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Making Iced Tea

by Ali Roth May 17, 2020

Making Iced Tea

It's getting warmer and we all know what that means....

Few things are more satisfying than sipping on an iced cold glass of tea when the sun is trying to cook you alive.  I just want to discuss a few different ways to make iced tea easily.  It's great having a cold beverage, but it's better when you can get the best flavors out of each tea. 

Here's a couple of things to keep in mind to make the process easier:

  • Temperature.  The temperature of your water can completely change the flavor of your tea.  Remember that colder water reduces the amount of tannins that can make tea bitter, and tends to make tea a little sweeter.  Hotter water brings out the caffeine more and more of the aroma. Generally, if you're using cooler water steep on the shorter end, and the opposite for hotter water.  My go-to for making iced tea with hot water is as follows:
    • 170° for white tea and green tea 
    • 190° for oolong
    • 200° to full boil for black and herbal teas
  • Volume.  Don't overdo it!  Unless you're making a concentrate, you don't need much more tea than you would to make a normal pot of tea.  I usually use about 1.5-2x the amount of leaf I would making hot tea.  That way it doesn't get watered down when the ice melts but won't get overly bitter and require you to fill it with sugar (unless you want sweet tea, in which case go big)
  • Time.  Iced tea doesn't need to be steeped much longer than hot tea.   In fact, I find it best when it's steeped the normal time for making western style tea.  When steeping with hot water, I follow these guidelines.  When you are familiar with the tea you're making you can fine tune it from here, but this is where I start:

    • 2-3 minutes for white tea
    • 3-4 minutes for green tea and lighter oolongs
    • 4-5 minutes for darker oolongs and black teas
    • 5-10 minutes for herbal tea depending on the ingredients and desired strength. 

Iced tea for one

If you're flying solo, you may not need a huge pitcher of tea.  Here's how I make a single serving of my favorite iced teas:

  • Measure out 1.5-2x the amount of tea you would need normally for the size of cup you're filling
  • Fill HALF-WAY with hot water (see temperature guidelines above)
  • Steep appropriate time (see time guidelines above)
  • Strain into your drinking vessel and add sugar now (if you want)
  • Add a scoop of ice and swirl until the ice dissolves.
  • Top off with ice (the reason we do it this way is that if you fill the cup with ice and pour the hot tea over it, all of the ice will begin to melt, making it get watered down faster.  If you bring the temperature of the tea down with a smaller amount of ice, it creates the correct concentration and allows the ice on top to stay whole longer)

Making a pitcher

If you have many mouths to feed, or like keeping a batch in the fridge, here's how to make a two quart batch:

  • Weigh tea into 1qt. container
    • For lightweight teas (hojicha, mint, etc) use 0.5 oz. loose leaf tea
    • For most teas (black, green, oolong) use 1 oz. loose leaf tea
    • For in-between teas use 0.75 oz. loose leaf tea
  • Fill with hot water (see temperature guidelines above)
  • Cover and steep for the appropriate time (see time guidelines above)
  • Strain into 2 qt. pitcher (add sugar at this point if desired)
  • Either fill the rest of the way with cold water and pop it in the fridge, or scoop full with ice to enjoy sooner. 

Fun things to consider adding: Mint, lemon, sage, rosemary, lavender, rose petals, ginger, pretty much anything that sounds good.  

Cold Brew

Cold brew is exactly what it sounds like: steeping tea in cold water.  Not only is it low maintenance, but it can really take your tea to a whole new level.  Beverages steeped in cold water are less acidic, and end up being very smooth to drink and are easier on your insides.  Cold water also brings out more body and umami characteristics, which can really complement a variety of teas. (Keep in mind, most herbal and fruit tisanes are best steeped with hot water because a lot of their flavors won't come out as prominently in cold water)

Some of my favorite teas to brew cold are:

Making cold brew is simple:  Put a tablespoon-ish of tea in a bottle (12-16oz.) cover in good, cold water and pop it in the fridge.  For Japanese sencha, you can steep as short as an hour, or as long as 8.  For oolongs it's best to let them go overnight.  Just taste a little along the way and see when it has developed the flavors you like best.  

Sun Tea

Another easy way to make tea, sun tea falls in between steeping with hot or cold water.  Use room temperature water, add whatever additions you want, and set the pitcher out in the sun for a few hours.  Taste every hour or so until the tea is just where you want it, then strain and serve over ice!

These are all just general guidelines and I encourage you to experiment this summer and find teas and methods that suit you.  

Stay cool everyone!

Ali Roth
Ali Roth


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