Just in time for National Iced Tea Month, how to make the best iced tea at home
Tips for making the perfect iced tea.
Despite our love for iced coffee during the warm-weather months, there’s another iced drink that we can’t get enough of: iced tea. One sip of this refreshing beverage and you just might believe you’re relaxing on a porch with a good book and a nice breeze rolling through.
Click here for the Make the Perfect Iced Tea Slideshow
Of course, you can buy the bottled versions of your favorite teas, but it’s no secret that they’re not as healthy for you. And a true brewed iced tea can give you the same health benefits that hot tea provides — disease-fighting antioxidants and polyphenols, better brain cognition, boosted immune system, and well, overall happiness.
And just like making iced coffee, there’s a science to making the perfect iced tea. We asked The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf’s director of tea, David DeCandia, to give us his pro tips on making the perfect iced tea. "Iced tea has been around since early 1900s, so it’s definitely here to stay," DeCandia says. "Iced coffee lacks the variety that iced teas have. [Iced teas] will continue to grow." Just in time for summer, here’s how to do it — we foresee many more iced teas in our future.
My dear mother-in-law, a very proper Canadian, taught me the difference between proper iced tea and the “swill” most restaurants pour, which in her opinion was, at best, a very poor facsimile. And trust me, she knew her stuff—including the six rules for proper iced tea:
Use plenty of tea
The flavor of tea served cold is not as intense as when served hot. That means it must be brewed stronger, so use more tea bags. Use two regular-size tea bags for every 3 cups of water.
Do not over steep
Allowing the tea to over steep—releases the tannins in the tea, which can make it bitter. If you want it weaker, reduce the steeping time, not the number of teabags.
Once you remove the teabags, allow to cool before you pour it over ice but do not put it in the refrigerator to cool. Doing so will make your tea cloudy.
Do not add sugar to ice-cold tea
If you prefer your tea sweet, add the sugar to the hot water so it dissolves first before introducing ice. If your guests prefer to sweeten after the ice is added, provide simple syrup rather than granulated sugar.
Simple Syrup: To make simple syrup, combine 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup boiling water in a large measuring cup. Whisk until clear and the sugar is dissolved. Yield: 1 1/2 cups simple syrup.
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Keep it real
Only use real, fresh squeezed lemon juice from fresh lemons for the very best outcome.
Make it fresh
Iced tea tastes best when it is freshly made. Make only what you will drink in two or three days and keep it covered in the refrigerator.
Taste of the South: Iced Tea
Iced tea and Southerners go hand in hand. Read more about this simple concoction of tea, sugar, and water, and learn how to make the perfect pitcher of sweet iced tea.
Known as the signature drink of the region, a tall glass of iced tea in the South goes with just about every event𠅌hurch suppers, family meals, ladies luncheons, and it&aposs just perfect for porch sitting on a sizzling summer day. It‘s so easy to make and feeds a thirsty crowd. Beginning with tea bags and allowing for a bit of steep time are two important elements in getting the perfect pitcher of iced tea.
Iced Tea Recipes: North v. South
Two surefire ways to let people know you weren&apost raised in the South: 1. Declare the tea to be "too sweet." 2. Give the waitress a confused look when she asks if your tea should be "sweet or un." (translation for Yankees reading this: "sweet or unsweetened tea?")
True story. An Alabama teenager settled in at a restaurant in Vermont. When the waitress appeared, he asked for sweet iced tea. She promptly brought him a glass of ice, a cup of hot tea, and sugar. One sip of the concoction and he reacted, well, as most teenage boys do when they taste something unpalatable. (You get the picture.) While mopping the table, the mother explained the difference in Southern sweet tea and tea that you get, um, elsewhere. In other words, never order sweet tea unless you&aposre in a state where barbecue restaurants are plentiful and easily found. The teenager&aposs response? "Mama, take me home!" he wailed, echoing the sentiments of many misplaced Southerners.
