There are many ways to drink tea. Anyone who drinks it tends to have a strong opinion as to how it should be drunk. Some drink it hot, some drink it cold (I hope none drink it in the pot nine days old), but enough! I bring the topic to the table of cold black tea -- or iced tea, as it is called for whatever reason. (Herbal tea and it's variations is a whole other world -- I only enjoy that hot, and only certain kinds, so I won't discuss that today.)
Growing up in New Jersey, iced tea was mostly out of the can: powdered, sweet Lipton mixed with water in a great pitcher, and drunk in huge quantities until my mom realized we were rolling on a caffine/sugar induce high, and we switched to Kool-aid (not sure how much better that was). Once or twice I remember making "sun-tea", because we saw the "recipe" for it in a children's magazine and it looked like a fun project. However, this was not presweetened -- it takes sugar forever to dissolve in lukewarm water, and there was no instant gratification, so...back to the Kool-aid.
Upon moving to upstate New York, I discovered another kind of tea. I believe it was actually in Pennsylvania, at Greg's grandma's house. I was offered some iced tea, and thought, "oh, that'll be different, I almost never drink that!", and accepted a glass. On the first huge mouthful, shock hit me and I nearly spit it back into my cup. Bitter!! Uggghh! Who forgot to sweeten it? I quickly shoveled a few spoonfuls of sugar in and tried, unsuccessfully to stir the granules into the cold liquid. A few crunchy (still bitter) swallows later, I noticed that everyone else was drinking their tea with great enjoyment -- without anything added. OHMYGOSH. Some people drink it unsweetened! Some of you are laughing, but I'm serious. I had no idea!
Upon moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma, I discovered the perfect tea: Chick-Fil-A's sweet tea. I have never had a tea more perfectly balanced, or more enjoyable to drink. Nothing like the powdered stuff back in New Jersey, and certainly nothing like the bitter cup I'd had in PA! Now, I still have never had what would be qualified as Homemade Southern Sweet Tea, but I now have friends from the South who are going out to lunch with me next week to a Soul Food restaurant that they claim has "proper" southern tea -- properly sweet, I assume, so I'll report on that when I try it.
There is one more difference (that I know of) in tea: sun-brewed tea vs. boil-brewed tea. With sun-tea, of course, it is brewed all day in a juice jar or bottle out in the sun. Boil-brewed is when you put about 10-12 tea bags into a half gallon or so of water, bring it to a boil on the stove, let boil for about 10 minutes, then steep for maybe 5, before pouring into a jug that has sugar in it, and then adding cold water and ice to it (and often fresh lemon). Now really with the boil method, there are more ways to do that exactly than there are people to drink it, it seems, but you get the point.
I made boil-brewed a little while ago and just made sun-tea yesterday, so I've had opportunity to taste the two nearly side-by-side. Interestingly enough, I found a huge difference in taste. They are both good. The sun tea has a mild, round flavor that reminds one of...well, something that's been sun-warmed. Boil-brewed is deep and dark, tea leaves floating through the bottom of the glass because of the nearly violent method with which it is made. I prefer boil-brewed, but both are enjoyable in their own right.
Now to you, my reader, I pose the question: what is the Right way to make and drink iced tea? Why?
(As an endnote, I have noticed that I drink a glass of iced tea faster than any other liquid. My dad says the same thing. Anyone else?)
(Second end-note: since I am so susceptible to caffeine, I make my tea with decaf bags. It does, however, have about 2% caffeine still in it, so I can't drink much after about 5pm or else I'll be up all night -- true story.)