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Craving: Iced Green Tea

I grew up drinking green tea every afternoon. It's as essential to my day as a morning cup of coffee. I find the making of tea just as satisfying as the drinking of it. The ritual of brewing a pot—loose leaves steeped briefly in an old dented pot—is intensely relaxing. It forces me to slow down, if only for a few minutes. In fact, I find the ritual so calming that, more than once, I've actually forgotten to drink the tea!

Many of my friends say they want to drink more green tea for its alleged nutritional benefits, but they can't get past the acidic, slightly bitter taste. Some found that adding sugar or honey made it more palatable. (I tried it, but thought it ruined the subtle flavors.) I found that simply drinking it chilled softens the edges and makes a wonderfully refreshing drink for the sweltering days of summer.

I'm a little bit picky about my tea. I insist on loose leaves (usually the basic sencha or the mellower genmaicha, with its lovely toasted brown rice flavor) for a better taste. I watch the clock to ensure I don't oversteep my tea, which makes it bitter. (The ideal steep time varies depending on each tea. Follow the directions closely to ensure the best flavor.)

If I'm traveling, I will grudgingly consent to a tea bag. (Surprise find: The Kirkland brand found at Cosco, made by the Japanese distributor Ito-En, contains a dusting of matcha and tastes surprisingly good for an inexpensive teabag.)

If you're new to green tea, you can start with an inexpensive loose-leaf brand (you can find various brands, such as Yamamotoyama, at Asian markets for as little as $3-$9 per package). Or, check out Web sites such as this one for loose tea shipped from Japan.