Summer Beverages: Teas and Tisanes

I’m told rehydration is important in the summer. I’ve always been a lousy drinker and I honestly believe I have worse sense of thirst or dehydration than most people. Habit of drinking even non-alcoholic drinks in abundance is a learned skill for me, and at the ripe age of 30 I think I’ve finally caught the idea of how to keep myself hydrated. The trick is teas and tisanes (herbal and/or fruit infusions).

Teas and tisanes aren’t a new form of refreshments. Ice teas have been around forever, and today they’re sold in stores in bottles and cartons. The problem I have with store-bought stuff is that I don’t know what’s in them, even after reading the label. I try to keep my sugar intake in bare minimum and I’m not too big fan of all the other industrial flavourings, preservatives and acidity regulators and whatnots are put into such a simple thing as tea. So, I usually brew my own. There’s couple of tricks though.

I grew up watching my mum preserve juices and jellies for consumption in winter. I know how to preserve, and it was explained and taught to me when I could barely read. So, I preserve my tea, and make bulk batches of it in different flavours.

HOWTO: make refreshing, cool, naturally no-caffeine beverage Here in Finland a well-known grocery store of German origin, Lidl, sells orange juice with pulp in glass bottles like the one depicted on the left. They fit 0.75 liters of drink, but the most important bit is that they’ve got metal twist tops, with a bit of plastic in the inside of the top – and the mouth of the bottle is wide enough to fit two teabags in. I usually clip a clothes peg on the tab of the teabags to prevent them from dropping inside the bottle.

I love normal tea for iced teas, but sometimes I prefer to have non-caffeinated drinks. For that purpose I use chamomile, mint and rooibos (red bush) teas and infusions. Green tea is also nice sometimes. I usually sweeten my iced teas with raw fair trade sugar, honey or sometimes just the normal run of the mill table sweetener like Splenda or Truvia (of which I brought some from US with me).

HOWTO: make no-caffeine beverage, part 2, ingredients HOWTO: make no-caffeine beverage, part 3, ingredients, natural cane sugar

If you’re doing the drink in batches of more than one bottle that is going to be consumed immediately after it has cooled, hygiene starts to play a role in the making and preparing of the tea. The bottles have to be properly washed, and the lids sterilized in hot boiling water. Pouring a bit of hot water in the bottle and swirling it in it before starting the real beverage process is good for two reasons: killing bacteria even more, and also warming up the bottle a bit so it won’t break so easily for the temperature shock.

For preserving the trick is to fill the bottle up with water, let the tea steep for needed amount of time, and then top the bottle up until heaped. This will be messy, but it is essential there is absolutely no air between the liquid and the lid after twisting it close. When the liquid cools down, it takes less space and a vacuum forms inside the bottle, as shown in the next picture.

HOWTO: make no-caffeine beverage, part 4, containers and preservation 07.05.2008

After letting the tea bottles cool down in room temperature for a while, they can be refrigerated. My old fridge does overtime on the summer temperatures already so I try to let them cool down as much as possible before putting them in. Iced tea preserved this way and stored in a dark, cool place will be drinkable practically for months, but somehow mine doesn’t last more than few days…

Childhood summer memories from Finland

One of the few foods that contain potato which have remained with me after moving out from my childhood home is cooked, fresh new potatoes. In Finland it’s traditional summer food that is restricted to summer months, starting from Midsummer or so (if you prefer to use Finnish new potatoes). It’s a real Midsummer Feast delicacy and a cornerstone of Midsummer Party dining.

In Finland the new potatoes are sold in one form: with some soil still on them. You can get them from the market squares, quaint little stalls or just go to your local supermarket. The option of growing them yourself is of course also available; I hear they’re perfectly capable of surviving in a big pot on a balcony.

Ingredients: new potatoes The starting point is potatoes. In Finland, as said, they’re sold with some soil on them, so you need to scrub them. I prefer to scrub mine very well, so that there isn’t any grit grinding when I’m eating: I don’t peel my new potatoes at all. The tradition says that the potatoes should be put in boiling water with a pinch of salt and preferably with dill. I’m not too big fan of dill myself, limiting its use only to gravlax, so I’m not using any here either.

Ingredients: New Potatoes, Washed Potatoes N Stuff Potatoes N Stuff

When boiling the potatoes, remember to keep them covered with water, and not let the water boil too hard. While you’re boiling your potatoes, you’ve got time to blog, upload some photos from your camera and organize your Flickr collections… or whip up a salad, or a posh onion sauce.

My onion sauce isn’t all too traditional, what my mum used to serve was onions boiled a bit in milk with a dollop of butter. My sauce consists of all those, but also flour: I chop my onions, twirl them around in melting butter in a pan, add couple of teaspoonfuls of normal flour and mix again for few minutes, not browning the flour or cooking the onions, though. To this base some milk is added and cooked on low heat until it thickens a bit.

Onion Onion Sauce For New Potatoes

Then comes the serving part. The main thing is of course potatoes, mine took about 15 minutes to cook. They can be served in multiple ways:

This Way like I had them as a kid, with just butter

This Way The way I had them as a teenager, with raw onion and butter

This Way The way I’ve learned to understand as an adult, with pickled herring

Summer Potatoes Or with all the above and the sauce!