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Chillin' in the USA

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Celebrate National Iced Tea Month

By Greg Summers

The mercury is rising, picnic baskets are coming down from the attic and it’s almost time for swimming pools to open.

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It’s also time to sit back in the porch swing and sip a glass of iced tea.

Legend has it that English tea merchant Richard Blechynden discovered the beverage nearly 100 years ago at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.

Those attending the gala showed little interest in drink hot tea that day so the quick-thinking Blechynden added ice, and the rest is “hist-tea-ree.”

From those early days, tea has become the second-most consumed beverage in the world, behind water. Eighty percent of the 2.2 million gallons consumed in the United States each year is served over a glass of ice.

Iced tea is so popular that it doesn’t only have its own day (June 10); it has its own month, too.

June is National Iced Tea Month.

Tea isn’t just refreshing on a hot sweltering day; it’s also good for you.

“Tea is a smart choice and the perfect brew for today’s healthy lifestyle,” said Joe Simrany, president of the Tea Council of the USA.

Dr. Jeffrey Blumberg, chief of the antioxidants research lab at Tufts University, said research reveals the antioxidants in tea may inhibit the growth of cancer cells and support cardiovascular health.

“Fruits, vegetables and tea all contain important antioxidants,” Blumberg said.

Numerous scientific studies suggest that tea – hot and iced alike – may provide health benefits because it contains phytochemicals.

Phytochemicals are naturally occurring plant compounds that play a role in helping the body fight certain types of cancer. It also helps maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels and supports a healthy immune system.

Specific phytochemicals, called flavonoids, are found in both black and green teas.

Flavonoids may have even stronger antioxidant properties than some fruits and vegetables. These antioxidants are believed to neutralize free radicals that scientist say may play a role in the development of some chronic illnesses, heart disease and some types of cancer.

When it comes to the caffeine content  of tea, you may be surprised. A serving of tea contains less than half the caffeine of coffee. And if you want even less caffeine, research says that about 80 percent  of caffeine can be removed from tea by steeping the tea for 30 seconds and pouring off the water. Add water again and steep for the proper amount of time.

If you’re looking for something a little different, here are three tea recipes to try. Sun tea is a great way to take advantage of the hot summer days.

This Pineapple Iced Tea recipe provides of little glimpse of popular 1800s beverages when women combined tea with fruit juices to form punch.

Green Tea Lemon Ice Cream is a light, creamy, slightly sweet dessert that’s more like sorbet than its name indicates. It’s definitely worth a try.

A little more ‘hist-tea-ree’

– The only tea grown in the United States is American Classic Tea, which is produced 20 miles south of Charleston on Wadmalaw Island. American Classic Tea is the official tea of the White House and is designated as the Hospitality Beverage of South Carolina.

– The first tea plants arrived in Charleston in the late 1700s when French explorer and botanist Andre Michaux brought them here, alone with several varieties of camellias, gardenias and azaleas.    

– Tea is the world’s second most consumed beverage, behind water.

– The oldest sweet tea recipe (iced tea) in print comes from Marion Cabell Tyree’s “Housekeeping in Old Virginia” (1879).

– During World War II, the major sources of green tea were cut off from the United States, leaving black tea grown in British-controlled India as the only supplier. Americans came out of the war drinking nearly 99 percent black tea.

– As a 2003 April Fool’s joke, Rep. John Noel and four others  introduced a bill in the state legislature outlawing unsweetened tea in all Georgia restaurants.

Green Tea Lemon Ice Cream

Ingredients

2 eggs

2/3 cups granulated sugar

1 3/4 cups milk

2 cups heavy cream

6 Bigelow Green Tea with Lemon Tea Bags

Directions

– In a small saucepan, combine the six tea bags with 1/2 cup of milk and heat until bubbles are visible. Remove immediately from heat and steep for 5 minutes. Strain tea bags, squeezing out all of the remaining liquid.

– Beat eggs in a medium-sized bowl. Temper the warm milk/tea blend (meaning add a quarter of the blend to the beaten eggs at a time and keep whisking until combined). Add sugar and heavy cream. Whisk until combined.

– Place in an ice cream maker and make according to manufacturer’s directions.

– Recipe from Bigelow Tea Co.

Pineapple Iced Tea

Ingredients

2 quarts water

6 tea bags

1 cup unsweetened pineapple juice

1/3 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons sugar

Directions

– In a saucepan, bring water to boil. Remove from heat. Add tea bags; cover and steep for 3-5 minutes. Discard tea bags. Stir in pineapple juice, lemon juice and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Refrigerate overnight for flavors to blend. Serve over ice.

– Recipe from Allrecipes.com

Sun Tea

Ingredients

4 to 6 tea bags

2 quarts water

Directions

– Put four to six tea bags into a clean 2-quart glass container. Fill with water and cap. Place outside where the sunlight can strike it for 3 to 5 hours. The longer it steeps, the darker it gets. When the tea reaches its desired strength, sweeten to taste while still warm. Place in refrigerator. Removing the tea bags is optional.

NOTE: Sun tea has a mellow taste; slow steeping brings out a slightly different flavor. Since it’s not made from boiling water, you should drink it up within about two days. It doesn’t keep as long as tea made from boiling water.

– Recipe from simplyrecipes.com