Too cool? No such thing.

iced-tea.jpg

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

100-years-cover.jpgThus begins One Hundred Years of Solitude, the lush magical realism masterwork of Nobel Prize-winning Colombian-born author Gabriel García Márquez. In his New York Times book review, William Kennedy called it “the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.”

My point in mentioning it here, though, is that ice wasn’t always something dispensed by refrigerator doors. It was something extraordinary, carried down mountainsides by runners. Much later, it was delivered by icemen in horsedrawn wagons and kept in heavily insulated, but non-electrified iceboxes. Yeah, that old-fashioned-sounding term for refrigerator, icebox, used to refer to what was more or less a glorified cooler in the kitchen, used by our grandparents or perhaps great-grandparents.

I like ice. A lot. We use trays and trays of it, especially in warm weather, but even in the dead of winter. I like iced water, not refrigerated water. You can keep your Brita pitchers stored in the fridge—give me plenty of ice cubes and some tap water.

I like bartenders who make cocktails by first filling the glass with ice and then fitting the liquor and mixers around it.

English bartenders don’t get ice. I spent a summer there once, visiting my brother when he lived there. We spent lots of time in small village pubs, and I got pretty thoroughly tired of warm beer you couldn’t see through [in the interest of full disclosure, I must say here that I’m not a beer drinker]. And wine, when you could even find it, was dreadful. Yes, I understand asking for wine in a small Brit village pub is like ordering fish in a steak house—see the previous statement. Finally one night in an Oxford pub [college town—they should be up on their drinking, right?], I asked for a rum and coke. A simple drink, pedestrian, even. But the bartender just said, “Wot’s in it?” I said, “Well, rum and coke. And ice.” The two lonely little ice cubes he supplied floated around the glass, never meeting up and never affecting the room temperature drink.

I also take my caffeine cold. Diet Pepsi and iced tea are my beverages of choice. I usually have the former on the way to work—even on days when it’s so cold that the ice cold can feels warm compared to the air—and brew a glass of the latter as my first official act of the work day. Here’s how to make a great glass of fresh-brewed iced tea in just a few minutes.

Put a tea bag in a coffee mug and fill it with with boiling water—from a kettle at home or the hot water spigot on the office coffee maker. I like basic, black tea—Lipton, to be exact. If you prefer chai tea or some foofoo raspberry herbal tea, use that. Just don’t tell me, okay?

Let it steep for 3 minutes. Don’t go by darkness—time it. I read somewhere that some Brit tea organization says 3 minutes is the optimal time. If the Brits don’t know tea, who does?

Put 5 ice cubes in a tall glass. Think of these cubes as the advance team, cannon fodder. They will start the cooling process. Add hot tea. If you want sweetener—sugar, Splenda, whatever—add it now and stir. If you’re from the south, keep adding sugar until it stops dissolving and call it “sweet tea.”

Now add some more ice—say 5 to 7 cubes—and stir. Done. Real, fresh brewed iced tea, real easy. Oh. And add lemon if you use it. I don’t. That’s why it’s on the side in the photo above.

I know all this sounds Felix Unger obsessive, but it works. And it’s so easy, you never have to settle for bottled tea on that powdered abomination. In practice, the 3-minute rule varies from maybe 2 minutes when I’m in a hurry to a half hour or longer when I get busy and forget it. That results in tea that will practically walk in and announce itself.

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2 Responses to “Too cool? No such thing.”

  1. Carolyn Says:

    Ice! This reminds me of a Florida friend’s visit to St. Louis during November. She brought along her eight-year-old son. At the train museum, the boy was stunned to find, in a healthy dent in the sidewalk, trapped water covered by a thin skin. It was the most exciting thing this little tourist ever had seen: ice, just laying on the street. We had to stand around a long time with him, feigning excitement about that little pool of cold water. Don’t you wish he’d stayed for snow?

  2. Terry B Says:

    What a wonderful moment, Carolyn! Thanks!

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