How to Make the Best Iced Tea
5 expert tips to make the best, healthiest iced tea.
Baby, it's hot outside. And a perfect drink to cool down is a frosty glass of iced tea. Plus, as Joyce Hendley reported in EatingWell Magazine, studies show if you drink tea regularly, you may reduce your risk of Alzheimer's and diabetes, plus have healthier teeth and gums and stronger bones. How? Tea is rich in antioxidants called flavonoids, which are most potent when tea is freshly brewed.
Another benefit of brewing your own iced tea? When you make your own iced tea at home instead of using a powdered mix or buying it bottled or from a fast-food restaurant or coffee shop, you'll save money. Plus you can control the calories by limiting how much sweetener you add (or by not adding any at all).
Hendley talked to co-owner and tea sommelier at New York City's Tavalon who recommended these 5 tips for making perfect iced tea.
Tip 1. Use Fresh Tea
Look for fresh tea at a tearoom or a market with high turnover, because the oils that give teas their flavor break down over time. Opt for loose tea rather than tea bags, as tea leaves need room to expand to release their flavors. If you use tea bags, look for larger ones shaped like pyramids, which give the leaves more room to bloom. Look for brands that list the region where the tea comes from so you know exactly what you're getting.
Pictured Recipe: Hibiscus-Pomegranate Iced Tea
Hibiscus-Pomegranate Iced Tea
This herbal iced tea blends sour, berry-flavored hibiscus tea with sweet pomegranate juice.
Get the Recipe: Hibiscus-Pomegranate Iced Tea »
Tip 2. Start With Spring or Filtered Tap Water
Mineral water contains too many minerals that can create off-flavors when they come in contact with compounds in the tea leaves, and mineral-free distilled water produces a flat-tasting brew.
Pictured Recipe: Green Tea & Mango Splash
Green Tea & Mango Splash
Feel the island breezes as you sip this cooling concoction.
Get the Recipe: Green Tea & Mango Splash »
Tip 3. Turn Up (or Down) the Heat
Use boiling water (212°F) to brew black, herbal and darker-colored oolong teas. But use cooler water (170° to 180°F) to brew green, white and lighter oolongs teas. Brewing teas that need cooler temps with boiling water can result in bitter or astringent flavors.
Pictured Recipe: Iced Mint Green Tea
Iced Mint Green Tea
Crisp and refreshing, you just may find yourself craving this beverage on a hot summer's night.
Get the Recipe: Iced Mint Green Tea »
Tip 4. Use Just Enough Tea
Use 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons per cup of water when brewing teas with bigger leaves or flowers, like green tea or chamomile, and 1 teaspoon per cup for teas with denser, compact leaves, such as most black teas. If you want to make iced tea and don't have time for the tea to cool down, brew it double-strength to compensate for the resulting water from melting ice cubes. Or cool it to room temperature and refrigerate until cold.
Pictured Recipe: Honey-Lemon Tea
This is a popular drink served in homes along the Yangtze during the summer. In China, honey is highly praised for its medicinal value. Some say daily doses of local honey may help ease hay fever.
Get the Recipe: Honey-Lemon Tea »
Tip 5. Steep Long Enough to Release Flavors, But Not So Long That Tannins and Other Bitter-Tasting Compounds Dominate
Heartier teas, like black teas and darker oolongs, should steep for 3 to 5 minutes, while green, white and lighter oolong teas need just 2 to 3 minutes. Herbal tisanes and infusions have fewer tannins, so there's less risk of oversteeping.
Pictured Recipe: Orange-Early Grey Iced Tea
Orange-Early Grey Iced Tea
Get a little pick-me-up with this orange-infused Earl Grey iced tea. Tea is rich in a class of antioxidants called flavonoids that may help reduce your risk of Alzheimer's and diabetes, plus help you have healthier teeth and gums and stronger bones. You can help preserve the flavonoids in iced tea by adding something acidic-like the orange juice in this recipe.
Get the Recipe: Orange-Early Grey Iced Tea »
A Tea Health Tip to Remember
Regardless of the variety of tea you brew, maximize the power of its flavonoids by drinking it freshly brewed. If you want to keep a batch of cold tea in your refrigerator, "add a little lemon juice," recommends Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston. The citric acid and vitamin C in that squeeze of lemon-or lime or orange-help preserve the flavonoids.