Saturday, June 05, 2010

It's National Iced Tea Month

Yes ... that's right! National Iced Tea Month!
Did you know that iced tea is made from ... TEA!
You wouldn't know it by reading the labels of the bottled stuff many people drink:
water, sugar, citric acid, tea extract, trisodium citrate, Vitamin C.

Gee ... know what's in my iced tea?
water, tea and sometimes sugar.

or diet iced tea ...
water, citric acid, tea, sodium hexametaphosphate, natural flavors, phosphoric acid, potassium sorbate, potassium benzoate, citrus pectin, sucralose, caramel color, acesulfame potassium, calcium disodium EDTA and Red 40.

Know what's in my diet iced tea
water, tea

I don't need to add preservatives because I make my tea fresh and I'm likely to drink it within a day or two. Bottled tea has to be preserved for many weeks, if not months, before it ever makes it to your grocery basket.
I don't need to add colors. It's already the right color.
And if I want a flavor ... I'll use a flavored tea, preferably one with an organic flavor.
And diet tea? Really? It was already calorie-free ... why is the ingredient list longer for the diet product? Shouldn't it be less?

Does bottled tea have antioxidants?
Yes ... it has more antioxidants that a bottle of water, a sports drink or a soda. However, The Univiersity of Oregon did a study that showed that bottled tea had only 10% of the antioxidants of freshly brewed tea.
This could be for two reasons. First, commercial teas my be cold brewed. That means tea leaves are soaked in a cooled environment for a long time. The result is smooth, non-bitter tea. However, the antioxidants in tea need heat in order to be released. Additionally, the antioxidants in tea may be coming from the citric acid and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) that is often added to a bottled product.
Antioxidants may also be lower because antioxidants in tea are reduced over time. So all that time the tea is being packaged, shipped, stored and sold ... it's losing whatever antioxidants it had.

Making your own iced tea is incredibly fast and simple. And if it will give you control over the sugar you add, and your variety is infinitely greater then every before.

Getting good iced tea, if you're not making it yourself, is really a matter of knowing what a label says. If you can't pronounce it, you probably don't need it.
If it says sucralose, understand that means Splenda.
If it says Nutra Sweet, Equal, or Canderel, it's aspartame.
Sugars, like High Fructose Corn Syrup are hidden under a bunch of aliases too -- fructose, crystalline fructose, glucose, glucose-fructose syrup, dextrose, corn syrup, cane juice, high maltose syrup, invert syrup, corn syrup solids, sugar, sucrose... it's not unusual for a ready-to-drink product to contain two or more of these sugars.

There's really nothing wrong with sugar, providing it's used in moderation. But I prefere real sugar. Honestly, if your iced tea is good enough to start with, it likely doesn't need sweetening.
At SensibiliTeas, when we desire a sweeter cup of tea, we steep stevia leaves with the tea leaves for a sweeter result. If using honey, we stir the honey into the hot water before applying to ice. Honey just kinda of seizes up on top of the ice cubes. We keep a simple syrup on hand too, for those wishing to sweeten with sugar after it's been made cold.

Future posts this month will provide recipes for iced teas and iced tea punches.
I hope you have the chance to enjoy some freshly brewed iced tea soon!

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