As American as…iced tea? While tea has been around for thousands of years, iced tea made its first recorded appearance in American cookbooks in the late 1800s. Iced tea was later popularized at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, where hot weather prompted a tea plantation owner to add ice to the free tea samples he was offering. The iced beverage was a big hit with fairgoers seeking to quench their thirst. Today, iced tea makes up about 80% of the tea that Americans drink. If you live in the Southern United States, chances are that to you “tea” is sweetened ice tea. In the rest of the U.S. however, “tea” usually means hot tea, and iced tea is referred to by name. While bottled or canned iced tea is popular, making your own is easy, much cheaper, and will likely give you a much better tasting beverage.
Brew You Own
Hot or cold, the best method for making iced tea really depends on how much time you have. Advocates of cold brewing, however, think that it gives a cleaner, more distinctive flavor. While the idea of sun tea may sound romantic, it isn’t particularly safe as the sun-warmed water can also brew bacteria.
- Brew it Hot
- Use two tea bags for every cup of boiling water. After brewing, the ice will dilute the tea to normal strength.
- Steep black tea for 3-5 minutes. For green tea, steep about 2 minutes.
- Remove tea bags and pour tea over ice cubes to cool it.
- Cold Brewing
- Use one tea bag for every cup of water (or more if you like stronger tea).
- Cover container and refrigerate for 8-12 hours.
- Remove and discard tea bags.
Tea Brewing Tips
Here are a few tips for making a great cup of iced tea:
- Start with quality tea and fresh cold water. If your water is heavily chlorinated, try filtering it for better tasting tea.
- Like strong tea? Increase the amount of tea, not how long you brew it. Long brew times release the tannins that make your tea turn bitter.
- Branch out from black tea. Green or white teas are also tasty options for your next iced tea. For hot brewing, don’t bring the water to a boil, and use shorter steeping times.
- Try loose leaf teas with an infuser. In general, you’ll need about one teaspoon of loose tea per 6 oz. cup. When hot brewing tea, steeping times are typically a few minutes longer for loose leaf tea.
Iced Tea Recipes
1 quart water
7 tea bags
¾ to 1 cup sugar, or to taste
1 6-oz. can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 12-oz. can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
9 ½ cups water
- Bring one quart of water to a boil. Remove from heat.
- Add tea bags. Cover and steep for 5 minutes.
- Remove tea bags. Combine tea and remaining ingredients; chill.
- Serve over ice.
Coconut Thai Iced Tea
4 cups water
½ cup sugar (or more or less to taste)
Vanilla bean, star anise, cardamom, cloves or other spices, to taste
6 black tea bags (use more tea bags for a stronger flavor) 1 cup coconut milk
- Boil water and add sugar and spices. Stir until sugar dissolves.
- Remove from heat and add tea bags. Steep for 5 minutes.
- Remove tea bags, strain whole spices, and allow tea to cool to room temperature.
- Fill tall glasses with ice and pour in tea until about ¾ full.
- Slowly add coconut milk so that it remains as its own layer on top.