Cool Off With Iced Tea
Summer is prime time for iced tea, and June 10 is even National Iced Tea Day. Pour yourself a tall glass and relax while we tell you all about how to brew, sweeten and flavor iced tea.
Fast Facts About Iced Tea
While iced tea has been around since the 19th century, it gained mainstream popularity when it was served at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Black tea is traditional, but green tea is becoming more commonplace. Oolong and white tea can also be iced.
Commercial tea bags may be inexpensive and convenient, but they typically contain tea dust and fannings, not whole or partial leaves. For better quality tea, use pyramid-shaped bags or loose tea since these have larger leaves and produce a more consistent taste. We love Bon Appetit’s tea analogy: “Loose-leaf is to pre-bagged as fresh ground coffee beans are to Bustelo.”
How to Brew Iced Tea
Hot brew is the traditional way of making iced tea. Arbor Teas has a simple step-by-step guide for hot brewing, with smart reminders about steeping time and tea strength. Bon Appetit takes it a step further by recommending steeping temperatures based on tea type. Delicate white teas require lower temperatures than hardy black teas and herbal tisanes. Make it easy on yourself with the Cuisinart programmable tea kettle and steeper which ensures your water is the perfect temperature. Or check out the CRAFTEA Electric Tea Maker that perfectly prepares tea and chai.
Sun brew is another well-known method. It uses the heat of the day to slowly steep the tea. To prevent the possibility of bacterial growth, sterilize your tea leaves or tea bags with boiling water before adding them to your pitcher. We recommend the Capresso glass pitcher, but take care you leave it on a sturdy surface while brewing.
Cold brew isn’t just a hot trend in coffee. Check out this in-depth discussion of cold brew iced tea on Serious Eats. With cold brew, you don’t have to be concerned with steeping time or temperature, or the potential effects on taste. The only apparent drawback to cold brew is you have to plan ahead; steep overnight and enjoy the next day.
How to Sweeten and Flavor Iced Tea
Southern-style sweet tea is different from traditional iced tea, but it’s a staple beverage below the Mason-Dixon line. Don’t just stir a teaspoon of sugar into hot brewed tea before adding ice; sweet tea is properly made in a large batch. Bone up on the basics of sweet tea with these guidelines on The Kitchn. Any saucepan will do, but we recommend at least 1.5 quart capacity.
With sun brew or cold brew, you’ll need to sweeten with simple syrup or another liquid sweetener. While you can add agave into your tea straight from the bottle, we think infused simple syrups are the way to go. Get creative with the add-ins, from fresh herbs and whole spices to citrus rind. You may never buy another bottle of flavored iced tea.