Thank goodness for air conditioning and iced tea. I could not get though this summer’s sizzling, lingering heat without them.
Happily, my work lets me be indoors most of the time. Being comfortably air-conditioned, it’s an effort drinking enough to stay hydrated because I forget that when air conditioning pulls out moisture, it dehumidifies me as well as the air. Since drinking water bores me, this means creating enough variety to keep drinking, both indoors and when outside, and without adding too many calories.
Iced tea is my first choice. This year, green tea is my favorite. As a riff on drinking it poured over ice, I make a combination of bright-tasting tea, cooling mint, and a splash of apple cider that adds a few calories but makes a particularly thirst quenching and reviving drink.
Making this brew at night, in the morning it is chilled and ready to serve. And rather than watering it down with ice, I serve it in a chilled glass or—true confession, gulp it straight from the one-quart canning jar I make it in.
The Japanese green tea called sencha, which tastes fresher and less bitter than the green tea from China, is ideal here. If you don’t see sencha in the tea section at your supermarket, check the natural foods or ethnic sections. And for sure you will find it at natural food stores and Asian markets. Or go ahead and use Chinese green tea—your cooler will, if anything, taste a bit drier and even stronger. Brewing green tea properly gives it a livelier taste and helps to minimize the bitterness that bothers some people. The proper way uses hot but not boiling water. If you have an instant-read thermometer, heat the water in a small pot so you can tell when it is 180 degrees F. Don’t have a thermometer? Then listen to your kettle and stop before you hear the sound of bubbling, then let the kettle sit for three or four minutes before pouring the water over the tea.
Fresh spearmint or common garden mint are what you want; peppermint’s flavor is too bitter. Out the mint into the jar or pitcher before adding the tea bags so you can easily remove the bags and leave the mint in while the cooler chills. The longer it sits with the mint, the better.
Apple cider adds fuller and more intense flavor than apple juice. If you do use apple juice, though, buy a good quality one that tastes like more than yellow sugar water.
Finally, if we get another brutal heat wave, rather than dilute this bold drink by pouring it over ice, try freezing it in an ice cube tray, then pile the cubes into a big glass and drink your super-frosty cooler as the cubes melt.