Iced tea with mint and lemon is refreshing on a...

Iced tea with mint and lemon is refreshing on a steamy, hot day. Credit: Newsday/Tony Jerome

On a sultry day, there’s nothing like an iced tea. Tea’s natural astringency makes it more refreshing than almost any other (nonalcoholic) beverage; it’s also a great excuse for the cooling properties of lemon and / or mint.

I’ve never understood the popularity of bottled iced teas -- which tend to taste like anything but, you know, tea -- but I’ll grant you that they do offer one advantage: instant gratification. Here’s a method that’s almost as quick, but infinitely tastier and cheaper:

Put four tea bags in a heatproof glass container (like a Pyrex measuring cup) and cover with a cup of boiling water.

Steep for 5 minutes, remove the tea bags and put the tea in the refrigerator to hasten cooling. (To make sweetened iced tea, add the sugar to the still-hot concentrate once you remove the tea bags.)

Depending on how strong you like your tea, you can pour this directly over ice, or cut with cold water.

Add a sprig of mint or a squeeze of lemon and congratulate yourself.