How to Brew Iced Tea

If the only iced tea you drink is from a bottle you bought at the grocery store-or worse, a can-you'll be sorry you never learned how to brew iced tea before now. Home brewed iced tea is refreshing, invigorating and best of all, there are so many variations of this classic summertime beverage you can tantalize your taste buds while you're taking in the natural health benefits of the antioxidants that occur naturally in tea.

Iced Tea Favorites
While there are several different methods for brewing iced tea, the three most common types of tea people brew at home are unsweetened iced tea, sweet tea and sun tea. For each of these, you'll need the basics: boiling water, tea leaves or tea bags and a glass pitcher. Then, depending on which tea strikes your fancy, you'll adjust the proportions and add additional ingredients as directed.

Classic Unsweetened Iced Tea
Classic iced tea is brewed using black (and sometimes orange pekoe) tea. It is brewed without sweetener and served with lemon in tall iced tea glasses. Sugar or artificial sweeteners are offered on the side to be mixed in after the tea has been brewed, cooled and poured over ice.

Traditional Brew:
Heat eight cups of water to boiling. Once the water has reached a boil, remove from the heat and let the boil settle. Place eight tea bags (one per cup of water) in a glass pitcher and pour the water over the bags. Let steep for ten minutes.

Remove the tea bags from the pitcher and let the tea cool to room temperature (if you're impatient, you can put the pitcher in the refrigerator). When the tea has cooled, add an equal amount of ice (less or more, if you prefer) and pour into tall iced glasses. Garnish with a wedge of lemon and offer sweetener on the side.

Sun Brew:
Sun tea is iced tea that has been brewed using the solar power of the sun. Simply put tea bags into a large glass jar with a cover and add water (one cup per tea bag). Seal the jar to keep tea from contaminants then, place the container outdoors in the sun for an hour or more. The sun rays will brew the tea, making delicious iced tea in a short period of time. Sun tea is often more mellow and smooth in flavor than teas that have been brewed with hot water.

Sweet Tea
Sweet tea is the go-to iced tea of the Southern part of the United States. This tea is unique in that copious amounts of sugar are cooked into black (orange pekoe) tea before it cools, turning the entire tea into a sugar-and-tea-leaf simple syrup. The tea syrup is reconstituted with water to taste, then served over ice with a wedge of lemon.

To Brew:
Heat four cups of water to boiling. Add one cup of sugar and ten tea bags to the boiling water. Remove from heat and allow the tea to steep in the syrup for 20 to 60 minutes.

Remove tea bags and allow the tea syrup to come to room temperature. Pour this mixture over a generous amount of ice (a gallon-sized pitcher is best). Add water to reconstitute the mixture to achieve the amount of sweetness you desire. Serve this iced tea with lemon.

Green Iced Tea
Green iced tea is making headlines today because of the amazing health benefits attributed to drinking this delicious beverage. Green tea is typically brewed using a cold water process so as to preserve all the health benefits. It is usually sweetened with honey, sugar or an artificial sweetener and is often combined with ginseng or other herbs or citrus fruit flavors.

To Brew:
Begin by doubling the number of tea bags recommended on the tea box for the suggested amount of water per cup of tea. For example, if the box recommends one bag per 6 oz. cup to tea, you'd use 16 bags to yield 48 oz.of iced green tea.

Place tea bags in a sealable, glass container and pour the cold water over them. Seal the container and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes. Serve over ice and offer sweetener on the side.

Iced Tea Variations

Flavored Iced Tea. Flavored iced teas are available in several forms. Some are made from classic iced tea with the addition of flavored syrups (both sugar-free and sugar-based). Others are made with both natural and artificial flavorings that are either added to the tea leaves or created by the addition of other herbs and fruit pieces to the tea mix. These teas are brewed and served over ice, often garnished with a slice of citrus fruit or corresponding herb, like mint.

Herbal Iced Tea.  Herbal teas don't have the strong flavor of other teas (technically, herbal teas aren't teas at all as they don't come from the Camellia sinensis plant, but as their name implies, herbs). As a result, brewing herbal iced teas requires the use of significantly more tea leaves to achieve good flavor.

You can choose from a wide variety of flavors from peppermint and spearmint to cinnamon and anise seed. If you drink herbal tea for medicinal purposes as well as pleasure, you can enjoy them all year long, iced or hot.

Chai Iced Tea. Chai iced tea is a variation of traditional chai: a hot, sweet and creamy East Indian tea served in Indian restaurants that's readily available in coffeehouses and cafes everywhere. Chai is generally made from black tea leaves, cardamom seeds, cloves, cinnamon and black peppercorns. It's typically sweetened and can be served as is or more traditionally, with equal parts steamed milk. Iced chai is simply hot chai that's been cooled and poured over ice.

Thai Iced Tea. Thai iced tea is made from brewed red or black tea flavored with anise seed, vanilla and cinnamon. It's generally sweetened with sugar, poured over ice and topped with condensed milk. It is very sweet and flavorful. You can find this tea in most Thai restaurants.

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