Tips for making a perfect cup of tea

HAVE SOME TEA — A tea pot is the correct utensil to make perfect tea, according to Good Housekeeping magazine. First warm the pot with hot water, swirl the water and pour it out. Add the tea leaves and pour in boiling hot water. Little tea sandwiches go well with a pot of tea. Just add sugar and cream or a lemon slice. -- Esther McCoy

There are rules to making a perfect cup of tea.

¯ In relating how to make the perfect of tea Good Housekeeping magazine advises to scrap the mug, at least for the steeping part. A teapot holds in the heat better to bring out flavor, the article noted. Swirl hot water in the pot to preheat for steeping at the correct temperature.

¯ Don’t add hot water to a cup and dunk the tea bag for dear life but pour water over leaves in the tea pot to boost taste and get more antioxidants.

¯ Give it a minute, because tea needs time to steep. For the perfect flavor, follow steeping directions for your tea of choice as follows: Black tea, 3 to 5 minutes, 201 to 210 degree water temperature; Darjeeling, 3 minutes, 190 to 195 degree water temperature; Oolong, 3 to 5 minutes, 175 to 195 water temperature; Chinese green, 1 to 3 minutes, 170 to 180 degrees; Japanese green, 1 to 2 minutes, 160-175 degrees; and white tea, 3 to 4 minutes,185 degrees.

Information from the Good Housekeeping Kitchen notes to splurge on high quality, loose-leaf tea or high quality tea bags for premium taste.

There is a Tetley Super Herbal Tea with a blend of blueberry and raspberry infusion with vitamin B6 that contributes toward the reduction of tiredness and fatigue. It contains hibiscus, rosehip, orange peel, apple, natural flavors, licorice, roasted chicory root, blueberry, raspberry, vitamin B6 and mannitol (wheat). Directions advise to add nearly boiling water to one tea bag in a teapot for one serving. Brew for 3-5 minutes and serve with honey or sugar.

Another herbal tea is Tetley Super Herbal Tea Glow. It has a blend of pineapple and citrus infusion with vitamin B7 to aid in the growth and development of strong and healthy hair, nails and skin. Included in the tea are white hibiscus, rosehip, orange peel, apple, chicory and licorice root, pineapple and grapefruit flavor, grapefruit peel, pineapple juice and vitamin B7.

In 2003, I received a booklet called “Tea Temptations, a Culinary Collection Cookbook” from Eileen Cozart who would call occasionally to offer suggestions on my food column. My thoughts are about her as I write this column.

The best sweetener for ice tea is simple syrup, according to the book. It is easy to make as well. Take 2 cups water and 2 cups sugar and boil for 10 minutes. Cool and store in the refrigerator in a sealed jar. Use as a liquid sweetener. Yields 1 quart. You can also make a mint syrup by adding 1/2 cup chopped mint to the simple syrup and boil for 5 minutes and strain. A variation is to add 1/3 cup lemon juice with the mint for a delightful flavor.

A different kind of ice cube can be made for the tea by boiling 3/4 cup sugar and 1 cup water for 5 minutes. Cool and add 2 cups pineapple juice and 1 cup orange juice. Freeze in ice trays. Makes two trays.

I remember my mother making tea in a large covered glass jar and putting it in the sun all day. At dinner time, it was ready to pour into glasses with ice cubes. The ratio of water to tea is 2 1/2 quarts of water to five tea bags. Cover and set jar in the sun for several hours.

You also can put in the jar half a quartered orange and half of a lemon that has been quartered. This should steep for 24 hours. Strain out the fruit when ready to serve.

Some tea twists from the Taste of Home magazine are:

– Iced tea with lemonade concentrate and almond extract added.

– Iced tea with the syrup from canned peaches added.

– Iced tea with pineapple juice, lemon juice and ginger ale added.

– Iced tea with a few pieces of fresh mint and sliced apples.

Here are few recipes from the book.

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Sherbet Tea Punch

2 cups strong hot tea

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup orange juice

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 pint ginger ale, chilled

1 pint orange sherbet

Pour hot tea over sugar, stirring until dissolved. Add all juices. Chill and put in punch bowl, add ginger ale and spoon in sherbet. Makes 16 servings.

