If you are looking to improve your diet and health, learning how to make homemade iced tea is the best decision you can make this summer. Besides, it’s fun, and you can choose absolutely any loose leaf tea as a base.
Iced tea is a beverage loved by even those who don’t normally like tea. It was popularized by chance when Richard Blechynden, an American merchant and tea plantation owner, added ice to hot brewed tea at the World’s Fair in St. Louis in 1904 .
Tea Association of the U.S.A. reports that in 2018 Americans drank more than 3.8 billion gallons of tea, and 70-85% of that was iced . However, not all iced tea is healthy, and not all can be really called tea. Here is a short guide on how to make iced tea the right way, and tips on getting the best flavor and benefits.
How to make iced tea the easiest way?
The easiest and the best way to make iced tea at home is cold brewing. Although you can use almost any type of tea, the best leaves for cold brewing are green, especially flavored ones. An additional benefit of cold brewing is that even the tea leaves you usually don’t enjoy when hot brewed will have a completely different and refreshing flavor.
Best Homemade Iced Tea Recipe
- Take a clean 1+ liter glass pitcher or a teapot.
- Add one heaped spoon of tea.
- Add cold or lukewarm water.
- Let it steep for 2-3 hours, or overnight for the best result.
- Unless you remove the tea leaves from the pitcher, drink it within 24 hours. When the leaves are removed on time, it will be good for a couple of days.
Tips for cold brewing iced tea:
- One spoon of green, black, white or oolong tea is enough for 1.5 litres of water.
- For fruit tea, use at least 2 spoons.
- Green tea requires the least time to brew. Tightly rolled oolong will require more.
- Tea with smaller particles will brew faster.
- Add sweetener only if you really have to, but only after you pour tea into your glass. Sweeteners such as granulated sugar minimize the health benefits of iced tea.
- Add additional ice or lemon juice to make it extra refreshing.
- If you are using pure loose leaf tea, add slices of fresh strawberries, cucumber, lemon slices, mint or basil for natural flavoring.
How to make iced tea fast?
If you are in a rush and want to enjoy your iced tea instantly, there is a very easy way to make iced tea fast. You will need a cup of ice, cocktail shaker, boiled water and your favorite tea leaves. The best benefit of this method is that you can use any tea type, even herbal. This way will release more catechins and more caffeine, but might also result in a bitter brew.
- Bring water to a boil and let it cool down to an appropriate temperature for the tea type you are using. General advice is to use 212 °F for herbal tea, 203 °F for black tea, 185 °F for oolong, 176 °F for white and 167 °F for green tea.
- Put leaves into a strainer or a teapot. Use twice the amount of tea leaves you would normally use.
- Pour around 100-150 ml of water and let it brew for 2-10 minutes. The longer you let it brew, the stronger the flavor will be, but some teas like green, black or oolong might become bitter.
- Fill the shaker with ice, then pour in brewed tea and add honey or some other sweetener.
- Shake for a minute.
- Pour the tea into the glass with ice cubes.
Is iced tea healthy?
Some iced teas are healthy, and some will contain only artificial ingredients. Commercially available ready to drink brands are more likely to be unhealthy than healthy. Iced teas that use real tea as a base might be healthier than those using fruits, although that is not always a case. One research showed that “ready-to-drink green tea showed low levels of catechins” and therefore it might not be the best option if you are looking to benefit from catechin consumption.
Homemade iced tea will be as healthy as you make it. You can add sweeteners, honey, or other ingredients, but try to avoid refined sugar. Cold brewed ice tea will be tastier than hot brewed iced tea with no sweeteners. However, hot brewed iced tea will offer more health benefits. Therefore, it’s important to choose your sweeteners wisely.
Catechins, the healthiest compound in real tea, need hot water and a certain time for the optimal extraction. This is exactly why cold brewed tea is sweeter and never bitter – it contains fewer bitter compounds. However, the longer you leave tea leaves to brew, the more compounds they will release. 3 hours brewing will have less flavor and fewer benefits than 12 hours brew.
Is there caffeine in iced tea?
Depending on the tea you are using, there will be some caffeine in your tea. However, those levels will be very low. Same as catechins, caffeine also needs a certain temperature for optimal extraction. Cold brewed iced tea will contain less caffeine than hot brewed iced tea.
How to maximize the benefits
With iced tea, using the right water is very important. Cold brewing extracts fewer catechins than regular brewing. The water quality has a strong influence on catechins extraction as well . It would be best to use purified instead of tap water, to maximize both the benefits, flavor and color.
What are the best teas for making cold brewed iced tea?
Both flavored and pure teas can be great for making iced tea. If you don’t have time or ingredients to create your own blends, flavored teas may be the best option. Here are our favorites:
1. Simple Coconut Black
This summer blend makes for a great iced tea with a freshly baked pastry sweetness and delicious coconut aroma. It’s great on its own, or you can make it more fun by adding a handful of blueberries or raspberries into a jug.
A blend crafted with the two most classical ingredients for a cup that’s far from being classical. Green Hibiscus is one of rare crimson-colored green teas. Fresh green sencha, sweet and sour hibiscus and delicate jasmine flowers brew into a vibrant cup full of flavor, but much lighter, less sour and more refreshing than the common hibiscus teas – and much bolder than the common sencha. Perfect for making iced tea and cold brewing.
This sweet and lightly smokey blend is great for brewing on its own and even more delicious with some added sliced fresh strawberries in the jug.
Teas with jasmine flowers or jasmine scent like Jasmine Green will appeal to green tea drinkers that want a more delicate tea because cold water will release just enough of jasmine scent to make them light but unique.
5. Roasted Mate
Some herbal teas give great results too. Cold brewed Roasted mate is one of the most amazing summer refreshments ever, and the best way to drink this tea. Yerba Mate, one of the most popular caffeinated herbal tea is a traditional drink in many South American countries. While the original Yerba Mate is an acquired taste, roasted type offers a whole different drinking experience. In fact, it one of the most versatile herbal teas in the world – it’s perfect both iced and hot, and even with milk. No bitterness, only bold roasted earthy flavor, with less caffeine than the regular Yerba Mate.
6. Blood Orange
Is it the citrusy flavor? Or a delicious earthy rooibos base? Or maybe it’s the sourness of hibiscus blended with sweet rose petals that makes Blood Orange just so irresistible. Blood Orange is an all-time favorite herbal blend for hot and cold brewing.
Cranberry Orange Herbal is a blend where strong ingredients blend into a perfectly gentle harmony, with neither of them being overpowering. With a rich hibiscus, earthly red rooibos, bold cranberries, and refreshing oranges, this tea is like a much bolder relative of Blood Orange. Strong & rich base makes it perfect for making a refreshing caffeine-free iced tea.
Which teas should not be used for cold brewing?
Once you discover the simplicity of cold brewing, you might want to use absolutely every tea you can. But some teas are better hot brewed, and almost never iced. Pu’erh is one of those teas. While it has amazing benefits, pu’erh is always better hot. We wouldn’t recommend cold brewing chai either, but making a cold chai latte might be well worth trying.
Don’t forget that June 10th is the National Iced Tea Day. Remember to celebrate it with the best homemade iced tea ever.
 M. Franks, P. Lawrence, A. Abbaspourrad, R. Dando; The Influence of Water Composition on Flavor and Nutrient Extraction in Green and Black Tea