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Iced-Tea 101: 3 Ways to Make Summer's Most Refreshing Drink

By Kelsey Banfield |

Iced TeaIced-Tea is one of the simplest drinks you will make all summer. The two main ingredients are literally tea and water, any additional garnishing is up to you. I always have a pitcher of iced tea in the fridge to cool me down any time of day. On hot summer mornings I often choose a chilly glass full of fresh lemon slices over my usual hot caffeinated beverage! I’ve experimented with a lots of different ways to make iced-tea in the past few years and have settled on three main methods, each of which produce a slightly different tasting tea, to brew my go-to summer beverage:

1. Traditional Iced-Tea: My rule of thumb is 5-6 tea bags per 2 quarts of water when brewing any kind of tea. Of course, if you want stronger tea feel free to add in more bags! To make traditional iced-tea, first, choose five tea bags from your stash and clip their strings to the side of the pitcher so that the bags are dangling into the center of the pitcher. Bring 2 quarts of hot water to a boil on the stove and pour it into the pitcher, making sure the tea bags are fully covered. Allow the tea to steep for 5-10 minutes, or until the tea is a dark golden color. Remove tea bags, cover the pitcher and place it in a fridge to cool down before drinking. This is the most common way to brew iced-tea and produces a balanced tea that with a tart, refreshing taste.

2. Sun Tea: Since Sun Tea is brewed outside it is important that the container in which you are brewing it is completely sterilized before continuing. Clip five tea bags to your pitcher as directed above. Pour 2 quarts of cool water into the pitcher and place a light cover or a tea towel over the pitcher. Place pitcher in direct sunlight outdoors for one hour. Keep an eye on the tea, when it is dark golden remove it from the sun. Note: the pitcher must be in direct sunlight – it won’t work if it is placed in a shady area. Remove tea bags and return pitcher to the fridge to cool down before drinking. Sun Tea has a more mellow taste then traditional iced-tea and makes for a milder drink.

3. Cold-Brewed Tea: Follow the directions above for clipping tea bags to the side of your pitcher. Pour in 2 quarts of cold water, cover the pitcher with a lid and place it in the refrigerator. The tea will need to steep like this for at least 12 hours in the fridge, but will turn out beautifully. I like to place the tea in the fridge to steep before I go to bed at night so it is all ready in the morning. Beware, since there is no heat to break down the caffeine, Cold-Brewed Tea is the strongest of all iced-teas. You can always count on it’s robust flavor and high caffeine content to give you a boost!

Ways to Flavor Your Tea:

  • Simple Syrup: Herbed simple syrup is perhaps the most effective way to sweeten iced-tea since the sugar crystals are already dissolved and it merely has to be stirred in to sweeten the beverage. I find mint simple syrup to be particularly tasty way to flavor and sweeten iced-tea.
  • Herbs: For fresh herbal taste without the sugar, add crushed herb leaves directly to your pitcher of tea. Pinching and crushing the leaves slightly before adding them will help them release their flavorful oils into the beverage.
  • Flavored Tea Bags: For flavored tea, like raspberry, mint or green, I often substitute one or two flavored tea bags for the regular tea bags when brewing. This will produce a dark tea with fruity undertones.
  • Fruit: Lemon slices, raspberries and blueberries are all delicious ways to flavor iced-tea. Be sure to drop them in the tea about an hour or so before serving to let their flavors meld with the beverage.

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About Kelsey Banfield


Kelsey Banfield

Kelsey Banfield is the food writer and the founder of The Naptime Chef. She writes a daily food column for Babble Food and her food writing has also appeared in the places like Parents magazine, and Martha Stewart Living. Kelsey lives in southern Connecticut with her husband and daughter. Read bio and latest posts → Read Kelsey's latest posts →

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7 thoughts on “Iced-Tea 101: 3 Ways to Make Summer's Most Refreshing Drink

  1. Becky says:

    I’ve never tried cold brewing because I thought you needed to buy special tea bags. Definitely going to give it a try now. Tea is so healthy I try to get several cups in each day (

  2. Kristine says:

    When we make cool tea I stir in a bit of honey while the tea is still warm, just enough to make it sweet to taste.

  3. Kelsey/TheNaptimeChef says:

    That’s a great idea Kristine! I love honey in hot tea and it would be great in iced-tea as well!

  4. Mark Mc says:

    Awesome guide. Every summer I bust out the sun tea jug. I do need to try the refrigerator brew too.

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