Though some health-conscious Southerners have taken to drinking their iced tea without sugar, it&aposs wise to specify that to the waitress when eating out. If you ask for tea in most restaurants in the region, you&aposre likely to get it iced and sweet. Besides fussing with the Yankees when they claim the tea&aposs too sweet, Southerners still have battles to wage among themselves. Whose sweet tea is best? Milo&aposs Famous Sweet Tea from Birmingham? Or tea from Pal&aposs, a famous burger stand in East Tennessee? Every Southerner can argue that the best iced tea is found at their favorite local spot. Of course, you can always end the debate in a civil way with an unarguable, politically correct answer to where the best iced tea is found: "My mama&aposs."
History of Sweet Iced Tea
It&aposs easy to understand how sweet iced tea came about in the South. First, the summers always have been hot. Second, ice boxes and the rise of refrigeration made it easy to make the tea cold. Third, rationing of sugar during World War II encouraged creative and thrifty Southern cooks to add sugar to the tea while hot, so it took less sugar to make the tea sweet. The super- saturated elixir soon became a Southern staple and the undisputed drink with barbecue and fried chicken, and at fish fries, family reunions, and church suppers. That&aposs because Southern gatherings are usually big, and large quantities can be made quickly and inexpensively.
Perhaps it&aposs fitting that South Carolina was the first place in the United States where tea was grown and the only place where it was ever produced commercially. And, the oldest sweet tea recipe in print can be traced to a community cookbook published in 1879 titled Housekeeping in Old Virginia by Marion Cabell Tyree.
Tips for the Perfect Iced Tea
The Saucepan is Recommended. You may decide to boil the water in a kettle and then do the rest inside the pitcher, but that can be messy. And besides, the pitcher has to be heat-proof if you choose to do the steeping there. The saucepan method is much more forgiving and beginner-friendly.
Add the Lemon Slices When Serving. You may be tempted to add the slices inside the pitcher before refrigerating to boost the lemony flavor, but that might cause the fruit to break down. For a better-looking presentation, add the slices directly in the glass when serving.
Don’t Rush the Steeping. Steeping the tea for the recommended amount of time is crucial for the taste, as that is the only way to extract the full flavor from the bags.
Tea in a Snap. Allowing the tea to chill in the fridge gives you a fuller, rounded taste. However, if you are in a bit of a rush or have surprise guests to serve, there is a shortcut. Instead of diluting the tea with 4 cups of cold water, add 4 cups of ice. Wait for the ice to melt, and then serve the tea in ice-packed glasses, as usual.
Why Should I Use Tea Bags?
While most tea masters brew tea using loose leaf tea, there are several benefits to brewing iced tea with tea bags. Tea bags are convenient and allow you to brew iced tea recipes with ease. Since the loose tea leaves are already contained in the bags, you don’t need to worry about purchasing other tea tools such as strainers or tea balls.
For higher-quality iced tea, you'll want to pay attention to the tea bags you are using. Tea masters often avoid tea bags because they contain the dust and fannings of leaves rather than the whole leaves. The broken leaves lose more essential oils through evaporation, which can lead to stale and dull-tasting teas. While tea bags generally get a bad rap among tea connoisseurs for having less flavor and health benefits than tea leaves, there are still some great options.
Tea bags don't have to be all bad news as long as you know what to look for. Their convenience makes them a great choice, particularly for brewing iced tea or family size portions. When selecting tea bags, look for larger sachets that allow the tea leaves to absorb water and expand. This extra room enables further infusion of flavors and aromas for a better tasting tea.
Avoid tiny, cramped tea bags and instead opt for larger size tea bags. Tea socks, pyramid-shaped bags and tea pouches are all great choices when it comes to making iced tea with tea bags. Select tea bags that contain whole leaves whenever possible to maximize flavor. Now that you know which tea bags to use, let's get to the nitty gritty of the brewing process.
