it, while it makes up well over half of all the tea Americans drink.
Most Aussies tend to drink hot tea, which, as most of us know, makes you sweat, and in hot weather, that makes you cool down as it evaporates off your body.
But if you don’t want to sweat, you can have tea on ice, it just has to be prepared a little differently, because natural tea steeping seems to be different in cold water than what it is in hot water.
The bottles of cold sweetened iced tea have, in fairness, been out in Australia for years, but we’re not huge fans of paying three bucks per bottle, and they’re generally loaded with sugar, so the obvious option here is to make it yourself.
In America, a few manufacturers have made electric options for making iced tea easily, including Hamilton Beach, Hammacher Schlemmer, and Mr. Coffee, with these devices functioning similarly to a drip coffee machine.
Australians don’t have the pleasure of having these machines available, though we do have the $299 Breville Tea Maker, which lowers and raises the tea basket for you at precise times to make tea the way you want, so it’s not too bitter.
Breville’s option has been designed for hot tea and accommodates 1.2 litres, but you could easily brew a litre of tea in it – adding honey or sugar if you like – and then pour it into another jug or empty water bottle for the fridge.
The manual way
By far, the easiest and most affordable way for Australians to get in on the iced tea making action is to by a manual iced tea jug.
These aren’t complicated to use, and are little more than jugs with either a small tea basket that lowers in place from the top or a side section for the tea leaves.
Both types of the jug exist in Australia, with tea boutiques selling the jug with the first type of filter, while stores selling glassware tend to handle the latter version.
We grabbed one such jug this week from T2, which sells a repackaged Takeya 2 litre jug. To use it, you simply fill the basket up with the tea leaves you’re using, adding fruit or spices depending on what you’re creating, or just with tea bags if you prefer, and then filling it with hot water to let it steep for six to ten hours.
You can add sugar or honey during this time, although we find it works just as well to add honey to a small reusable water bottle and then pour the made tea in. Close it up, shake it all around to combine the sweet honey with the tea, and throw it in the fridge to cool. Come back later and you’ll have cold tea in a bottle waiting for you, as well as a jug ready to use to make more.
These manual jugs are relatively inexpensive, ranging from between $15 and $40 depending on the size and who makes it, but they all work in pretty much the same way.
The pod way
Sleeping doesn’t come easily to the crew of GadgetGuy. Given the amount of articles we write about coffee machines, it’s probably not hard to see why: we’re permanently wired, always consuming the stuff while we’re reviewing it.
Lately, there have been a lot of pod machines. These things are the new “it” thing, the must have gadget outside of tablets for the holiday season, and so we’re playing with them all the time, working out how they work, and generally experimenting with what you can and can’t do.
And one of the things we’ve found you can do with a coffee pod machine is make iced tea. Sort of.
At least one type of coffee pod machine supports making iced tea, though we wouldn’t be surprised to see others follow in suit once the hot temperatures really start to kick in.
Right now, the Nescafe system is the only one available locally that supports iced tea, borrowing the formula from Nestle’s powdered iced tea in the States, and repurposing it for packing in a small pod that can be used in the Dolce Gusto machines.
As we saw when we reviewed the Genio, the pods used in this system are pierced with a small needle and injected with water. Inside the pods, it’s basically like a tiny brewing system, with the powder turning to liquid and a filter rising in the pressure to let the liquid out into your cup.
These pods, however, make one cup of iced tea per serving, no different from the coffee and hot chocolate pods normally used on the machines. Try using it more than once and you’ll just get slightly scented dirty water that no one wants to drink. Trust us on this: use a pod and throw it out.
Other pod systems, such as the Map system used by the Woolworths coffee machine, may also have iced tea pods on the way, and we’d encourage owners of these machines to look around.
In America, the Keurig range of coffee machines uses the “K-Cups” pods, and has several tea brands making varieties available for both hot and cold tea, though we haven’t been able to test any of these pods for compatibility with locally available machines.
The systems look a little different – size, filter in the pod – but given how close many of the encapsulated machines are, may work.
Nespresso owners tend to miss out completely, though, but can always make a cup of hot tea with a refillable pod. We don’t actually believe this is a great option, given that it’s a little like refilling your own tea bags, and unless you’re making your own tea varieties, it’s probably quicker and cheaper to use tea bags.