DC water gets two pinkies down...
March 28, 2008 8:10 PM   Subscribe

ThirstFilter: Help me figure out to make iced tea that doesn't suck, despite DC's terrible municipal water.

I grew up drinking iced tea made from regular old Lipton black tea and rather hard water. Since moving to DC, I've tried:
1) Lipton teabags, unfiltered water.
2) Lipton teabags, water filtered through a Brita (sometimes twice).
3) Fancy black tea, unfiltered water.
4) Fancy black tea, filtered water.

Whatever I do, it still ends up tasting almost entirely like tannins and cardboard. I boil the water in a normal tea kettle and pour it into a pot with a few teabags. The water/teabag ratio is about the same as I've always had it, as is the brewing time. Suggestions? I drink a full pitcher of iced tea a day or more and subcontracting out to Honest Tea (as delicious as it is) is hell on my wallet.
posted by Inspector.Gadget to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Well- I would try a Brita or something similar but if that's not an option try leaving the plain tap water out in a fridge in a pitcher for a day. It what a friend did in a fancy-smancy restaurant he owned. It tasted better and didn't smell clorine-y.
posted by beccaj at 8:16 PM on March 28, 2008

If it's too tannic, maybe you're using too many bags, or steeping too long.

I have pretty good water (Long Island), and I use a "fancy" black tea (Bewley's), which is pretty strong. I use about two bags for 4 cups of water, and brew for about 5-6 minutes. When it's done, I add sugar and lemon, and add just enough ice so it's warm. Then into the fridge. The result is a fairly strong brew. Good for me, but I'll water it down for guests.

If your water is no good, I'd suggest buying the cheapest bottled water you can find, like the store brand in 1 or 2 gallon containers.

I say, keep experimenting. You'll get it figured out!
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:21 PM on March 28, 2008

Have you tried fiddling with the pH? Make one batch with just a teensy pinch of baking soda. (Supposedly cheap Chinese restaurants do this because it makes the tea darker with less tea). Make another batch and add a squeeze of lemon.
posted by gregor-e at 8:28 PM on March 28, 2008

Everyone raves about my iced tea, which I make using Bromley Estate Tea, which is total crap, and cheap. Which is why I like it. Cheap but lots of flavor. Boil your water for about 30 seconds. Don't overboil it - it deadens the taste of the tea. Put 7 tea bags into a pitcher, and fill about 1/3 of the way with the boiling water. After no longer than 20 seconds take out the tea (never ever leave the bags in any longer....it makes the tea taste like bitter acid) and add your sugar or sweetener of choice - I use about 3/4 cup good old fashioned tooth-rotting sugar. Stir for about 10 seconds to dissolve the sugar and add ice until 3/4 full, and finish off with cold water. If you like lemon or mint, add it to your glass, not the pitcher.
posted by iconomy at 8:34 PM on March 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

I use Lipton's big tea bags. Two of those plus one quart of water and a pinch of baking soda (seriously, just a pinch between your fingers), heated until almost boiling (just when bubbles form on the bottom of the pot) then steeped 5 minutes. Then I put the strong tea into another quart of cold water and refrigerate.
posted by cabingirl at 8:34 PM on March 28, 2008

There are several very good recipes for Sweet Tea here, if you're so inclined.
posted by iconomy at 8:35 PM on March 28, 2008

My boyfriend got a steam distiller for our water when we moved in together. I rolled my eyes at first, but once I actually started making tea with it, the eye rolling stopped and I threw my Brita pitcher away. (And since we stopped buying bottled water as well, the distiller has long since paid for itself.)
posted by scody at 8:40 PM on March 28, 2008

Try putting your tea bags in the water at the very beginning before it starts to boil. Let it go approximately 3 minutes once it starts to boil, pour that over your sugar, and then add cold water.
posted by Ugh at 8:55 PM on March 28, 2008

Just to suggest the opposite, try cold brewing? Instead of a few mins in boiled water, try a few hours in cold water. I make iced tea that way overnight in the fridge and it works well, zero bitterness.
posted by rokusan at 9:21 PM on March 28, 2008

I feel your pain. I just moved from DC to Phoenix, and the water here is possibly even worse than yours.

I use a Brita pitcher for my water, then I use the cold brew method that rokusan suggests. It seems to help a lot with the bitterness. It's also less labor intensive.

Also, if you like flavored tea at all, try making your iced tea with tropical-flavored teabags. It helps mask the taste of bad water. Trader Joe's sells some for like $1.79, and it's actually pretty good.
posted by arianell at 10:04 PM on March 28, 2008

As cabingirl says, the baking soda works great. I put it in at the same time I put the teabags in the boiling water.
posted by JanetLand at 6:25 AM on March 29, 2008

It's probably the recipe and technique rather than the water. DC water is not bad (for public drinking water). Try living on the Coastal Plain of Maryland or Virginia for a while with a shallow well- where your water always has a faint rotten egg smell...

The Brita suggestion is a good one regardless. Keep your filters very fresh and they really do work. Activated carbon is magical stuff.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 6:38 AM on March 29, 2008

Nthing Brita-ing the water. I lived in DC for 4 years and hated the water.

I have good tap water where I live now. After experimenting with lots of different brands, I now use only Twinings Orange Pekoe tea.

My recipe is:
- Boil the water
- Add 2 teabags to a large coffee cup
- Pour boiling water into cup
- Let steep for no more than 2 mins
- Pour tea from cup to pitcher, adding ice and water to fill

Add mint to glass when drinking, not to the pitcher.
posted by charlesv at 8:57 AM on March 29, 2008

Pretty sure this is actually off the green somewhere, but I can't find the original source now. This is really good iced tea, and works with any kind of tea including every black, green, and herbal I've tried. I'm think it's the baking soda that counteracts the municipal water taste. Note that they recommend bottled water or filtered water if you're in a municipal area, but I never have.

Ice Tea recipe

6 regular-size tea bags ("You can use Orange Pekoe, Oolong, green tea, Lipton -- pick your favorite.")
1/8 teaspoon baking soda (a good pinch)
2 cups boiling water
6 cups cold water
Granulated sugar or other sweetener to taste (optional)

1. In a glass measuring cup or ceramic teapot large enough to accommodate the boiling water, place the tea bags and baking soda. Pour the boiling water over the tea bags. Cover and let steep for 15 minutes.
2. Remove the tea bags, being careful not to squeeze them (squeezing the bags will add bitterness).
3. Pour the concentrate into a two-quart pitcher and add the cold water. Sweeten, if desired. (Some Southerners put in as much as 1 1/2 cups of sugar.)
4. Let cool, then chill and serve over ice.
Makes two quarts.

Tea will become cloudy if refrigerated while still warm. Add a little boiling water to clear up the cloudiness.
The tannins in tea also cause cloudiness when the tea is brewed in hard water. If you know you have minerals in your water, use bottled or filtered water.
Other Resources
• Iced Tea is published by Harvard Common Press
posted by nax at 6:10 AM on March 30, 2008

« Older Too bad House, MD isn't a vet   |   88 Minutes song title Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.