In this hot weather, it’s important to drink plenty of water…but plain water gets boring. Soft drinks and juices are expensive and bad for your teeth, unless they are sugar-free and sweetened with weird chemicals.
Here is a calorie-free, caffeine-free drink that tastes great without any sweetener and even has health benefits!
I make herbal tea by the pitcher, using a combination of red raspberry leaves and peppermint leaves. I can buy both of these inexpensively in bulk at my local food co-op, but sometimes my mom gives me peppermint from her garden. Raspberry leaves do not taste much like the berries, just sort of leafy and mildly fruity. They are high in Vitamin C and healthy for everyone, but they are especially good for women about to give birth, postpartum, or menstruating because they help the uterus contract smoothly. I use peppermint mainly for its delicious flavor and cooling effect, but it may have health benefits, too. Both herbs are supposed to be good for digestion.
Here is my technique for making the tea:
Use a strainer with SMALL holes (smaller than the tea leaves) that can hang on the edge of a stainless steel, glass, or ceramic mixing bowl. (A plastic bowl may be damaged by boiling water and/or release harmful chemicals into the tea.)
Put the leaves in the strainer. I don’t measure them, just put in enough raspberry leaves to cover the bottom of the strainer and about an equal amount of peppermint. Set the bowl on a trivet or potholder or heat-proof surface.
Boil about 4-6 cups of water–I fill my electric kettle all the way full. Pour the boiling water over the leaves slowly, moving the stream around so that all the leaves get thoroughly soaked. When you are finished, the leaves should be submerged in the water; if they are not, boil more water and add it.
Let the tea steep for a long time, at least 15 minutes. I usually go do something else and leave it for an hour or more. Because you are going to add ice, it’s better to make the tea too strong than too weak! If you are worried that something might fall into it, you can cover it with a lid or foil. If the pitcher where you will be storing the tea is plastic, let it cool to room temperature before you transfer it to the pitcher, but you can remove the leaves earlier if you like.
When the tea is ready, fill a glass with ice cubes and pour tea into it. (If you have trouble pouring from the full bowl, which may still be warm, use a ladle.) Store the rest of the tea in a pitcher in the refrigerator. If you want to pour future servings over ice, keep it at full strength; if you want it to be ready to drink right from the pitcher, mix in some cold water.
Of course, you can use this method for any kind of loose tea. Another one I really like is rooibos (red tea), but its leaves are so small that I need to line my strainer with a coffee filter.
You can use the same method without the strainer for making iced tea from tea bags. If the box does not have instructions for iced tea, I use 2 or 3 tea bags in a quart of boiling water, depending on how strong I want the flavor to be. Most iced teas taste best when they are less strong (after icing) than you would want the tea to be if you were drinking it hot.
Putting a glass of iced tea on the table while I am taking care of my two-month-old baby entices me to stay hydrated so I can make plenty of milk!