Cool and refreshing, a glass of iced tea is the perfect summer drink. And it doesn’t have to be difficult either: our guide will walk you through two different ways that you can whip up a jug of deliciousness using your favourite tea. We’ll also share our favourite tips and tools for the job.
Iced tea is a type of brewed tea that’s enjoyed cold. It’s usually served with ice in a glass, but it can also refer to any tea that has been chilled or cooled. Like the hot variation, iced tea can be sweetened with sugar or syrup – which, as you might’ve guessed, is called sweet tea or sweet iced tea.
Iced tea is typically made by brewing regular tea bags in hot water, letting it cool, and then pouring it over ice. It first appeared in America during the 1860s when cold green tea was infused with alcohol to create a chilled punch.
Today, black tea is often used instead as the base of the drink and it doesn’t contain any alcohol, which has made it widely popular and accessible to people all around the world.
What’s the best tea to use for iced tea?
Here’s the good news: you can use any kind of tea as the base for your iced tea. Once you have the basic recipe and method down, it’s easy to customise it to suit whichever flavourings you prefer.
Here are a few of the most popular types of teas to try:
1. Black tea
Black tea is the most popular choice for iced tea as it creates a classic, neutral taste that can easily be spruced up with fruity flavours. Black tea is made by oxidising the leaves, which helps it to develop bold, full-bodied notes when brewed.
A few examples of black teas are:
- English Breakfast
- Earl Grey
2. Green tea
Green tea is another common choice for iced tea thanks to its delicate taste that gives it a much lighter profile than black tea. Japanese teas like Matcha and Sencha have grassier notes, while teas from China, like Longjing and Gunpowder, tend to taste slightly toasted and smokier.
- Moroccan Mint
3. White tea
White tea is made from tea plant tips that are harvested before the leaves unfurl when they still have little white hairs on them. When brewed, white tea has a bright taste with floral notes and sweet undertones. White tea’s subtle profile makes it a great base for infusing with other floral or fruity flavours.
- Silver Needle
- White Peony
4. Fruit teas
Fruit teas pack a punch of flavour and are an excellent option for anyone who doesn’t like the earthier taste of black or herbal teas. As fruit teas already have a strong taste, they’re easy to enjoy on their own without any additional flavourings, or with just a hint of sweetener to enhance the fruitiness of the tea.
5. Herbal teas
Image by Kris Sevin from unsplash
Many herbal teas aren’t technically teas but tisanes because they don’t come from a tea plant — but that’s a story for another time. They suit being prepared chilled because of their crisp, refreshing taste. Like fruit teas, they have a fairly straightforward and intense flavour that’s delicious when sweetened.
- Lemon Balm
- Rose Hip
What do you need to make iced tea?
To make iced tea, you’ll need all the ingredients you would usually use to brew a standard tea, plus a few extras.
- Tea – Tea bags and loose leaf both work for making iced tea. We’re going to be making a large jug of iced tea, so a safe ratio to stick to is 6 tea bags or six teaspoons of loose leaf for every 1.5 litres of water.
- Water – To brew your tea. The quality of your water can change the taste of your tea. Choose bottled or filtered water over tap water for a cleaner, smoother finish that lets the flavour of your tea really shine.
- Ice – Lots and lots of ice — because it’s not called “lukewarm” tea, after all! Pop your ice cube trays in the freezer the night before to avoid disappointment on the day.
- Sweetener (optional) – If you want to make your iced tea sweeter, you can use sugar, syrup, or honey. Add these to the tea when it’s hot and brewing so that the granules can dissolve.
- Additional flavourings (optional) – Adding aromatics like herbs or spices, like mint, basil, elderflower, or cinnamon, to your tea can give it a boost of delicious flavour. You can also try adding fruits like peach, lemon, and berries. They taste great and can make your iced tea look extra impressive too!
- Teapot or infuser – If you’re using tea bags, you can pop them into a large teapot to steep. For loose leaf tea, use one with a strainer attachment, or you can also use a cafetière to filter out the leaves.
- A jug – This is to store your tea as it chills and for serving.
- A long spoon – To stir in any sweeteners, additional flavourings, or for fishing out your tea bags.
How to make iced tea
Whichever method you choose, it’s best to brew your tea stronger than you normally would for hot tea as the ice cubes can water the flavour down.
The hot-brewing method is typically the most common way to make iced tea. You get a strong, bold flavour that’s ready to drink much sooner than with other methods.
The trick here is to brew a really intense tea base with a small amount of hot water, let it cool, and then dilute it with cold water. If you pour the hot tea over ice, the sudden change in temperature causes the tea to release more astringent tannins – a chemical that gives the liquid a cloudy appearance and bitter taste.
- Boil 375ml of your bottled or filtered water in the kettle. This is to make 1.5 litres of iced tea, but if you want to make a different amount, you’ll want to boil a quarter of how much tea you want in total. Put the other three-quarters of water into the fridge to chill.
- Pour the boiled water into your teapot, infuser, or cafetière and add your tea bags or leaves.
- Let the tea steep for three to five minutes, or according to the instructions on the packaging.
- When the tea has finished steeping, remove the tea bags with a spoon or strain the leaves out with your infuser.
- Sweeten your tea with the sweetener of your choice. Give the hot tea a good stir so that any sugar granules can dissolve.
- Let the tea cool to room temperature for 10 minutes.
- As the tea cools, fill your jug half full with ice cubes.
- Pour the tea over the ice and top up with the rest of the chilled water.
- Stir through any additional flavourings and serve.
Cold-brew iced tea is a lot simpler than the hot method. It has fewer steps and mostly involves letting the tea chill out in the fridge, but it does take longer.
If you’re a tea connoisseur – or you’re serving iced tea to someone who is – you might want to choose the cold-brew method as it gives a cleaner, less-dry taste.
