Here's my recipe for a refreshing iced tea made from South African Rooibos tea and clear apple juice, with spices adding a delicious fragrance. I make up this brew in four-litre batches two or three times a week, and, to my astonishment, my kids have stopped begging for Coke and Sprite and Oros and are eagerly glugging this healthy elixir. And I, too, have given up my unhealthy habit of craving Coca-Cola, Tab, Coke Lite, Coke Zero and all the other synthetic, dark-reddish-black fizzy drinks to which I have been hopelessly addicted since I was ten.
I am grateful to my aunt Gilly Walters for this lovely idea.
This may seem like a complicated recipe, but it's not, if you make up one big batch of spiced sugar syrup, and keep it in the fridge. The beauty of this method is that you can adjust the sweetness of the tea according to your taste. Since I switched to the sugar-free version of Coca-Cola and its devilish ilk a few years back, I have found most juices and cool drinks too be far too sweet for my liking. This recipe allows you to adjust the sweetness at will.
Spiced Iced Tea with Rooibos and Apple
For the spicy sugar syrup - enough to make up several batches:
2 cups (500 ml) white sugar or caster sugar
2 cups (500 ml) water
2 sticks cinnamon
2 whole star anise
6 whole cloves
the thinly pared skin of one lemon
Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring now and then to dissolve the sugar crystals. Boil rapidly for five minutes, then turn down the heat and allow to bubble very gently for fifteen more minutes until the mixture is clear and starting to get a little syrupy. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Decant the mixture into a glass or plastic jug or jar, spices and all, cover, and refrigerate. The longer the mixture steeps, the spicier it will become.
For the tea:
You will need a bucket or very big jug or basin to mix this up.
8 rooibos teabags, or the equivalent in loose tea
2 litres boiling water
1.5 litres clear apple juice, chilled
about 2 cups (500 ml) cold water, to taste
the juice of one lemon
spicy sugar syrup (see above) to taste
Put the teabags or loose tea into a bowl or sturdy glass jug, and pour over the boiling water. Allow to steep for a few hours, or until completely cooled. Pour the tea into a large jug or basin and add the apple juice, the water and the lemon juice [optional]. Now add a glug of the spicy sugar syrup. How much you add depends on how sweet you like your tea - taste it, and decide. Stir well and refrigerate.
Serve with plenty of ice. A slice of lemon, or a sprig of mint or lemon balm will add a bit of zing.
Makes four litres.
Note: This is lovely with peach or apricot juice.
Postscript: I threw a whole vanilla pod into a recent batch, which added a special fragrance. Today our iced tea was made from rooibos teabags with an Earl Grey flavour.