Refreshing iced tea hits the spot on hot summer days. As a kid, I spent a few summers in Virginia and my aunt made sun tea with eight Lipton tea bags. She set the pitcher out in the sun and I watched the tea slowly steep for a few hours. Then she mixed in two cups of sugar and refrigerated the tea for a few more hours. Sometimes, my aunt added lemon. The cold, sweet drink really quenched my thirst, especially on the humid days. As I grew older, though, I wanted iced tea without sugar.
Then I discovered cold brewing tea. This method takes a long time, but I find it makes the best iced tea. I steep a few tablespoons of my favorite loose-leaf tea or tisane in a glass pitcher overnight in the fridge. All the flavors are slowly pulled out of the tea leaves. You taste the pure, clean flavor in the leaves. It is almost sweet and has less astringency. This method exposes the perfections. If you are in a time crunch, combine hot and cold brewing methods.
Make a tea concentrate. Fill a quart-size glass pitcher halfway with hot water and a few tablespoons of loose-leaf tea. Let the tea steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Add cold water, filling the pitcher to the top. Let the tea steep for another 5 minutes and then pour over ice. What kind of tea leaves taste best iced? The answer depends on your taste buds, but I can say large-leaf teas taste the best.
Most iced teas in America are brewed with fannings or tea-leaf dust fragments. Many restaurants and tea bags use this low-grade tea because it brews quickly. However, these small tea-leaf fragments are the most bitter part of tea. Using larger leaves yields a sweeter and more pleasant beverage. Your first reaction is pleasant surprise and enjoyment, not reaching for the sugar. Try your favorite hot tea as iced tea.
Cold brewing full-leaf teas is as easy as putting a pitcher in the fridge at night. In the morning, you will have enough tea for the day. I enjoy sun-sweet tea when I go down South. However, I really enjoy tasting pure, iced tea sugar-free.