5 Tips to Make the Best Iced Tea Around

9/22/2016

Iced tea has evolved a lot over the past thirty years, and thank goodness. There was a time when the only iced tea people drank was simply plain black tea. Now, we’ve got a lot more choices, from fruity, flavored black teas to iced green tea in ready-to-drink bottles. I’m thrilled to see iced tea evolving, and even better, to see people drinking it at home more often. There is, however, a science to making sure that you’re making a good iced tea brew. It’s not hard, but if you follow these few tips, everyone will be begging for your iced tea. It’s up to you whether you share the secrets or not.

Say no to the sun

“Sun tea” is a neat idea. I get it. Placing a jug in the sun that turns color over time and relying on something natural is a romantic thought. However, at best, it’s going to get you a bland cup of tea (even on a hot day, a jug of water will only get up to around 100 degrees), and at worst, you’re creating the most delicious swimming pool in the world for harmful bacteria. The Tea Association of the US discourages making sun tea, and I do too. Ever see a local news team fry an egg on a hot sidewalk? You’ll notice they never actually eat the egg. I love the sun, but not for brewing tea.

Concentrate and cool

It might seem counterintuitive to start out to brew hot tea in order to make a cold drink, but there’s a lot of reasons why it makes sense. Hot water is what’s extracting the flavor from tea leaves, so it’s best to brew an iced tea just like you’d brew a regular hot tea – 170-180ºF for green teas, boiling water for black and herbal teas, and steep them for the same amount of time.

I personally make double strength brews by using double the amount of tea to 1 cup of hot water to steep (and sometimes quadruple strength hot tea with four times the amount of tea to 1 cup of hot water). Our whole leaf teach pouches brew 12 ounces, so keep that proportion in mind.

Instead of adding extra ½ cup of hot water, add cool water with an ice cube in it. This dilutes the hot tea to the right strength and also brings the tea temperature down to room temperature so that it’s ready to pour over ice. By adding those ice cubes to cool water, your tea should be ready to serve over ice in five minutes. It’s a quick way to make a fantastic iced tea, but beware: it’s going to be pretty popular if you have guests. If you need more tea, pick up some of our quart-sized iced tea pouches.

Don’t forget it in the fridge

In the extremely unlikely event that your guests don’t completely clean you out of iced tea, place your pitcher in the refrigerator. It will keep longer there – remember the sun tea lesson earlier! I like to keep my iced tea for only 48 hours—72 hours tops. It’s still drinkable after that, but it won’t be quite the same. We’ve reconfigured our Iced Tea Pouches to brew quart sized brews for this reason so that the tea can taste its best and be the most fresh. You can get six servings out of our quart-sized Iced Tea Pouches if you know you won’t have much time to drink it.

Clear or cloudy

If your tea clouds, don’t worry. It will still taste the same if it clouds. There are a couple of reasons clouding happens. Just think of water: when it’s at room temperature, it’s clear, but when you freeze it, it clouds. Room temperature tea might be clear, but once placed in the refrigerator, it clouds. The solution here is to pour ¼ ounce of hot water into a glass of your chilled tea and you’ll have a nice-looking brew once again. Another reason is that certain teas are simply more prone to clouding. Most iced tea blends in the US include or composed entirely of Argentine tea. They’re popular in the US for their lighter tea flavor and price. We do use some Argentine tea in our iced tea blends, but we always add other teas for more character and flavor.

Watch your water

Just like with hot tea, whenever I make my own tea, I use high quality water. Cloudiness in iced tea could be because of water, specifically hard water. You don’t need to go so far as to use distilled water — in fact, you need a small amount of mineralization to make good iced tea. Simply running your tap water through a filtering pitcher like Brita will make a great tea. The basic rule of thumb is that if it’s good water for drinking, it’s good water for iced tea. It’s an extra step, but it’s worth it for health and for taste.

Author: Eliot Jordan