Iced tea is a fantastic way of enjoying your favourite tea flavours even in hot weather. Iced tea, bursting with the same calming l-theanine and relaxing flavours as hot tea, is quite simple to make too. Unlike the super sugary iced teas you can buy bottled, making it yourself at home using one of our methods below is better for your health and for your wallet!
Best Types of Tea for Making Iced Tea
Technically, you could use any kind of tea for making iced tea… but it might not taste very nice. These are our recommendations on which tea types to use to make a cold brew tea.
Green teas are typically very light and refreshing which makes them ideal for turning into iced teas. As the ice brew method also creates a less-bitter tea compared to brewing a hot cup, you can comfortably use very astringent, grassy or bitter green teas that you usually wouldn’t try. Good green teas to try:
- Biluochun – a delicate, fruity and floral green tea from China.
- Jungjak – Korean green tea that’s grassy, golden, crisp and especially bright when cold brewed.
Iced black tea often reveals many more complex and subtle flavours compared to when brewed hot – especially if you usually add milk! The tannins in black tea can get a little bitter if brewed for too long, so cold brew black tea shorter than green tea. Fruity, floral, mineral and even some vegetal notes may appear in your iced black teas. You might enjoy:
- Jinhoucha – meaning Golden Monkey Tea. It’s light and smooth with honey and stone fruit notes.
- Darjeeling – this beautiful, light, fragrant tea takes on another floral dimension when iced.
White tea, the most delicate and light of all teas, is excellent for iced tea. While it’s so easily over brewed with hot water, in cold water white tea can gently infuse without worry. The trick is to use good quality white tea, which isn’t cheap! Iced white tea should be saved for a special occasion. You could try using:
- Ceylon white tea – it’s typically delicate and floral with notes of cream and honey.
- Baimudan (white peony) – second-grade white tea from China that has a fuller body and a nutty aftertaste.
Oolong teas vary depending on oxidation levels, but typically they are very flavoursome and include some unusual and exotic flavours. Cold brewing oolong can be an adventure, as the brew time really varies depending on how dark it is. If you like to enjoy the subtle nuances of an oolong tea, you’re missing out if you don’t try it iced. Start with:
- Tieguanyin – a Chinese oolong that can be at various oxidation levels and is typically floral and complex.
- Alishan – a Taiwanese oolong with delicious spring flower notes and a fruity aroma.
Fruity, Floral and Herbal Teas
Whether it’s a black tea with rose petals or a pure fruit tea made from dried citrus peels, flavoured teas are excellent for brewing cold. Iced tea loses some of the natural sweetness from the tea, so adding fruit or sugar is a good way to bring that sweetness back again. It’s also a good option if you want to use up some subpar tea bags with extra flavour!
Why Should I Use Tea Bags?
As tea fanatics, we always try to use the highest quality whole leaf tea when we’re brewing up a cup… but do the same rules apply for iced tea? There are benefits to using both whole leaf tea and tea bags when making iced tea.
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Time is a huge component to making iced tea, as you’ll see in the iced tea methods below. Tea bags can help to speed up the process. As the tea is in pieces within the bag, it has a larger surface area. This allows it to infuse quicker into your water. You’ll be happy to hear that this can turn a 24 hour brew time into a 16 hour or even 12 hour brew time!
The downside is, tea bags can impart more bitterness into your iced tea as it over steeps. Furthermore, artificial flavourings in some tea bags can ruin the flavour too. Some may only dissolve in very hot water if they were designed for hot teas… others might steep faster than the tea itself and overpower the flavour.
Whole loose leaf tea is great for unsweetened iced teas. The leaves are less bitter and very unlikely to over steep as they have a smaller surface area overall compared to tea bags. You also have more control over the tea. If it has fruit pieces or other ingredients amongst the tea, you can pull these out and control how many end up in the brew. Whole leaf tea retains more complex flavours and natural sweetness compared to crushed or chopped tea in tea bags too.
However, the loose leaf does take a long time to brew in cold water. For some very delicate teas, like Darjeeling and Chinese green teas, it can take up to 24 hours for the flavour to fully infuse. It’s also more expensive. While you could use 1 teaspoon (2g) of loose leaf for a hot cup of tea, you’ll need to use 2 teaspoons (4g) for the same amount of tea iced.
