My mom’s iced tea is my all-time favorite thing to drink.
I pretty much guarantee you’ll hate it.
Why? It’s sour. Not “tangy” — not nearly that delicate. Powerfully sour. At least, that’s what I’ve heard. I think it’s just right — sour, but not punishing. This is not “citric acid will scald your tastebuds” torture. To my mind, delightfully sour.
Just writing that makes my mouth water. I wish I had a glass right now.
It’s a blunt instrument of a beverage. A blunt, refreshing, delicious instrument.
I grew up thinking this was what iced tea was supposed to taste like. I was shocked to discover that most people think of it as a sweet beverage.
My mother-in-law loves iced tea — but she hails from Missouri and leans towards the syrupy Southern style that showcases sugar over citrus. She drank a glass of my family recipe once, though I did try to warn her, and was very polite as she declined to take more than one sip. When she speaks of it now, she calls it “poison tea.”
For a long time, I assumed that my mom’s iced tea was just an unusual regional variant, or at least a family tradition. Then I asked my mom where she got the recipe, and she said she invented it herself since she never liked sweetened iced tea and loved sour flavors. (She’s not a sweets person, to the horror of her grandchildren.)
When I learned how to make this, it was a typical hand-me-down recipe, prepared by instinct and learned by watching someone else do it. Years later, I realized that I could tinker with it and nail down the details, so for a couple of months I played America’s Test Kitchen, varying elements one by one and assuming that there was a platonic ideal of Mom’s Intensely Sour Iced Tea just waiting to be discovered and documented.
When you try this, and wince — and you will — keep one thing in mind: My mom thinks this version has too much sugar and not enough lemon juice.
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