Iced Tea 101

iced tea

Iced tea is the quintessential summertime drink, rivaled only by lemonade and my favorite summer cocktail, the Porch Swing. Iced tea is cold, refreshing, and looks so pretty in a tall glass with lots of ice.

I remember being so befuddled about how to make iced tea when I first wanted to make some. I don’t know what made it so confusing since it’s really simple, but I know I’m not alone in this. We get questions in the store all the time about how to make iced tea and what teas make a good one. So as Spring is maybe, sort of, kind of, here in Michigan let’s demystify this beverage.

What makes a good iced tea?

Any tea. Really. After that, it’s a matter of taste preference.

All teas tend to get a little sweeter as they cool. Fruity teas become slightly more juice-like, and the sweeter notes of all teas are a little more pronounced. Spicy flavored teas are not my favorite as iced teas, but they do translate well. I just prefer the spicier ones during the cooler weather.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: drink what you like.

How do you make it?

There are several ways to make iced tea:

  • Brew it like you’re making a cup of hot tea, then let it cool.
  • Make a concentrate. Brew double the tea leaf in half the amount of water, then pour it over ice for instant satisfaction. This is how we’ll make you a cup of iced tea to order when you come in the store.
  • Cold brew the tea by using the same ratio of tea to water as for hot tea but substituting cold water for the hot. Let it brew for several hours. This is similar to making sun tea, but without placing the jar in sunlight. You’ll know it’s time to pull the tea out when you like the way it tastes, so try it periodically.

The cold brew is my favorite method because it’s less temperamental and more forgiving. If you forget to check it or don’t hear a timer going off, it’s ok. Since the steeping process is so slow there’s a lot more wiggle room as far as timing goes. Plus, the flavor is so smooth and deeply nuanced. For extreme cold brewing there’s the Shinobi-cha method that uses ice to brew tea.

Why is my iced tea cloudy?

This is only an issue for you if you don’t like the way it looks. There’s nothing wrong with the tea; all that happened is that the tea cooled too quick. The best way to prevent cloudy iced tea is to let it cool to room temp on the counter before putting it in the fridge. Sticking the hot tea into the refrigerator while it’s still hot will produce the cloudiness. This does not happen, though, when using the concentrate method.

How long will it keep?

Iced tea will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator. Some will say the quality of the tea degrades after one day, but if you like the way it tastes after that there’s no reason not to drink it. See, I’ve said it again.

Play with your iced tea

While I prefer to most always drink my tea hot, I do have a soft spot for our Dark Rose and Hibiscus Quench as iced teas. But you get in there and experiment to find out which teas and methods you love.

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