Surviving Hell

The Best Way to Beat the Heat: Iced Tea

Every morning, I make a full pot of tea in my little 1.5 liter metal Japanese teapot. Because it has a perforated insert into which I can spoon whole tea leaves without worrying about having to eat them as I drink the tea, I can dispense with tea bags altogether. I buy mostly Indian loose black teas (Darjeeling, Ceylon, Assam) by the pound. The general rule of thumb is that one pound (0.45 kilograms) brews some 240 cups of tea. Compare that with the Specialty Coffee Association’s estimate of 48 cups of coffee from one pound of beans.

In a heat wave such as we are now experiencing in Southern California—especially during the coronavirus quarantine—I become positively lizard-like. What keeps me from going reptile all the way is the iced tea I drink. As of 10 pm, there are only a few thimblefuls of tea left in my pot. While I was sitting in my library reading Marie NDiaye’s La Cheffe, I was cooled not only by the iced tea, but by the condensation from the glass sending icy droplets onto the hairs of my bare stomach (as I am not wearing a shirt while inside).

My Indian tea of choice lately has been the Ahmad of London brand, which is popular in the Indian and Iranian food stores in my part of town. At present, I am drinking their Darjeeling tea, which I find to be the best. It also happens to be the most expensive (600 grams for US$36).

I am particularly conscious of the heat because the apartment building in which I live was built in 1945, when insulation was not commonly used. That was before global warming. Now I feel as if I am living in one of those punishment hotboxes from Bridge on the River Kwai or Cool Hand Luke.

If you want to make your iced tea taste particularly good, add a splash of good dark rum, such as Myers’s Original Dark Rum from Jamaica. I also add the juice of a fresh lemon and some Splenda (as I am diabetic).

 

What Flows Through My Veins

No, It’s Not Coffee … Ever!

With most Americans, I would wager that what flows in their veins is either coffee or Coca-Cola. With me, it’s tea—either hot or iced. And my tea is occasionally made with tea bags, but most of the time with tea leaves which I store in bulk. Although I also drink Chinese and Japanese green teas with my Chinese or Japanese food, my tea of choice for my own cooking is Indian black tea. Darjeeling is by far the best, but the better grades can be fiendishly expensive. So I usually blend it with Ceylon or Assam depending on the time of year.

When it gets cooler, as it is now, I like to mix the Darjeeling with a “wake-me-up” Assam like Baruti or Ghalami. I -purchase the tea in bulk either from an Indian or Persian grocery store. One pound of any loose black tea will last me the better part of a year.

I have a cheap Japanese metal pot with a removable insert so that I don’t need a strainer to remove the infused tea leaves from my cup. After making a couple of cups of hot tea for breakfast, I save the rest of the tea in the pot for iced tea, adding two or three ice cubes per glass. During the summer, I usually drink iced tea all the time, including for breakfast.

My iced tea is usually unsweetened. For hot tea, I like to add mesquite honey and a squeeze of fresh lime.

Sometimes I don’t even think of myself as an American because I’m not hooked on coffee and Coke. Although I will occasionally drink a Coke when the only alternative is iced tea adulterated with passion fruit, raspberries, or kumquats. Adulterated iced tea is an abomination and to be avoided at all costs.