A few weeks ago, a reader (hi, Tracy!) left a comment on my post about cold-brewed iced tea:
I worked in a small cafe for a while and their ice tea was sooooo smooth and delicious. I received the secret from the owner. A large batch of ice tea always got a big pinch of baking soda after brewing.
What in the world?? I’d never heard the likes! I did a quick Internet search and sure enough, baking soda in iced tea is totally a thing. As in, everyone does it. The reason, they say, is that the baking soda counteracts the tannins in the tea, making the drink smoother.
So I promptly brewed up a batch (hot, not cold) and sure enough, it was superb. I’ve always thought sugar was responsible for cutting the acidity of iced tea and that I’ve never been that partial to iced tea because I often skimp on the sugar. But maybe it’s the actual bitterness of the tea that’s always deterred me? Does the addition of baking soda mean that I can get away with less sugar?
I don’t know yet. I’ve only made the tea according to the recipe. Our weather’s just turned cool (now I’m craving hot drinks, not cold), but sooner or later, I will. In the meantime, here’s the recipe. It’s supposed to be classic Southern: sweet, but not sweet sweet.
Southern Sweet Tea
Adapted from Garden Betty.
Feel free to jazz this up with lemon wedges and fresh mint. A splash of bourbon doesn’t hurt either.
4 black tea bags (I used decaffeinated Lipton)
¾ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon baking soda
Bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, add the tea bags and baking soda and stir gently. Cover with a lid and steep for 5-10 minutes.
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar with 1 cup of water. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved
Remove the tea bags and stir in the sugar syrup. Chill and serve.