Hot summer days call for crisp and refreshing iced tea, it’s just that simple. Making it at home is a breeze, and opens up a world of creativity! Dive into these tips and tricks on how to make the best iced tea for you and to share.
The first introduction of iced tea in the United States happened in 1904, at the World’s Fair in St. Louis. It was an accident, though. The day was simply too warm for hot tea, so it was served iced and the thirst for iced tea began. Since then, Americans have put everything from lemonade to liquor in iced tea. We encourage you to keep trying new things!
How to Make Iced Tea (Traditional Hot-Brewed Method)
There are generally two trains of thought when it comes to iced tea: hot-brewed (steep hot, then chill) and cold-brewed (steep cold for longer duration). Our approach to the more traditional "hot brewed" method is outlined here. For sake of comparison, check out our How-To Guide for making cold brewed tea.
Step One: Measure Your Loose Tea
Start by measuring your loose leaf tea. Generally, you should measure 1 teaspoon loose leaf tea per cup iced tea. However, fluffier blends such as white teas and Chamomile may require as much as one tablespoon or more, while denser teas such as Gunpowder may require less than one teaspoon. Look at the label on the back of your Arbor Teas bag to find our suggested serving size per 8 oz cup.
Place the tea in an infuser or TeaBrew to make a do-it-yourself teabag, and then place the teabag or infuser in your heat resistant glass or iced tea pitcher. Making tea for lots of people? One quart iced tea generally requires ½ ounce loose leaf tea.
Step Two: Heat Your Water
When making iced tea via the hot brewed method, heat your water to the temperature suggested below. Use fresh water whenever possible - water that has been sitting in your kettle overnight may impart a flat or stale taste to your tea. Be careful not to boil your water for too long. Over boiled water can sometimes impart an unwanted taste.
- Black & Pu-Erh: 212° F
- Oolong: 195° F
- Green & White: 170-180° F
- Herbal: 212° F
No thermometer? Not to worry! Here’s an easy way to estimate temperatures:
- 180° F = bubbles form on the bottom of the pot
- 195° F = the first bubbles begin to rise
- 212° F = full rolling boil
Step Three: Infuse Your Tea Leaves
Make a double strength infusion by steeping your tea for the amount of time shown below using half the amount of water you would normally use when making hot tea. The double strength infusion is important because later you will be pouring over ice, this way the tea doesn’t get watered down.
In other words, measure 1/2 cup (4 oz) hot water for every final cup iced tea. Simply pour your heated water over the tea-filled paper filter bag or tea-filled infuser. Be sure the tea is covered completely with water. When enough time has elapsed, remove the paper filter or infuser.
Keep in mind that brewing your tea too long can extract an undesirable bitterness from the leaves, so steeping time does matter! For a stronger brew, don’t steep longer, just use more tea.
- Green & White: 2-3 minutes
- Black & Pu-Erh: 3-5 minutes
- Oolong: 4-7 minutes
- Herbal/Fruit/Tisanes: 5-7 minutes
Step Four: Sweeten and Chill Your Tea
If you wish to sweeten your tea, dissolve sugar or honey in the hot brew. Then, sit back and let it chill! If you plan on drinking your iced tea immediately, pour the double-strength infusion directly over an equal amount of ice. To drink later, dilute your double strength infusion with an equal amount of room temperature water. Let stand at room temperature for 5-10 minutes, then place in your refrigerator. This method allows the tea to cool gradually, which helps avoid clouding caused by chilling most teas too rapidly.
Note: It is OK if your iced tea clouds! There are many reasons this can occur; a clouded tea can sometimes signify a higher quality tea filled with desirable tea solids, or one that has been cooled too quickly. Regardless, a clouded iced tea is certainly not a bad iced tea! Teas from the Nilgiri region of India seem to resist clouding better than other tea varieties.
Sweetening Your Iced Tea
The best time to sweeten iced tea is while it's still hot (if your using the conventional "hot-brewed" method). This allows the sugar or honey to dissolve completely. But if your iced tea drinkers prefer different levels of sweetness or you are using the eco-friendly cold brew method, your best bet is to offer simple syrup. Simple syrup is easy to make, and ideal for cold drinks because it distributes evenly throughout the drink.
