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Chill Out in June - It's National Iced Tea Month!

(post, Sarah Price)

For the grateful person, there are millions of things to be thankful for every day.  Fortunately the authorities that be (though we aren’t sure exactly who they are) have sorted out all the many things that have blessed our lives so that we may take note of them one at a time.  They are organized by date, and there are many that have passed recently that you may not have been aware of.

For example, did you celebrate National Star Wars Day at the beginning of this month?  Or, how about National Poetry Day on April 28th?  Then, who could’ve possibly forgotten National Pancake Day on February 23rd?  One of our favorites, and yours too, I hope, is coming up soon—and this holiday is so grand that it warrants a whole month of celebration.  That’s right, June is National Iced Tea Month!  Get your tall glasses and frosty cubes ready, because we will be pouring over this all month long!

Why celebrate iced tea, you ask?  For the same reasons we celebrate Star Wars and Pancakes – they are just plain good.  So it is with iced tea, and particularly during the month of June, when the chilled glass sweats almost as much as we do.  Nothing better accompanies the summer heat; the cool, crisp liquid brings our body temperatures down and the slap of caffeine helps us the muster the energy to master our summer chores.  

There are varied ways to make and enjoy the drink, and most people stand bitterly behind their methods as they would their religious or political views.  If you’re from the South, you probably wouldn’t think about making tea without an equal part sugar.  If the stirring spoon doesn’t stand up for at least two seconds, keep adding to the batch!  If you’ve lived in Arizona for some time, you’re likely partial to vats of iced tea brewed in the sun all morning long.  You probably also use about ten large teabags per jar of water.  I forgive you for the teabags.  That said, we can move on.

For the month of June, let’s celebrate by stepping outside of the box and dissolving the walls that divide us tea-lovers.  It’s easier to be creative with iced tea than you might expect, and more importantly, it’s fun.  And with a whole month to experiment, you can find innumerable ways to enjoy one of America’s favorite drinks.  Let me get you started with a few ideas:

# Think green grass and white balls.  That’s right, I’m talking about the classic Arnold Palmer.  For those of you who don’t know, this is simply equal parts black tea and lemonade poured over ice.  Why not have the best of both worlds?  
# The English had it right—don’t be afraid to add milk to your tea!  But, try it this way:  Brew your black tea really strong, add sugar, and pour it into a tall glass full of ice, about 2/3 full.  Top it off with a layer of evaporated whole milk.  This is called a “Thai Iced Tea.”  Between the strength of the tea and the sweetness of the sugar and cream, you won’t need more than one!
# Add stuff to the mix!  Whoever said iced tea had to be just tea leaves, water, sugar, and lemon?  Add anything you want —try fresh basil or mint from the garden.  Shave ginger root into the pitcher for a hint of spice.  Muddle some fresh berries and add them to the mix!  You don’t even have to use tea—many herbs can be prepared in the same manner (think hibiscus).  Try using yerba mate, lemongrass, or mint in its place. 
# Spike it.  Don’t be afraid.  In fact, the first glasses of iced tea enjoyed in America were accompanied by liquor, and were called “punch.”  This dates back to the early 1800’s, and the drinks were popularized about a century later during the prohibition. Talk about making tea more fun!  Try any variety of flavored vodkas, the tea of your choice, and a squeeze of lemon, all over ice of course.  You’ll forget that it’s summer.
# One final tip for June:  Take any of the above ideas, mix a large pitcher of the beverage, and pour it into ice cube or popsicle trays for the freezer.  You can even layer flavors for varied effects.  For you heavy-handed folk, go a little light on the vodka if you intend it to freeze.  Use these cubes to ice other drinks, or enjoy them alone.  Who ever said popsicles were just for kids?

The whole point is enjoyment, which is why we drink iced tea in the first place, and why it is worth celebrating.  So, have a bit of fun.  Get your lawn chair out, grab your iPad or your favorite magazine, push a pair of sunglasses onto your nose and pour yourself a cold one; it doesn’t really matter how it’s prepared.  Chill out, with Maya Tea!