- Add your bottled or filtered water to your jug. If you’re using loose tea, pour your water into your infuser so you can easily strain out the leaves later.
- Drop your tea bags or leaves into the water.
- Place the lid on your jug or infuser. If it doesn’t have one, you can cover it with cling film.
- Pop your jug of tea into the fridge for eight to twelve hours. The longer you leave it to steep, the stronger the flavour will be.
- Fish out the tea bags with a spoon, or strain the tea from the infuser into a separate jug.
- Sweeten to taste with syrup or honey, and serve. Sugar granules may not dissolve completely in the cold tea, so we’d recommend against using sugar in cold-brew iced tea.
How to sweeten iced tea
Sweetening iced tea with sugar, syrup, or honey is super easy. Just make sure that you’re adding sugar granules to the tea when it’s still hot so that it can fully dissolve.
If you’re using syrup or honey, you can add it in right before serving. Start with a small drizzle and adjust to taste – if you’ve taken the time to make delicious iced tea, don’t let all your effort go to waste with too heavy a hand of sweetener.
Syrups and honey can change the finished flavour of your iced tea, though. A simple sugar syrup is a great way to add sweetness without compromising taste and it can also be used in cocktails and for baking.
How to make a simple sugar syrup
- Add 300g of caster sugar into a small saucepan along with 150ml of water.
- Bring the water to a simmer and stir occasionally until the sugar has completely dissolved.
- Let it cool before pouring it into a sterilised bottle or container.
- Store in the fridge for up to a month.
Freshly-prepared iced tea can keep in the fridge for up to two weeks, as long as it’s stored in an airtight container or jug with a sealable spout. This will help to prevent potential bacteria growth and your tea from absorbing any smells or tastes from other food in your fridge.
To preserve your iced tea, keep it chilled at all times and avoid leaving it out at room temperature. Adding sweeteners, fruit, and additional flavourings will also reduce the amount of time your iced tea can keep for – consume within one to two days if you add in any of these.
While preparing big batches of iced tea ahead of time can be convenient, it’s safer to make it in smaller batches more often.
How much caffeine is in iced tea?
The amount of caffeine will depend on the type of tea you use, as not all teas have the same caffeine content.
Black tea has the highest amount of caffeine with around 50mg of caffeine per serving. In comparison, a cup of brewed coffee has on average around 95mg of caffeine.
Green tea has slightly less, with around 30-40mg of caffeine per serving. And white tea comes in at around 20-30mg per serving.
If you’re looking for a caffeine-free option, fruit and herbal teas contain no caffeine. That’s right: you can enjoy your iced fruit and herbal teas all day long!
Top tips for making iced tea
1. Set a timer for steeping
Just like leaving your coffee grounds in your cafetière for too long can cause “over-extraction” (when they give your coffee a bitter taste), letting your tea bags or leaves steep for longer than the recommended time can cause your iced tea to become bitter too.
We know what you’re thinking: but surely letting it steep for longer imparts a stronger, more intense flavour?
The thing is that teas are delicate and need to be treated with care to extract maximum tastiness. Rather than steep for longer, try adding more tea bags for a richer flavour.
Make sure you’re setting a timer to hit that perfect steeping sweet spot.
2. Always measure your water
Picture this: it’s a balmy July afternoon and a chilled glass of delicious iced tea is just the ticket for enjoying the summer’s day. In your eagerness, you eyeball the amount of water that you need. The result? A watery, tasteless iced tea that doesn’t quite satisfy your cravings.
Always use a measuring jug to check that you’re using the right amount and make sure that your iced tea isn’t going to be too watered down. You can always add more water if it’s too strong, but it’s a lot more difficult to add more tea flavour – trust us.
3. Make iced tea ice cubes
Along with measuring your water, you may find that the ice cubes are diluting your precious iced tea. Here, you have two options: use less ice or make iced tea ice cubes.
Using less ice absolutely works, but if you’re in a pinch and want your tea to chill quickly, you might not want to skimp on the ice.
Instead, keep a batch of iced tea ice cubes in your freezer. Simply brew your favourite tea, pour it into an ice cube tray, and freeze. Use these whenever you’re making iced tea to avoid any watery mishaps.
What are the best tools for making iced tea?
Best for steeping tea: La Cafetière Le Teapot 1.2L Glass Teapot with Infuser
This stylish glass teapot doubles up as an infuser thanks to its removable infuser basket. It’s made from high-quality borosilicate glass which is heat resistant, so you don’t have to worry about it cracking when you pour in your hot water. Tea bags? Loose leaf tea? This clever teapot does both.
Best for impressing your guests with: Maxwell & Williams Majolica 2.4 Litre Blue Pitcher
Make your iced tea look as good as it tastes with this beautiful ceramic pitcher. With a design inspired by traditional Italian ceramics, it’s finished with pretty flowers in deep blue, teal, and peach. With a generous 2.4 litre capacity, this pitcher deserves to take pride of place on any dining table or for a dinner or al fresco party.
Best for storing iced tea: KitchenCraft 1.5 Litre Infuser Jug
Prepping your iced tea the night before? Keep it cool in this KitchenCraft infuser jug as it chills in the fridge. The secure lid keeps any fridge odours at bay and the infusion core is perfect for filling with fruit or sprigs of herbs. Your guests can enjoy a smooth iced tea with all the deliciousness of your favourite flavourings, but without any annoying bits.
Sweeten up your day with a refreshing iced tea
Iced tea is a great way to stay hydrated and enjoy refreshing flavour. Whether you’re an Earl Grey enthusiast or are passionate about peach, you can find a delicious iced tea to suit your taste.
Make sure you have all the tools you need to brew the perfect iced tea to quench your cravings.