Simple Syrup Recipe
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
Bring 2 cups of cold water to a boil. Stir in 2 cups sugar. Reduce heat to low and stir constantly until the sugar dissolves. Add flavorings (herbs or liquid extract), if desired. We recommend about one teaspoon of any liquid extract. Let the syrup cool to room temperature, then pour into a clean glass jar and store in the refrigerator.
For a fun variation, infuse peppermint leaves in the syrup to make a Minty Simple Syrup -- perfect for adding to iced tea and/or for making a mint julep on Derby Day! We also love cardamom seeds and ginger for an even spicier iced chai!
How to Fix Cloudy Iced Tea
Sometimes homemade iced tea can become cloudy, either because of the type of tea being used, or because it was chilled too rapidly. But here's the thing: It's absolutely okay if your iced tea clouds! It doesn't taste any different, and it's just as good for you as unclouded iced tea.
In a nutshell, tea clouds when chilled because the various tea solids in the water precipitate and become visible. Tea made from quality loose tea leaves will typically have lots of tea solids.
If you want a nice clear glass of iced tea, make sure to cool your tea gradually or use the eco friendly cold-brew method. Also, try using teas from the Nilgiri region of India - they seem to resist clouding better than other tea varieties.
Bonus: For a fun science experiment, take a cup of room-temperature clouded tea and add hot water to it. It will instantly turn clear!
Iced Tea Tips & Variations
We think that every tea deserves a shot at being iced, but we are partial to a few. Iced tea is most commonly made from black tea, but there are plenty of other varieties that also make a delicious glass! Here are some of our favorites:
- Organic Nilgiri Black Tea: Our top recommended black tea. Resists clouding and results in a robust and smooth iced brew.
- Organic Jasmine Teas: The floral nature of these teas lend themselves well to ice, and are delightful with a touch of honey.
- Organic Darjeeling Teas: Tea from Darjeeling naturally packs a full and malty flavor, which go great over ice.
- Organic Flavored Tea Blends: Many of our blends have a fruit flavor that makes a great refreshing iced tea!
Fun Additions and Variations for Iced Tea
Although some of the best iced tea comes simply from well-brewed, high-quality tea leaves, it's often fun to jazz up your iced tea with other additions for something new and exciting. This can extend beyond just a glass! Here are a few ideas (many of these are great in syrups, too!):
- Herbs: A number of different herbs can enhance the flavor and aroma of iced tea. In general, anything that has a minty or citrusy character works nicely with tea, including (but not limited to) mint, thyme, lemon grass, lemon verbena, rosemary etc.
- Fruit: Various fruits can add complimentary flavor and visual interest to your iced tea. Berries and citrus work particularly well, but it's best to add these after the tea's been chilled (especially citrus, the peels of which can impart a bitter quality).
- Fruit Juice: Mixing your iced tea with fruit juice (or lemonade) is a fun way to adapt iced tea, or make it more appealing to those who might not like the taste of tea (who are those people, anyway?). This is great for kids!
- Popsicles: Freeze your iced tea and make it into a refreshing popsicle or ice cube! Use a caffeine free tisane or rooibos to make a great kid friendly treat. Check out our Cooking with Tea section for a great recipe for Tea-flavored Fruit Pops.
- Iced Rooibos: Making iced rooibos is truly a treat. Because it lacks the astringency of iced tea, it's slippery-smooth on the palate and utterly drinkable. It pairs well with fruit flavors, and it's naturally-caffeine free to boot!
- Fruit Tisanes: Fruit tisanes, made primarily from dried fruits, are yet another fabulous way to brew up an iced beverage without any caffeine.
A sophisticated adult-friendly twist on iced tea! Though usually made with green tea, we encourage you to try others, too!
- 1 ounce brewed green tea, chilled
- 1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
- 2 ounces Citron Vodka
Combine ingredients in a martini shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Pour into a martini glass rimmed with lime juice and sugar. Garnish with lime slices.