Nan's Iced Tea Recipe

Have you ever studied a photograph for so long that the image was transformed into a living memory? In my memory, family snapshots play back to me like short documentaries. Thanks to a tattered album I studied as a child, I have what seems like a vivid memory of my stylish grandmother–the year hovering some where in the 40’s–on the day she married my grandfather.

Granted, I have a very active fantasy life. I am a writer. My job is to engage in daily games of make believe.

My grandmother is the bride and cousin Anna's grandmother Mary is on the right
My grandmother is the bride and cousin Anna's grandmother Mary is on the right

But just this week I found my imaginary memories of family were jarred into a new kind of reality when I met for the first time, a long lost cousin. She’s the daughter of my grandmother’s sister, and, it turns out, is blessed with all of our family’s best features. My cousin Anna is, without a doubt, a living representation of the elegant women of our family. She is a living memory of elegant days past. Anna, like our grandmothers, is smart, opinionated, creative, and supremely intuitive. And, it turns out, she’s also obsessed with food.

So when she asked me if I had our great grandmother’s recipe for Iced Tea I almost wept with joy. I had forgotten that my family lives on not only through photos but also the recipes they leave behind.

Beyond being my great grandmother Nan’s recipe, this is one of the most delicious iced teas I’ve ever tasted.

Nan’s Iced Tea

6 cups of water
5 black tea bags, English breakfast, Earl Grey or Lipton
1 cup sugar
6 lemons, 1 for slicing the rest to be juiced (1 cup needed)
5 small tangerines, 1 for slicing the rest to be juiced (1/4 cup needed)
1 bunch of mint
Plenty of ice cubes

Boil the water. Take off heat and add tea bags. Let steep for 15 minutes. While waiting for tea to steep, juice all but one of the lemons and tangerines. Be sure to keep one lemon and tangerine for garnishing. Once tea is finished steeping, remove the tea bags and add sugar to the warm tea. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Put citrus juice, mint, sliced lemons and tangerines into a large pitcher. Add the sugared tea to the mixture, stir and chill.

Serve over ice. Garnish with fresh sprigs of mint.


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Food Woolf Written by:

Brooke Burton is an Los Angeles-based restaurant professional and hospitality expert. She is a freelance food writer, speaker, and co-author of The Food Blog Code of Ethics.


  1. grace
    April 16

    Brooke & Anna,
    I’m so glad the heaven’s opened for the two of you to meet! And thank you for reminding me about Nan’s Ice Tea. In a pinch you can substitute Orange Juice if you don’t the fresh goods.
    Great posting Brooke. So good to see Mom and Mary strutting their stuff!
    Love, Mom

  2. Life in Recipes
    April 17

    What a lovely vignette. And that tea looks so refreshing in it’s pretty green jug.

  3. Leah
    April 17

    I can attest, this is the best iced tea I’ve EVER had! And frankly, it’s pretty great with Charbay’s pomegranate vodka, too. A refreshing little cocktail for summer BBQs.

  4. White On Rice Couple
    April 17

    What a small world and great story to see you two together. I can’t believe she is only 5 minutes away!
    The old photo’s are just beautiful and priceless!

  5. Familia Cabrera2
    April 25

    Everything about families is a real gift, thank you for reminding me that, Brookie!

    Thanks for the recipe, you know in Guatemala we have lemon and tangerines almost the whole year round, but I had never thought of mixing them, what a great idea!

    Love, Gaby

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