When our first child was quite young, my husband and I decided that we didn’t want/need him drinking juice, minus special occasions or the tiny paper cup of apple juice in his Sunday School class. We knew there would be a better substitute out there, and we were right – iced tea! We don’t go to the extreme of sugar-free in our house…if we did, I would be in big trouble! I do like to avoid sugar when I can, but that is an everyday battle… For our children, though, we wanted to give them a good start, a fresh palette, and keep sugar out of their diet when we could avoid it. I will never forget – my son was almost 9 months old and only eating fruits, vegetables, and the plainest of plain, no sugar (tastes like cardboard) no name Cheerios. He was sitting in his stroller at my work and someone walked by him and said, “Oh, you would probably love one of these!” and put a sugar-coated, honey-glazed timbit right in his hands. I snatched that thing, shoved it in my mouth and licked the sugar off his hands! I know, I know, he was a first child… but still! When you can avoid it, you may as well avoid it, especially at such a young age. (And yes, I am sure now that we have more than one child, somewhere in our future one of the older kids will feed the younger child a timbit and we may have no idea! I’m not naive. 🙂 )
So, when it was time with our oldest where we were “allowed” to introduce juice, we chose to avoid it altogether, and instead, introduce him to tea. Hydrating, delicious, no sugar iced tea! I know so many parents in this boat – wanting to keep their kids (or themselves) away from sugar, but not sure the best way to do that. Here is a simple step-by-step on making iced tea for your kids:
1. Start with a good quality, loose leaf FRUIT tea. Fruit teas contain no caffeine, as they are just fruit pieces, and don’t actually contain any tea leaves. A very popular fruit tea in our house is Pineapple Orange Cooler – a strong, sweet tasting fruit tea that is perfect for iced tea (though adults will love it hot, too). I love it mixed with Berry Mania as well for an iced tea. With loose leaf tea, the ingredients are simple, but the flavour is strong!
2. Boil some water. For fruit teas, slightly less than boiling works great. If you don’t have a kettle with temperature control, then just boil the water and let it sit for a minute or two. Don’t worry – boiling water won’t destroy the process, you just don’t need it at a rolling boil for fruit tea.
While you are waiting for the water to boil, get some tea in your pitcher! This pitcher that I use is about 2L, so I would use between 2-3 tbsp of fruit tea, depending on the kind of tea and how strong you want it. Once you have your boiling water, fill about 1/3 of the jug with boiling water and let the tea steep for about 15-20 minutes. Again, you can experiment a bit depending on how strong you want it, but the idea is to give your tea a nice, concentrated steep for a bold flavour.
3. When you have finished steeping the tea, you have two options depending on how quickly you want to enjoy your tea – cold water or ice. With cold water, you will obviously fill the jug with cold water, but then likely need to let it sit on the counter to chill for a little while before being able to put it in the fridge. (Depends on the jug you are using – I use a glass pitcher, so I need to be careful about the temperature of the tea when I place it in the fridge.) If you want to enjoy your tea right away, fill your jug with ice, and then you should be able to enjoy right away, or at least place it in the fridge immediately to prepare for your lunch BBQ or dinner party!
–Most important note first – always be aware of the ingredients in your tea and check for any allergies that your kids might have, or take note if there are any foods that you should avoid while on medication, etc. If you are ever in doubt, contact your health care provider with the ingredients.
–Kids LOVE Rooibos tea, too! It is a naturally caffeine-free tea that is naturally sweet and comes in lots of dessert-like flavours. My son (who is now 3.5 years old) loves our Mint Chocolate Chip, Creme Carmello, Cherry Pie, Vanilla Cupcake and our Lemon Honeybush herbal tea. For Rooibos tea, it is similar to fruit tea as it doesn’t get bitter if you oversteep (though it does keep getting stronger!). With these teas, you can choose to hot steep and then chill or just steep in cold water overnight.
–You can definitely do Black, Green or White tea iced, but these tea leaves can become bitter if hot steeped for too long, so I just throw the leaves in the pitcher with cold water and let it sit in the fridge for the afternoon or overnight, depending on how strong you want it.
–The pitcher I use has a strainer in the lid, so I keep my tea leaves in the pitcher for as long as I drink the iced tea. Usually, it only lasts a day or two in our fridge, but a few days longer won’t hurt it.
–If you want to sweeten your iced tea, you could try a number of different things, depending on what you like to use: Stevia, Agave, Honey or Simple Syrup, etc.
For simple syrup, just simmer 3/4 cup sugar and 1 cup water on the stove until it is combined. Let it cool and store in the fridge. I typically use only 1-3 tbsp of simple syrup for 2L of iced tea if I sweeten it for party guests. For extra pizzazz, try adding some Sub-Lime Sugar Shaker or Raspberry Sparkler Sugar Shaker to your simple syrup. Rim your glasses with our flavoured sugar and for an extra special treat!
–For the adults – there are so many ways to mix up your teas! I love Earl Grey de la Creme with Berry Mania, or Strawberry Fields with Mint Julep – the possibilities are endless! Take a look at Steeped Tea’s recipe page for ideas and get creative!
Feel free to email me if you have further questions!