How To Make Iced Tea: Methods and Tips
It's that time of year where you don't have to reach for a cup of hot tea to stay toasty anymore. The weather is warming, the birds are chirping, and the patio is beckoning with hours of golden sunlight. Nothing goes better with a sunny day and relaxation than a refreshing glass of ice cold tea.
Iced tea opens up a whole new world of flavor. From fruit-infusions to herbal powerhouses, brewing iced tea is a great way to cool off and enjoy the wide range of flavors this beverage has to offer. Brewing iced tea requires a few adjustments to get the flavor just right. We've got you covered with this handy guide on how to make iced tea.
Looking for the best iced tea flavors to try today? Check out our collection of the best teas for iced tea right here.
The Basics of Brewing
Brewing iced tea is easy, but there are a few basic rules you should keep in mind. These will help you brew the perfect cup every time — whether you're making a single serving for yourself of whipping up refreshing iced tea for a large gathering.
Use Hot Water
For the most part, iced tea should be brewed using hot water because it develops flavors more quickly than cold water. Hot water also tends to draw out more nuanced flavor than cold water.
The cold brew method uses cold water to brew tea. This is effective but takes significantly longer than brewing with hot water. While we won't tell you not to use cold water, it's generally best to use hot water when brewing iced tea.
Use High-Quality Water
We know it's super easy to just fill a pot with tap water and start brewing. There are a few reasons why that's a bad idea when it comes to tea flavor. First, tap water doesn't develop flavor well. That's because our water system is treated with chemicals such as chlorine that can alter the natural taste of true teas and herbal teas.
Second, tap water varies dramatically in quality depending on where you live. Avoid tap water if you want the best flavor in your iced tea. We recommend using spring or filtered water for the most natural flavor.
Use The Right Amount
When you're brewing iced tea, you're likely brewing a large glass pitcher full fo the tasty stuff. In contrast, most people brew hot tea in single-serving portions. This can make it a bit confusing when you suddenly need to brew a large amount. Don't fear, there's a simple rule to help you get the right amount of tea each time. Just use 1 tea bag or 1 teaspoon of tea for every 10-12 ounces of water. You can also use a handy tool such as a tea spoon to dole out the perfect amount.
The Science of Sweetening
Solid sugar such as brown sugar or cane sugar does not dissolve well in cold water. If you are cold brewing tea or want to add a sweetener once the tea mixture has cooled, you'll need to use simple syrup or liquid sugar syrup. To use solid sugar, add the sweetener to the mixture when the tea is still hot. This ensures the sugar dissolves completely and won't settle to the bottom.
Tea Bags Vs. Loose Tea
You can choose to use tea bags or loose leaf tea and a strainer. Loose leaf tea tends to offer better flavor compared to tea bags for a few reasons. Tea bags are usually small and constrict the tea leaves. This prevents them from expanding and infusing flavor completely. Additionally, tea bags are usually made using teas produced by the CTC method — known as the crush, tear, curl method. Large machines grind the tea leaves using small, metal teeth turning the tea leaves into dust, fannings, and broken pieces.
The benefit of tea bags is that they are convenient. You just pop a few in and then discard them when you're done. With loose leaf tea, you'll need to use a strainer or tea ball to remove the leaves after steeping. We'll let you decide if you prefer convenience or flavor when it comes to brewing your iced tea.
How To Make Iced Tea: Different Methods
To brew iced tea the traditional way, you need to brew the mixture using hot water. The most famous version of traditional iced tea is Southern sweet tea. It's usually made with Lipton black tea leaves, but you can mix it up with flavors such as raspberry tea or peach tea. The tea is also traditionally made in large batches. Here's how to make it:
- 5 teaspoons of loose tea
- 5 cups water
- 1 cup of sugar or another sweetener
- Ice cubes
- Lemon slices or lemon juice
- Bring the water to a rapid boil using a temperature controlled tea kettle or a pot on the stove.
- Remove from heat and add the tea leaves. Steep for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Remove the tea and add sugar. Stir vigorously.
- Cool to room temperature before storing in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours.
- Serve over ice cubes in tall glasses when ready. Garnish with lemon slices or add a dash of lemon juice to each glass.
Brew the tea stronger or milder by adjusting the steeping time. The longer the tea steeps, the stronger the flavor becomes. If you're making iced green tea, be sure to steep the leaves no longer than 5 minutes to avoid developing bitter flavors. You can also use fewer leaves to make the taste milder.
Cold Brew Iced Tea
Cold brew tea is made by infusing tea leaves in a few cups of cold water. The process takes longer than brewing iced tea with boiling water and allowing it to cool to room temperature.
However, cold brew tea is a great way to brew ice tea without the bitter flavors. Heat brings out the tannins in tea, which are responsible for bold flavor. Cold brew tea results in a smoother flavor that is more palatable for novice drinkers.
If you want to cold brew tea, stick to loose leaf tea. Since we're removing heat from the process, you'll need all the flavor you can get for a tasty cup.
- 5 teaspoons loose leaf tea or your choice (try hibiscus, chamomile or mint)
- 5 cups of cold water
- Flavorings (lemon, mint, fresh fruit)
- Add cold water to a large glass pitcher.
- Add in the loose leaf tea and any flavorings. Cover the mixture and refrigerate.
- Steep the tea for 6 to 12 hours. White and green tea should steep less than black, oolong, pu-erh, and herbal teas. Taste every hour after the first six hours to find the best flavor.
- Remove the tea leaves and serve over ice cubes!
Sun tea is an iced tea recipe made by harvesting the power of natural sunlight. The tea mixture is placed in direct sunlight for several hours, which slowly steeps the tea leaves.
- 5-8 teaspoons loose tea
- 1 gallon of spring water at room temperature
- 1 cup lemon juice
- Sweeteners (OPTIONAL)
- Take a clean, disinfected, non-reactive container (glass) and add in water and tea leaves.
- Set the glass jar outside in a place where it will get direct sunlight.
- Let the mixture steep in the sun for 3 to 5 hours. After steeping, set the tea in the refrigerator immediately.
- Sweeten as desired and serve over ice.
Making Iced Tea
Whip up a glass of iced tea and enjoy the warmer months. Discover new flavors and play up your iced tea by adding ice cream, fresh fruit, or mint leaves. With these handy tips and different brewing methods, you can turn the tea making process into a fun activity.
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