Iced tea is so much more than a cup of tea with ice. If you ever tried simply adding ice to brewed tea, you probably noticed it tastes nothing like the drinks from supermarkets, restaurants or coffee shops. So, how to make iced tea that taste flavourful rather than watery and mild? Here are some simple tips that will help you make the best tasting iced tea at home.
What makes iced tea good?
What makes is so good is the intensity of flavours, perfect sweetness and lots of ice. Iced teas are typically sweetened, although you can drink them pure if they are not bitter. To get the best intensity, you need to find the best tea to water ratio.
Do you have to boil water to make iced tea?
Yes, it's always best to make an iced tea by steeping tea leaves in boiled water first. If you don't have too much ice, you can steep the tea beforehand and let it cool in the fridge. This is not the same as cold brewing.
Is cold brew tea the same as iced tea?
Cold brewing is a different method of preparing tea. Instead of using hot water, cold brewed teas are slowly steeped in cold water over several hours in the fridge. You don't need any ice for cold brewing, or a kettle. Cold brewing will significantly change the flavour profile and nutrient content of brewed tea. Iced tea will have the same flavour profile as regularly brewed tea, except it tends to be stronger.
Tips for making the best iced tea
Making an iced tea at home is easy, but it's not always straightforward. This is especially true if you are used to drinking pre-made teas. Pre-made iced teas may not always contain tea leaves and may also contain lots of sugar and fruit flavourings. All this will impact the flavour that won't be easy to replicate at home. However, that's perfectly ok, as you can make delicious, super flavourful drinks at home using ingredients you already have in your pantry.
So, how to make the best tasting iced tea?
Here are the 9 simple tips.
1. Choose the right tea
You can use almost any tea you want. However, just like when making a cup of hot tea, if you want to get the best flavour, you have to have the best tea. Best tea doesn't mean the most expensive tea, but it should be fresh and flavourful.
What tea is best for iced tea? Traditionally, this type of tea has been made with mostly tea bags. Tea bags are a good option if you want to add sugar or honey and prefer an intense flavour. Some traditional tea bags may give a murky and bitter tea. Test it out before. If it tastes good without a sweetener, it will be great for making an iced tea too.
Loose tea leaves, especially pure, will often have less bitterness, and a more complex flavour. Flavoured teas are an amazing choice as well.
But if you want to use pure teas, you can add flavour with:
- Food flavourings
- Steeping it with fresh fruits
- Fruit juices
- Fruit syrups
2. Make a strong infusion
To make the best cup of iced tea, use more leaves than normally. Adding only 50% more will intensify the flavour significantly. 1 ½ or 2 teaspoons of tea leaves per serving will give much more flavour than brewing it for 10 minutes. Over brewing may also increase the bitterness, while adding more tea leaves will intensify the flavour. Furthermore, as the ice melts, tea will become diluted. That's why it's always a good idea to add more tea leaves.
So what is the ratio of tea to water for iced tea?
If you are using:
- loose tea, use 1 ½ – 2 teaspoons of tea leaves per serving.
- traditional tea bags, use 1 or 2 tea bags, depending on their strength. Most tea bags will contain dust and fannings that will infuse into a strong tea, so one will be enough.
- pyramid tea bags with loose tea, you may need to add two, rather than one, depending on how many tea leaves they contain.
Use 120-150 ml of water for steeping the tea, then top up with fresh cold water later.
3. Don’t over brew it
Never over brew your tea when making an iced tea. Sure, both sugar and ice will reduce the bitterness, but ideally, you want a flavour that will taste good even without adding sweeteners. How long do you steep tea for iced tea? You can steep the tea leaves a minute or two longer than usual, but not more. This means, 4-6 minutes for black teas, and 3-5 minutes for green teas, 3-5 minutes for oolong teas and 5-10 minutes for herbal teas.
4. Add the right sweetener
If you want to make iced tea that will taste similar to drinks from supermarkets or restaurants, then you will need to add a sweetener.
White or brown sugar and floral honey are all great for sweetening iced tea. Always add sugar or honey before adding ice, so it can dissolve better. For making a calorie-free drink, you can use stevia or sugar alternatives. Iced teas are usually always sweetened.
Some sweeteners you can try:
- White granulated sugar
- Brown granulated sugar
- Stevia (calorie free)
- Coconut flower sugar
- Simple syrup
- Flavoured sweeteners (calorie free)
- Xylitol (less calories than sugar)
5. Add more flavour with flavoured ice
You can add more flavour into your iced tea by adding flavoured ice or tea ice cubes. Because tea ice cubes are made with tea, they will not dilute your iced tea. Find the instructions for making iced tea cubes here.
Some wonderful combinations:
- Pure green tea with tropical green tea ice cubes
- Pure black tea with coconut black tea ice cubes
- Pure green tea with earl grey black tea ice cubes
6. Add citruses
Adding freshly squeezed lemon juice to green or black tea will always elevate the flavour. Lemon goes well with many tea types, but don't add it to chocolate or nut flavoured teas. Other great citruses to add are oranges and limes.
7. Add fresh fruits
For a super fruity flavour, you can add washed and chopped fruit pieces, and steep them together with black or green tea for 5 minutes. Once ready, pour it into a glass, add sweetener and ice. Fresh fruits will make your black tea brighter and super flavourful, regardless of if you are using loose tea or tea bags.
8. Choose special iced tea blends
Many brands are offering special tea blends crafted specifically for making iced teas. These blends will have lots of flavour and usually smaller tea leaves. Although you can use any tea blend you want, special tea blends will usually always offer a desired strength and flavour. You can also use pre-made cold brew blends and brew them with hot water.
9. Use high-quality water
Water quality will significantly impact the flavour of any tea – hot or iced. Use colourless and odourless water that's not too flat and not too hard. Avoid distilled water. Using tap water will usually be fine, unless it's murky and smells of chemicals. If that's the case, bottled spring water may be a better choice. Also, avoid re-heating the same water multiple times.
How to make iced tea
- Serving glass
- 1/2 – 2 teaspoons loose tea leaves or 1-2 teabags
- 150 ml freshly boiled water
- 1-2 teaspoons sugar
- 50-100 ml fresh cold water
- Bring fresh water to a boil.
- Measure 1 ½ – 2 teaspoons of tea leaves* and steep them in 150 of water.**
- Strain the tea into a serving glass.
- Add sweetener and stir until dissolved.
- Add ice.
- Top up with fresh cold water.
** Black tea – 4-5 minutes at 95-98 degrees Celsius
Green tea – 3-5 minutes at 75-85 degrees Celsius
Oolong tea – 3-5 minutes at 85-90 degrees Celsius
Rooibos and other herbal teas – 5-10 minutes at98 degrees Celsius