Below you’ll learn how to prepare traditional iced tea, cold brew tea, and different ways to sweeten iced tea.
Traditional Iced Tea
Iced tea can be a great source of hydration, refreshment, and often caffeine. It is a healthier option compared to other caffeinated beverages such energy drinks and soda. Plus, it’s easy to make and comes in an infinite number of flavors.
To make traditional iced tea, follow the instructions given on the tea’s packaging for preparing hot tea – but use one-half the recommended amount of water. This will create a tea concentrate instead of a full cup of hot tea. (Let cool if time allows, but not required.) Pour the tea concentrate over ice to cool it, then fill the remainder of the cup with additional ice (if needed) and enjoy.
Cold Brewing Tea
What is it?
The process of cold-brewing steeps tea leaves slowly, using time rather than temperature to release flavors and other compounds gently. This results in a smooth body and reduced bitterness. Not only is cold brew tea easy to prepare, it can be considered a more fool-proof method for brewing delicious and refreshing tea, as the need for precise water temperature and exact steep time is eliminated. Plus, any type of tea can be cold-brewed!
Why do it?
Cold-brewing tea produces softer, more subtle flavors than tea steeped with hot water. Heat is responsible for releasing the tannins in tea leaves that cause astringency and bitterness if tea is overdosed or over-steeped. Without it, more rounded flavor and ultra-smooth texture prevail.
How to Cold Brew
In general, most cold brew teas are ready to drink after 3 to 4 hours of steeping in the refrigerator. Some Japanese green teas require even shorter infusions, while some herbal teas (with larger sized botanicals like fruits and whole spices) will benefit from significantly more time - upwards of 10 to 12 hours. Feel free to experiment with the tea and steep time to find your desired brew strength. Follow this general ratio:
2 to 3 Tablespoons of loose-leaf tea per quart (32 ounces) of water.
· Add tea leaves to pitcher or brewing vessel of choice.
· Fill with cool or room temperature water and cover. (see Pro Tip, below)
· Refrigerate 3 to 4 hours, to start. Taste; steep longer, if desired.
· Remove from refrigerator and separate tea leaves from infusion by straining into a new vessel (or remove filter). Discard tea leaves.
· Serve with or without ice.
· Store covered in refrigerator for up to 48 hours, for best flavor.
Before filling the vessel with cool water, we recommend adding a small amount of hot water – just enough to cover the tea leaves – then proceed with cool or room temperature water. This step helps "wake up" the tea, preparing it for extraction. Plus, the hot water kills any natural bacteria that may be present in unprocessed teas.
How to Sweeten Tea
How to Make a Simple Syrup
A simple syrup is ideal for sweetening already-chilled tea because the sugar has already dissolved and is in liquid form. This means it will incorporate quickly and evenly into a glass of cold tea (instead of undissolved sugar granules sinking and sitting at the bottom of the glass.)
To make a simple syrup, combine equal parts water and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-low, gently stirring periodically until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature before using. Stir into brewed tea of any temperature (and cocktails) to taste. Store simple syrup covered in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days. Flavor and aromas will weaken and dissipate over time.
How to Sweeten Tea with Honey
Sweetening with honey is just as easy. For hot tea (or tea concentrate), simply stir in honey until dissolved. For chilled tea or cocktails, first thin the honey by stirring with equal parts hot water before adding to cold beverages.
How to Sweeten Tea Without Sugar/Healthy Ways to Sweeten Tea
For “keto” / zero calorie / sugar free sweet tea, monk fruit sweetener is a great option. Monk fruit sweetener comes in granular form, just like sugar, so it can be conveniently added to beverages and baking in the same manner. Monk fruit sweetener is considered slightly sweeter than regular sugar; when trying for the first time, it is recommended to start with 25 to 50% less – then add more as desired to get adjusted to its level of sweetness.
Iced Tea vs Sweet Tea
Some have asked, what is the difference between iced tea & sweet tea? Sweet tea, also known as sweet iced tea, is a style of iced tea. It is made by adding sugar or simple syrup to black tea while the tea is brewing (or is still hot) and is almost always served ice cold. Sweet tea is regarded as an important regional staple in southern United States. While its sweetness level will vary across the region, it is not unusual to find sweet tea with exceptionally high sugar levels, even twice that of cola.
Bottled or pre-made sweet tea can come with additives and artificial sweeteners, lacking the quality of loose leaf tea. Now it is easy to prepare fresh, high quality sweet tea at home – and flavors and sweetness levels can be tailored to taste with our convenient Southern Sweet Tea Kit.
This all-in-one kit includes everything needed to prepare crisp and refreshing sweet tea in minutes. It includes black loose leaf tea, Peach Sugar, Lemon Sugar, (in individual pouches for customized sweetening), and easy-fill drawstring tea sachets for easy portioning and quick clean-up. Make a single cup for yourself – or up to three half-gallons to serve for a crowd!
Choosing a Tea
Now you have everything you need to know for preparing your perfect glass of iced tea (and many variations) – all that’s left is selecting a tea!
The best tea for iced tea really varies based on personal preference, however, below are some of our favorites:
Plus bulk tea. Did you know all our teas are available in 8- & 16-ounce pouches? This is perfect for serving a crowd or stocking up on your favorites at a discounted rate!
Don’t Want to Brew it Yourself?
If brewing your own tea is not your thing, be sure to look for a The Spice & Tea Exchange® location near you with a tea bar. At your local store, you’ll be able to open all the jars of tea to smell. Then select your favorite at the tea bar to try a cup of freshly brewed hot or iced tea. Our Tea Bar associates can even make recommendations and demonstrate the diffusing process if desired.