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By Jenny Lorée

Why grab a factory-bottled ice tea when you can make it yourself easily? When you make your own, you control the amount of sugars and eliminate preservatives. Brewing your own tea is very cost-effective too.

Though some tea companies advertise tea especially for making cold tea, you can make iced tea from any store bought tea bag or loose leaf tea. Either buy a loose leaf or packaged tea and follow a few simple steps.

What you would enjoy as a cold glass of water is what you should use to make your own ice tea; for example, if you are accustomed to drinking water directly from the tap, use that. If you use a water filtration system, use filtered water.

Use tea bags. To make a gallon of freshly brewed ice tea in your own kitchen, you can use either 4-8 tea bags, or ½ -3/4 cup of loose leaf tea (adjust to your preference).

Put the tea bags in the pitcher while you bring ½ gallon of water to a full rolling boil. Remove the tea kettle from the stove and let it sit a minute. Then pour water over the tea bags.

If you are using loose leaf tea, you might use an infuser (a metal mesh container to hold the tea leaves). Or, you can simply put the tea leaves in the bottom of the pitcher, pour on the water, let the mixture steep, and strain the mixture into another pitcher.

For black tea, let it steep (let the tea bags sit in hot water) for 3 to five minutes, or for a tisane (herbal tea) 8-10 minutes.

If you want a sweet tea, add sugar or other sweetener before adding ice. To any of these bases you can add juices, seltzer water, alcohol, and floating fruit or fruit as a true garnish. If you plan to add juice, alcohol or seltzer, add it after the tea concentrate has cooled naturally, without ice. Otherwise, for an instant drink, add straight ice to cool the tea immediately.

For sun tea: put the tea in a gallon glass container with a top to conduct the heat from the sun. The container needs to be set in direct sunlight for 4-6 hours. Use a gallon of water and the tea proportions are the same as for indoor brewed tea.

So, enjoy tea any time of the year. Go with the tried and true, or maybe try a new blend and create your own favorite.

Market Spice Cinnamon Orange Black Tea: The complexity of this tea comes from the fact that actual cinnamon oil is added to the black tea. This tea tastes very sweet, though there is no sugar in it. The essential oil of cinnamon causes this sweetness, making it a great tea for someone who is watching carbs or who needs to control sugars. Cinnamon has been found to help regulate blood sugar levels.

Twinings Earl Grey: This tea is a nice basic sample of blended black tea with a simple citrus note to it. This is one of the more basic of teas; even though it's basic, it's not boring. It's beautiful with orange and cherry garnishes.

Strawberry Caramel Honeybush starts with a strawberry essence as the honeybush (a bush from South Africa) tea crosses your palette. The little chunks of caramel melt and add a sense of smoothness. This tea is wonderful served with frozen strawberries instead of ice cubes.

Novel Teas: This tea is a mild blend of black tea with playfulness added by its packaging. Each teach bag sports a tag complete with a literary saying: “Books may well be the only true magic” (Alice Hoffman) and “Books had instant replay long before sports” (Bert Williams).

Almond Essence is a tisane tea (caffeine free) and is made up of pieces of almond, apple, hibiscus, beet root (for light pink color). This tea can be paired with a scones or other delicately flavored pastries.

Jenny Lorée is the owner of Tattered Pages and Tea on Johnson Street in Bay City, where she combines her love of books and tea.

© Jenny Lorée, 2011