recipe: Microwave Iced Tea

When we saw Sara Moulton at Hill’s Kitchen a while back, one of the things she said was she didn’t care for the microwave because she didn’t think that “pushing buttons is cooking.” She’s clearly not a fan of The Jetsons. I do agree with her, for the most part, as I mainly use the microwave to help prepare ingredients or make items specifically designed to be cooked using that method. As I’ve never owned a tea kettle, one of my primary uses for the microwave has always been to heat/boil water for beverages. This led me to one of my standby “kitchen hack” recipes: microwave iced tea.

Of course, having been raised in the South, this probably has my ancestors up in arms because it isn’t “proper” brewed iced tea. But my ancestors didn’t have microwave ovens! I derive “kitchen hack” from life hack, in that it’s a trick to produce a satisfying result, even if not by the “standard” method.

When I first moved to Washington DC, it was Spring, which is a lovely time to be in DC. The temperatures are nice, flowers are blooming everywhere, there’s the occasional rainstorm to wash away the pollen… it’s great! Unfortunately, it’s followed by Summer, which is not a fun time to be in DC, an even less fun time to be in my first group house experience with no central air-conditioning. Our fridge was filled (and re-filled) with gallon jugs of water at all times and we’d spend a lot of time out front on the porch swing because at least there was sometimes a hint of a breeze. It was easy enough to make sun tea, but that took hours, so I would head into the kitchen and walk out 10 minutes later with a tray of iced tea for everyone. The housemates never asked how I did it–gift horse and all–and attributed it to a little Southern kitchen magic.

I tell you now, it will take you longer to read this recipe than it will ever take you to make this recipe.

Microwave Iced Tea

  • 4 cups water
  • 8 tea bags (or 2 family size tea bags or 3 tablespoons loose tea)*
  • 3/4 cups sugar, or to taste (naturally sweeter or fruit-flavored teas may need less sugar to your own taste)
  1. Add tea (bags or loose) to microwaveable measuring cup with 4 cups cold water.  Set for 5 or 6 minutes, bringing just to a boil.
  2. Stir and press tea bags gently against sides to release until tea is darker looking. With loose tea–it usually completely sinks or floats–remove from microwave with 1 minute cooking time left, stir and replace for the final minute.
  3. Pour sugar into a gallon (4 quart) pitcher.  Add tea, straining bags or loose tea as you pour.
  4. Stir, fill with water/ice and refrigerate or serve over ice.

* You can mix and match bags and styles of tea, but the key for a gallon is 8 teaspoons. I often temper 4 bags of strong tea with 1 family-size bag of green tea, or add loose mint tea to orange pekoe black for a sweet southern mint tea.

And you’ve got iced tea! Like I said, it’s a no-brainer but it surprises me how many people I tell this to that have never thought of it before. Adventures in Shaw was most appreciative when I showed it to her.

I’ve used this method with all sorts of teas: pre-bagged, white, green, black and red. The Strawberry Garden white tea from Zen Tara Tea works quite well and doesn’t even need that much sugar. It’s easy to adjust to your personal tastes and with Summer temps going into the 90s, I like having a pitcher of iced tea in the fridge at all times.

I’m sure we all have kitchen hacks that we’re proud–or sometimes ashamed–of, it’s all good. I wouldn’t necessarily stand this up against sun tea, but it works for me and my housemates never complained. Enjoy!

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5 Responses

  1. Mango Tomato says:

    Wow, I would have never thought of microwaving iced tea. I usually bring a large pot of water to a boil and drop a few bags of tea inside. LOVE Starbucks’ passion iced tea.

  2. Shaw Girl says:

    I LOVE this method of making iced tea. You have a rich, almost sun-kissed flavored iced tea in no time at all. It will definitely make the coming heat wave more tolerable.

  3. After you showed us this method I finally got rid of my store bought ice tea maker. It was such a hassle to use. This method is so much easier. Of course, I usually end up spilling some of the tea while making it but I am clumsy in the kitchen.

  4. urb says:

    I admit that my filtering technique needs work too. I often spill a bit, and while making this batch, it boiled over a little in the microwave. I also got rid of my iced tea maker, though I kept the pitchers.

    I forgot to say that the 8 teaspoons (for one gallon) is really the key, but you can mix and match that all you want. I often temper 4 bags of a strong tea with a family-size bag of green tea. Since my pitchers are a 1/2-gallon each, I’ll often make half the recipe so I can have two different flavors in the fridge at once.

  5. William Mize says:

    Ashamed to admit this is the first time I’ve visited your new food blog, and it is gorgeous! Of course as a lazy bachelor, this little hack is right up my alley.

    Well done, sir. Well done.

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