5 Easy Methods to Make Iced Tea
When it comes to making iced tea, there are 2 categories – brewing it hot and then cooling it down, or brewing it cold and waiting patiently!
Remember that chilling tea can reduce the sweetness, so adding something sweet when you start brewing can ensure the end result is just right for your palate. Honey and sugar are good options, but fruit juices and concentrates are also a good option. Lime cordial goes very well with iced Earl Grey tea, for example.
Different teas will brew to different times, so tasting your tea every now and then as it brews and chills will help you catch it at just the right time.
1. Pour Over Ice
It’s that simple. Brew your tea as usual, making up 2/3 of your mug, cup or pitcher. Don’t fill it right to the top with tea or you’ll end up overfilling the cup! You can then add ice cubes to the tea, or pour the tea over the ice cubes.
This method turns the tea very cold, very quickly. It also dilutes the tea down quickly as the hot tea melts most of the ice cubes. So, you can either brew for longer than usual to get a stronger flavour that will be diluted by the ice cubes, or you can let the normal strength tea cool a little so fewer ice cubes are needed to ice it and dilute it.
2. Cool Down Hot Tea
Brew your hot tea as normal, then leave it to cool at room temperature or place it in the fridge. This will slowly cool it down until it’s icy cold without using ice cubes.
Here are a few tips:
- Add sugar and sweetener while the tea is hot, so they dissolve quicker.
- You won’t dilute this tea, so taste it before chilling it.
- Cover it in the fridge to stop water evaporating as it cools.
- To speed up the process, place the tea in the fridge until it is just warm (about 30 minutes) then use the freezer. Check every 10 minutes as it will freeze quickly!
3. Cold Brew
Place your tea in a pitcher or cup with cold water. For this method, 2 teabags or 4g of loose leaf per cup is best as that will speed up the process. Cover and let it cold brew in the fridge.
Tea bags will brew quicker – you can expect a very light iced tea to be ready within 3 hours. Leave it for at least 6 hours for a fully infused iced tea made with a single tea bag. If you are brewing at room temperature rather than the fridge, leave it for at least 12 hours.
For a strong, full-flavoured tea (great for iced black tea and oolong), you can leave it for 12 hours in the fridge. You will need to dilute this tea if you leave it for longer than 12 hours. The limit is usually considered to be 24 hours.
4. Frozen Tea Treats
So far, our methods have been very long! If you don’t want to wait 3+ hours for an iced tea, you can use this method in advance for a quick iced tea when you want it.
Prepare your tea at double strength and add double the amount of sweetener you usually use (freezing the tea diminishes the natural sweetness). Pour it into ice lolly moulds or ice cube trays, adding fruit if you want to add a summery twist. Place these in the freezer and allow them to freeze completely.
When you want an iced tea, pop out a lolly or cube, place it in your mug or glass, then pour over warm water. Just like the first method, this will dilute the tea with water and quickly melt the iced tea.
5. Tea Punch
For this method, you could use frozen iced tea or prepare tea hot. Whichever you choose, brew your tea to double the strength and add it to the punch bowl. Next, add fresh fruits, fruit juices, alcohol and syrups to taste. Once the flavour is just right, add ice to bring it down to the right temperature if the tea is still a little warm.
Here are some great recipe ideas:
- Rich, warm and naturally fruity black tea (Keemun is a good choice) goes well with a little vodka or gin, vanilla beans, ginger, and allspice, plus grapefruit, limes, and any other tangy fruit.
- Light green tea goes very well with mint (think mojito) and all manner of sweet fruits like mango, strawberry, pomegranate and floral ingredients like jasmine and orange blossom. Basil and lavender work well too.
Tips for Enjoying Iced Tea
Once you’ve brewed up a large pitcher of iced tea using one of our yummy recipes, it can last in the fridge for up to 4 days! If you’ve added fruit or sugar to your tea, it’s best to drink it within a day or two or it could start to ferment.
Remember that although less bitter, iced tea will still contain caffeine so if you’ve brewed to double strength it will be stronger in caffeine too. The same goes for sugar. If you find yourself adding lots of sugar to your iced tea to counter bitterness or sour tea flavours, try a different tea. Whole, loose leaf might take longer to brew but it is also typically less astringent and can be naturally sweet.
To find some more low-astringency, high-quality teas that are ideal for turning icy cold, read our article about The 12 Different Types of Tea.