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Lime Tea

5 cups boiling water

5 tea bags

6-ounce can frozen limeade concentrate

1 cup sugar

5 cups water

Fresh mint

Fresh lime slices

Steep tea in boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags. Add limeade and sugar. Stir well. Add remaining water. Serve cold, garnished with fresh mint and lime slices, Serves eight to 10.

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Cranberry Tea

3 cups water

3 tea bags

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup cranberry juice

Bring water to a boil. Add tea bags and steep 5 minutes. Add sugar, lemon juice and cranberry juice. Makes 3 1/2 cups.

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Fresh Raspberry or Peach Tea

6 tea bags

2 quarts boiling water

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 to 1 cup sliced fresh raspberries or peaches. Place tea bags in boiling water and steep for 10 minutes. Remove tea bags. Add sugar to fruit and stir to dissolve. Add sugared fruit to tea and steep 15 more minutes. Strain and serve hot or over ice. Makes four to six servings.

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Spiced Iced Tea

2 tablespoons loose tea

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 1/2 cups boiling water

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 pint cranberry juice

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

Lemon slices

Combine tea and spices in a tea ball. Pour boiling water over tea ball. Cover and steep for 5 minutes. Strain into a 2-quart jar or other container. Add sugar and cool. Add cranberry juice, water, orange and lemon juices. Chill. Serve over ice. Makes six 8-ounce servings.

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Here is a way to have a party with some punch to it.

Tea Punch

6 cups strong tea

46-ounce can orange juice

46-ounce can pineapple juice

2 cans frozen lemonade concentrate, 6-ounce size, undiluted

32 ounces cranberry juice

Quart ginger ale

Quart blended whiskey

2 oranges, sliced

1 lemon, sliced

1 ice ring

Combine first five ingredients. Add ginger ale and whiskey just before serving. Float fruit slices on punch along with an ice ring. Yield 2 gallons.

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Apricot Brandy Slush

4 tea bags

2 cups boiling water

2 cups sugar

5 cups cold water

12-ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed

12-ounce can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed

1 pint apricot brandy

2-liter bottle club soda, chilled

Steep tea in boiling water in large bowl for 20 minutes. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Stir in cold water. Cool. Stir in lemonade and orange juice concentrates and brandy. Pour into one or two plastic containers and freeze. Serve by scooping 1 cup of frozen mixture into a 12-ounce glass. Fill with club soda and stir to a slushy consistency. Makes 1 gallon.

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A different tea is made from sassafras root. My dad would bring this in from the woods behind our house, and I thought it had a taste better than soda pop.

Sassafras Tea

1/2 cup sassafras root, fresh or dried

4 to 6 cups water

Honey or sugar to taste

If using freshly dug sassafras root, chop or scrape into small pieces. Put sassafras and water in a kettle and boil until water turns red. Sweeten to taste. Pour through a strainer before serving. The sassafras root can be used to make tea at least two more times. Serve iced or hot. Serves four to six.

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I have not heard clover tea before. When picked, it needs to be dried according to directions.

Clover Tea

Gather tender leaves and blossoms when full grown. Dry at room temperature. When dry, rub into small particles. Seal in jars, as it will help to retain flavor. Use one teaspoon for each cup of boiling water. Brew in cup or in a teapot as you would oriental tea. Serve with honey.

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Here are two tea sandwich recipes from the magazine.

Fruited Tea Sandwiches

Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

8 ounces crushed pineapple, drained

1/3 cup orange marmalade

3 tablespoons ginger preserves

1 cup chopped pecans, divided

1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper

1 tablespoon minced onion

1/2 teaspoon both celery and onion salt

8 maraschino cherries chopped

Sliced raisin bread

Combine ingredients but only 2/3 cup pecans and not the bread. Mix well. Spread on bread that has been halved and crusts removed. Sprinkle remaining pecans on top of the mixture before serving. Makes about 4 cups spread.

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Surprise Sandwiches

1 cup diced, cooked chicken

1/4 cup chopped pecans or almonds

1/2 cup finely chopped dates

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup crumbled crisp bacon, about 4 strips

12 thin slices white bread

Combine ingredients except bread. Spread on bread slices then trim crusts. Cut into desired number of halves or quarters.

(McCoy can be contacted at emccoy@heraldstaronline.com)

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