Iced tea is an American summer tradition. Served up on the hottest of days, it is usually prepared sweetened, in plentiful quantities, and as cold as the laws of physics will permit to help cut the heat of the August sun; it also happens to be my favorite summertime treat. To feed my mounting obsession with the beverage, I have learned to turn to many different sources. In a pinch, one can always grab a bottle of iced tea to go. These, however, are generally overly sweetened and contain additives and preservatives to maintain shelf life. Iced tea can also be found at most coffee shops, and certainly any respectable tea shop or cafe. Even our old friend/nemesis Starbucks serves up this seasonal staple by the bucket. But for the ultimate iced tea experience, brewing your own iced tea at home provides a delicious and fun alternative.
I started cold brewing iced tea just a few short weeks ago, along with cold brewing iced coffee, another summertime treat. Since then, I have been enamored with its smooth, full-bodied flavor and how simple it is to make.
Cold brewed tea is really not all that different from its traditional, hot brewed cousin. The equipment is largely the same. It simply requires less heat and more time to brew properly. We’ll start with tea selection. Hot or cold, a higher quality leaf will generally yield a more flavorful brew. Moroccan Mint—mint blended with gunpowder green tea—is one of my favorites and a staple through all seasons. I have also been experimenting with several black teas and even yerba mate with great success. Also, you will need some, shall we say, unconventional teaware. I exchange the traditional tea pot for a glass jar with a lid. In addition, I strongly recommend glass, as it is not prone to leaching flavors into your brew from previous experiments. Measure out your tea. I make my cold brew double strength to prevent it from becoming too diluted when poured over ice. Generally, this means two teaspoons per eight ounces of water.
Brewing couldn’t be simpler. Spoon the tea into the jar, add water, shake gently, and wait. Within 12 to 24 hours, your tea will be ready. I like to keep my jars in the kitchen window and enjoy the sunlight filtering through the brew as it progresses. When the time is up, simply strain the used leaves, add ice and sugar (if desired), and enjoy the rich color, full flavor, and conspicuous lack of bitterness.