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Brewing Iced Tea

In the summer it can get very hot here in New York City. So we like to make iced tea. Below are some notes on some general guidelines for when you make iced tea and some brewing ideas for ice teas we make here in the In Pursuit of Tea office. There are three points before we begin:

  1. Great-tasting iced tea can be made from all types of tea: white, green, oolong, or black.
  2. The same level of awareness in brewing hot tea is required for iced tea. We don't have an instant solution, but then we are generally skeptical of instant solutions for any food product. A few moments of concentration and focus are always a guarantee of a great culinary experience.
  3. Using large quantities of ice from unfiltered tap water that sits in the freezer is a problem.

One of our favorite iced teas is White Peony. This is a white tea that actually brews a light amber liquor. It makes a very refreshing drink. The point here is that you don't have to restrict yourself to black teas to make great iced tea. You should experiment with all sorts of teas. Oolong teas make especially flavorful brews even when cold. We offer an Iced Tea Sampler including a Ceylon Orange Pekoe Black Tea, Dragon Eyes Scented Black Tea, Scarlet Glow and Wild Mint Herbal, our favorite teas in each category to enjoy cold.

To brew iced tea, we strongly suggest that you do so well in advance of wanting to drink it. You should also brew the leaves in a container large enough to make several servings. You can brew it two ways: double the amount of leaf and the same brewing time; or the same amount of leaf and longer brewing times (see the brewing guidelines below). Carefully pour the infusion into a covered container for refrigeration. Make sure that no leaf residue is poured into the covered container.

Ice will dilute the strength and taste of the tea. But making bitter, overbrewed tea leaves and then diluting it does not get rid of the bitter taste. What to do? Our advice is to cool the tea in your refrigerator either overnight or for several hours, rather than rely on ice. When you are about to serve the tea add one or two ice cubes, to acknowledge the ice in iced tea. We have some customers that will use a portion of the brewed tea to make ice cubes. That is the best solution if you wish to have significant amounts of ice in the glass when you serve the tea.

Another problem with ice cubes is that they are generally made from unfiltered water, and if they sit in the freezer for long periods of time it they will absorb odors and flavors that will be present in the iced tea when the cubes melt. For that reason the first method of iced tea brewing -- double the amount of leaf and keep the same brewing time -- may give you better results. Also, try making ice cubes out of the tea and serving them with the iced tea to keep the flavor from diluting as the ice melts.

Finally, we are more liberal with additives when it comes to iced tea. Honey and/or mint goes very well with many iced teas; we note them in our list below. Remember these are suggestions to begin your own exploration. Try differing amounts, steeping times, and steeping temperatures to suit your own palate.

White Peony
Use 5 heaping tablespoons of tea for 50 oz. of water at well below boiling for 8 minutes, then transfer to a covered container and refrigerate. It tastes great as is, or add a sprig of fresh mint.

Jade Spring
Use 2 heaping tablespoons of tea for 50 oz. of water at well below boiling for 8 minutes. Add a touch of honey or mint if you wish.

Wood Dragon
Use 2 rounded tablespoons of tea for 50 oz. of water at just below boiling for 3 1/2 to 4 minutes. This tastes best as it is.

Phoenix Oolong
Use 3 heaping tablespoons of tea for 50 oz. of water at just below boiling for 5 minutes. Again, we think it tastes best as is.

Imperial Red
Use 2 rounded tablespoons of tea for 50 oz. of water at just below boiling for 3 1/2 minutes. Honey goes well with this tea.

Yunnan Gold
Use 3 rounded tablespoons of tea for 50 oz. of water at just below boiling for 4 minutes. This tea tastes great as it is.

Darjeeling Goomtee First Flush
Use 2 rounded tablespoons of tea for 50 oz. of water at just below boiling. Honey goes well with this tea.


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