Summer is the perfect time for iced tea.  But how do you make iced tea?  Do you need special equipment or pre-made iced tea mixes?  Or can you use loose leaf to make iced tea?  Actually, you don’t have to go out and find special iced tea bags or pre-sweetened mixes.  Loose leaf tea makes wonderful summer iced brews that you can easily make  anytime with things you already have around your home.

How do you make Ice Tea for the Summer?

If you want to make iced tea, there are there are several methods you can use.  We recommend using either the cold brew method and flash chill method because they are each easy, convenient and safe.  Each method uses items you likely already own or that are easy to find.  Neither requires difficult or specialized techniques, and each can be perfected in an afternoon or less!

Method 1: Cold Brew // Cold Press Iced Tea

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Cold Brewing tea is probably the easiest way to make iced tea.  It requires no special technique- just loose leaf tea, room temperature water, a jar or covered pitcher and a refrigerator!  However, cold brew tea does need 8-12 hours to brew, which means it works best if you like to prepare ahead of time for the next day’s grab-and-go drinks or for a summer party on the patio.

You’ll need the following ingredients and equipment:

loose leaf tea
a covered jar or pitcher
filtered or spring water
8-12 hours of time

Use about 4 grams of tea for every 12oz of water.  If your jar or pitcher holds 1 quart, then that means you should be using just under 11 grams of tea.  If you don’t have a kitchen scale handy to help you measure your tea, you can estimate the amount of tea you’ll need.  In the 1 quart canning jar we used below, you can see that the loose leaf Spring Laoshan Green Tea covers about 75% of the bottom of the jar.  For a larger, fluffier tea, the bottom of the jar would be completely covered with leaves.

cold brew laoshan green LOOSE2 cold brew laoshan green LOOSE

Next, fill your jar with room temperature water.  In this case, we added 1 quart of Spring Water to the 11 grams of tea in our canning jar.  Cover your jar, and then leave your tea to cold steep in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours.

cold brew laoshan green ROOMTEMPwater cold brew laoshan green BREWING4

After cold steeping, all of the loose leaf tea will sink to the bottom of your jar.  Because of this, you do not need to worry about straining out the leaves by pouring your cold brew through a strainer and into a new vessel.  Instead, you can feel free to leave the tea in your pitcher/jar.  It’s more convenient, and makes for a beautiful presentation for your guests.  Because we brewed the tea cold overnight and used room temperature water, there is no need to worry about your brew becoming bitter and over-steeped.

cold brew laoshan green BREWING

To serve, pour over ice in a glass and enjoy!  Add sliced fruit, honey, sugar or simple syrup to taste.  For best results, remember enjoy your cold brew within a week.

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Method 2: Flash Chilled Iced Tea

Flash-chilled iced tea is a great, instant way to make iced tea whenever you want it, even if you didn’t have time to prepare in advance.  It is a little bit more difficult to make because it requires ice, boiled water, brew baskets and a martini shaker (or equivalent), but for making impromptu iced brews any time, it can’t be beat!

You’ll need the following ingredients and equipment:

loose leaf tea
two glasses (or one glass and one pitcher)
brew basket
boiled spring or filtered water
martini shaker (or equivalent)

Brew 5 grams of tea (usually 1 TB) in 6oz of water.  For green teas, use cooler 175 degree water and steep for 30-40 seconds.  For hardier oxidized teas like black teas or oolongs, use just under boiling water (about 205 degrees).  Steep these teas for up to 1 minute (or to taste).  The idea here is to brew a concentrated tea shot.  A brew basket and a pitcher or small glass tend to work best, though in a pinch, you can always use a fork to strain out your tea leaves once they’ve finished steeping!

At our tea house, we used our dedicated espresso machine to create these tea shots from Laoshan Green Oolong and Laoshan Roasted Oolong.  If you have one at home and would like to try it yourself, just remember to thoroughly clean your heads and your machine, or else your iced tea might taste like iced coffee!  Pack your head about 70% with your loose leaf tea, and then pull a double.  Fill a glass with ice while the tea sits in the head, and then pull another double.

laoshan green oolong espressohead iced tea shots 1 tea bar iced tea 5855

Whether you used a brew basket and pitcher to make your concentrated tea or an espresso machine, you should now have 6-8 oz of concentrated brew tea.  Now we need to cool off and chill that tea!

Fill a martini shaker (or equivalent) with ice, then pour in your brewed tea.  Shake and swirl until the contents are well-chilled. This usually takes 10-30 seconds. Pour the tea out through martini shaker’s strainer top (this will hold back the partially melted ice cubes).  Pour into a new glass filled with fresh ice.

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Serve immediately  and enjoy!  Feel free to add a garnish of your choice like a slice of lemon or fresh fruit.  You can even add muddled mint or fruit slices to your martini shaker filled with ice to infuse those flavors as the tea is chilling.  If you enjoy sweet tea, add honey or sugar to taste, or try adding a shot of ginger or fruit juice!

 laoshan oolong iced pair  Ginger Lemon Zhu Rong

What about Sun Tea or Sun Brewed Iced Tea?

Brewing iced tea in the sun is very traditional and looks beautiful, but we do not recommend making sun tea.  This is because it’s actually not a safe way to brew iced tea, especially if you add honey or sugar to your iced tea while it’s brewing in the sun.  This is because sun tea can harbor bacteria and encourage bacteria growth, especially if you add bacteria’s favorite food: sugar!  Tea that steeps in the sun will never get hotter than 130 degrees.  To be safe, if tea is going to be brewing for more than a just few minutes, the brewing needs to happen at temperatures above 195 degrees or below 40 degrees.  This is why we recommend steeping in the refrigerator (under 40 degrees) or steeping a concentrate with boiled water and then flash chilling.

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12 Responses to “How to Make Iced Tea”

  1. Chizakura

    That’s really interesting, pulling “tea shots” with an espresso machine. 🙂 I’d be tempted to try it with the one at home, but I don’t think I’d ever be able to get the coffee taste out of it. xD

  2. Great iced tea instructions. I’ve only made cold brewed tea this summer, but I’m going to try your method for flash chilled tea the next time I forget to prep a cold brew at night.

  3. Charlotte

    I always do cold brew because I have a tendency to water down my tea when trying to flash chill it. But cold brew works well enough for me, make a large batch over night and good to go for the whole day!

    • Lily Duckler

      Hi Larry- great question!

      We’ve been able to get two or more steepings out of our cold brew tea, but it usually works best if we refill the jug holding the iced tea right after we pour ourselves a few glasses, and then return the jug to steep again overnight. If we’ve left the leaves to steep for a day, had a few glasses, and then try and fill up after a day or so, the leaves often don’t steep out quite as well… making the brew sweet, but not particularly flavorful.
      I would recommend experimenting with you own tea at home! At the end of the day, it’s all up to what works well for you in your own home and for your own tastes. It’s the middle of summer now, which means it’s a great time to give different options a try! Please let us know how it goes 🙂

    • Lily Duckler

      Not really! Some teas, especially very fluffy ones like yabao or full of down (like Golden Fleece) have so much surface area that they can trap very small bubbles and stay floating near the surface.

      Stirring can help, but pouring through a strainer will also take care of the issue.

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