Growing up, I never liked the taste of iced tea.
It was this really sugary, but totally watered down, flavourless tea, and I just didn’t get what all the fuss was about. It didn’t resemble my beloved hot tea at all, so I opted for other soft drinks instead.
But here’s the thing…I had only tried store bought brands made with the lowest quality tea and filled to the brim with sugar and toxic chemicals.
The only iced teas I guzzled were the ones from Long Island.
It’s like when I drank $5 Baby Duck in high school and sadly thought I didn’t like red wine. When I finally got a taste of the good stuff years later…look out LCBO!!
Now I’ve seen the light.
Even though I continue to drink hot tea all year round, I love and welcome the fresh and healthy taste of iced tea as a refreshing summer treat.
I kicked my nasty, decades long Diet Coke habit about 4 years ago so this is a delicious addition to the water and hot tea I drink every day.
FUN FACT – Iced tea was created as a happy accident during the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. A tea merchant wasn’t having any luck selling his tea during the unusually hot weather, so to increase sales, he asked a nearby ice cream vendor for some ice to cool down his hot tea…and iced tea was born!
Iced tea is exactly as it sounds…tea that’s been iced or made cold.
If we’re going to get “technical”, there is a big difference between Iced Tea and Cold Brew Tea, but I’ll just use the general term “iced tea” no matter what brewing method you choose.
The first thing to know is that you can use any type of tea (white, green, ooloong, black or herbal) to make iced tea.
The bonus about making it yourself is that you control the quality of tea used, the strength of the brew, and anything else that gets added for additional flavour, other than the actual tea.
Personally, I love to use tea with flavours I associate with refreshing cold drinks. Think…minty, fruity, flowery, citrusy, sweet, etc.
Here are some of my FAVES:
- Minty – Beauty & Brains (Green) or Inner Glow (Herbal)
- Fruity – Razzle Dazzle (Herbal)
- Flowery – Goddess Chai (Black)
- Citrusy – Velvet Earl (Black), Razzle Dazzle (Herbal)
- Sweet – Bliss Break (Black), Mmm…Maple (Black)
ICED TEA METHOD
Let’s start with the method most people are probably familiar with when making iced tea.
Traditional iced tea is made by:
- adding hot water to your tea bags/leaves (basically making hot tea)
- letting it steep for the appropriate time (based on tea type)
- removing the tea bags/loose leaves
- allowing it to cool and come to room temperature
- putting it in the fridge to chill for a few hours
For this method, it’s important to use the correct steeping time, water temperature and amount of tea to brew the perfect cup. You can always adjust to suit your taste, but the basics are key.
While this is a very simple and familiar process, there’s actually a much better way to make great tasting iced tea…
COLD BREW METHOD
Although it might seem like the Iced Tea and Cold Brew methods should both deliver the same great taste, they end up being very different.
Cold brewing tea is a total game changer.
It’s a slow and gentle steeping process that uses cold water and more steeping time. Cold brewing brings out the natural sweetness in tea and you end up with a smoother, delicate and more flavourful brew.
Tannins, which can make tea bitter and astringent, aren’t released during cold brew steeping like they are in hot water steeping.
Cold brews are also shown to have higher antioxidant levels and lower caffeine content, compared to hot brews. Because the hotter the water and the longer the steeping time, the more caffeine is released.
Cold Brew Tea is made by:
- putting the appropriate amount of tea in your pitcher
- approx. 1 tea bag or 1-2 tsp. of loose leaf per 6-8 oz of water (depending on tea type and desired strength)
- pouring in cold or room temperature water
- covering the pitcher and putting it in the fridge for 6 – 12 hours (depending on desired strength of flavour)
- removing tea bags/loose leaves
- drinking as is or kicking it up a notch with extras like:
- lemons, limes, oranges or cucumbers
- fresh strawberries or raspberries
- sliced peaches or apricots
- lavender, basil, mint or other herbs
- edible flowers
- splash of rum, rye, gin, vodka, bourbon…pick your poison!
Because cold brewing produces a sweeter tea, hopefully you won’t feel the need to add sugar, but…you do you boo.
I think we all know that white sugar is the devil and should be avoided at all costs. It spikes our insulin levels and wreaks havoc on our hormones, just like all forms of natural or artificial sweeteners.
If you genuinely need some extra sweetness, try adding lots of fresh berries as a healthier choice. End of judgy Mom rant.
A few additional things to mention:
- Always use fresh filtered water. Don’t use distilled or softened water as your tea will taste flat. You need some mineral content for great tasting tea.
- When you add ice after the tea has already been made, remember that you are now watering down the drink. If you plan to add ice at the end, double the amount of tea used so you have a stronger tea concentrate to begin with. And make sure your ice cubes are also made with fresh filtered water!
- If you need a refresher on tea in general, read – 10 Things You Should Know About Tea!
PRO TIP – Use some of your iced tea to make ice cubes (vs. plain water) so when you add to the glass, it won’t water down your drink. Boom.
Traditional iced tea is definitely quicker to make than the cold brew method…but Honest Abe always said good things come to those who wait.
Don’t hide your teas away in the cupboard until Fall…use your favourites to whip up some cold and refreshing iced tea and embrace the summer heat.
And if you choose to make it a Long Island…I promise I won’t judge 😉