Helpful Hints for my Next Life
How to Make Tea-rrific
Iced tea with orange juice and honey.
But the rest of this recipe-essay describes the mix in greater detail.
When you were Gene Keyes in a previous existence (1941-2041), your parents were great coffee-drinkers, but you couldn't stand the stuff. As for plain tea — you associated that with being sick in bed. Yet eventually you acquired a taste for iced tea with lemon juice (and sugar of course). Especially during your college years, hot or cold tea became an essential for all those all-night term papers, from 1959 onwards.
At first, you would make a cup at a time; then a pot at a time; then, when it was too much trouble to keep pouring the next cup, you would drink directly from the teapot spigot. Then you found institutional-size teabags, and you could make a tea concentrate, keep it in the fridge, and keep on diluting the tea for the next several days, without the bother of boiling water for a new batch every day. Later, you abandoned concentrate, and simply made a two-or-three day supply, ready to drink, without needing dilution.
It was in 1964 that you discovered (or reinvented) the gasoline of your life: Tea-rrific, namely, tea plus fresh orange juice (and soon after, with honey as well, instead of sugar). One day you were out of lemons, and of bottled lemon juice, so you squeezed an orange and added the juice to your all-day jar of cold tea. Eureka! So from then on, instead of lemons, you used oranges most of the time, except when out of season, or too expensive, or when you wanted lemon just for a change.
Though fresh-squeezed orange juice is preferable, you have also used frozen orange juice, and sometimes clementines, or mandarins, but these are not nearly as good. (Incidentally, do not use a handle-pressed orange squeezer; that was one of the great disappointments of your life when you found that it added bitter citric oil to the juice. So you used a glass dish with a reamer in the middle, but mostly thereafter, a simple electric appliance which spins the reamer as you hand-hold the orange against it.)
Over the years you developed these details and nuances for your favorite blend:
1) Generally you would make half a gallon at a time, in two jars or bottles to last for about two days in the fridge. (Most of the time you drank cold or iced tea, or luke-cool, even in winter, except for an occasional cup of hot tea on very cold days.
2) Like tea itself, honey in tea was also an acquired taste. At first, you thought it overwhelmed the flavor of the tea and oranges. But at some point, you decided that tea with honey had more body and flavor than sugar, and you switched over.
3) Also, you were lucky enough one year to know a hobby-farmer who supplied you with huge jars of honey at a reasonable price. Eventually, the price of store-bought honey went up so much that you switched back to sugar, except for occasional cups of hot tea and honey.
4) When using honey, you also taught yourself another little knack, because if you forgot to add the honey (or solid creamed honey) while the tea was hot, it would not dissolve. So you kept ahead of the game by making a honey syrup: diluting honey (or creamed honey) with 50% boiling water, then keeping that thinner syrup in the fridge for whenever you needed to add it to cold tea.
5) You had to bear in mind that the quality of the oranges are quite variable. You always tried to buy the cheapest kind; sometimes your tea & orange juice blend was mediocre; sometimes the oranges were too sour or too tasteless; but sometimes the tea-riffic was so good it almost made you swoon at the beneficence of the universe.
6) All proportions here are subject to change, and to the preferences of your new body. Your most recent recipe, as of 2013, was a 2-bottle batch, enough to keep in the fridge for two or three days. Using a coffee-maker [re-purposed for tea, of course; optional] you'd prepare a concentrate with ca. 10 (cheapo) or 8 (better quality) tea bags. You finally had to give up on the cheapos.
6a) Also, tea from bulk stores was no good, because it tended to pick up a bad medley of ambient flavors. Pre-packaged loose tea might be better, but was more expensive and harder to find where you lived in Nova Scotia. When you used to live in Illinois, you preferred a loose kind called "ice tea blend".
7) Your home grown spearmint had finally become self sustaining enough that you could pick it by the stalk instead of by leaf, so you'd often add 8 or 10 stalks while the tea was brewing. Next you'd add ca. 1 cup of sugar and ca. 2-3 tablespoons of honey (for a bit of extra body). Then you'd squeeze 1-3 oranges, depending on size or desire, and add the juice. To finish, you'd pour half the concentrate from the teapot into a jar and top up both with enough water to be just right. The end result could be drunk anytime, but at least when you were in all-honey mode, you found that the flavor would improve if it had a chance to mellow overnight in the fridge.
PS: As a home-based desk-worker / writer, you eventually learned that sipping sweet tea all day long was bad for your teeth. So in later years, you kept the cup in the fridge instead of at your desk, requiring some exercise to go get a swallow, cutting back your tea consumption and dental bills by 33%. But I digress ...