Southern Sweet Iced Tea
Like most southerners sweet iced tea has a special place in my heart. If you drop by my home I can pretty much guarantee you’ll find a cold pitcher of sweet iced tea on the top shelf of the fridge. No other beverage quenches the thirst AND comforts the soul like a cold glass of sweet tea. Nope. None.
For the sake of health I’ve been replacing half of the sugar with raw honey. It’s not as addicting, but I’m starting to get use to it.
This southern sweet iced tea recipe is sweet, refreshing, satisfying and makes you say “ahhhhhhh” when you’re done drinking it. It’s so easy to knock back several glasses full on a hot day without even realizing it.
Not-So-Classic Arnold Palmer
A twist on the golf legend’s classic! You can use any lemonade with this, hard or not, but we really enjoyed it with Bloomery SweetShine Hard Lemonade and our Sunshine in a Cup Tea.
- 8 ounces brewed tea
- 8 ounces hard lemonade
- mint sprig, to garnish
Fill a shaker with tea, hard lemonade, and ice. Cover, shake well, and strain into an iced tea glass over more ice. Garnish with a sprig of mint to make yourself look classy.
Perfect Ice Tea
Iced tea is one of those delicious flavors that just makes the summer time seem worth while. It has all of the caffeine of soda pop, but with none of the artificial bubbly junk that feeds nameless corporations and their ilk. Iced Tea is natural, honest, and infinitely cheap. If your tastes run towards the exotic, and away from caffeine, then try your favorite herbal tea on ice. Brisk and refreshing, it will open up new avenues of beverage exploration.
Get out a 2-quart size sauce pan. Put the hot water in it and bring it to a boil. Add the tea bags. Remove the pan from the heat, and allow it to steep for 10 minutes. No more, no less. Set the timer. If the tea sits for too long, it will extract bitter elements from the tea leaves, making the finished product taste horrible. If it doesn’t sit long enough, it won’t be strong enough to give you the caffeine jolt which iced tea was designed for. When the time is up, remove the tea bags and blithesomely toss them into the garbage, they have served their purpose. Put the cold water into a 2-quart size pitcher. Pour the hot tea into the pitcher, over top of the cold water. You put the cold water in first, because the hot tea could melt the pitcher, seeing as it is so hot. The cold water acts as a buffer, and cools the tea. Add the sugar or honey if you like, stirring to dissolve it completely. Put the pitcher into the fridge to cool. Or it can be poured directly into an ice filled cup.
I like iced tea strong, so I use 8 tea bags. I buy the boxes of 100 tagless tea bags, usually a store brand, for about $1 a box. This makes 2 quarts of tea at a cost of 8¢! I don’t add sugar to mine, preferring it unsweetened. But that is a personal choice, and lots of folks like it with added sugar. The nicest thing about this recipe is that it makes perfect iced tea every single time.
If you liked this recipe, take a look at my ginger tea mix. It’s another frugal drink recipe from my extensive collection.
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Tips to Make an Ideal Iced Tea
Though there are no fixed rules or a single process to make the ideal iced tea, the given tips will be beneficial for you to make a delicious iced tea for you and your friends.
Always Add Sweetener Before Adding Ice
Make sure to add the sweetener in the beverage at a time when the drink is hot. The warmness of the drink dissolves the sweetener more efficiently and gives it a better overall taste.
Bring it to a Room Temperature Before Cooling the Drink
After you have made the tea in the pitcher, it will still be hot. So it’s recommended not to store the tea in the refrigerators until it gets completely cooled down. Warm tea, when kept in the fridge, usually makes the tea clouded.
Use Strong Tea Types
Picking the type of tea is totally dependent on your personal preferences, but we recommend a darker tea. It generally will add a strong flavor to the beverage and typically more efficient for making iced tea.
Keep Same Steep Time for More Tea Leaves
A common mistake that most people usually do is that in order to make the iced tea strong, they exceed the steep time for the tea leaves to settle in water. However, the tea containing tannins, waiting for too long in the water, makes the drink bitter in taste. You can add extra tea leaves for making iced tea more concentrated if you like it strong.