If you’re tuned in to what’s trendy these days, it may seem your options for what to drink this summer have been whittled down to two: cold-brew coffee or rosé. But if you want something in between the caffeine jolt of the former and the celebratory nature of the latter, you need look no further than a classic.
Sure, there are plenty of bottled and canned options, but making your own is a lot less expensive — especially if you’re brewing for a crowd — and a whole lot more satisfying. It’s also remarkably easy. Here are a few expert tips to get you started.
Begin by making hot tea. Many of the same guidelines apply to iced tea as hot tea. The general rule is about one teaspoon of loose-leaf tea per 1 cup of water; for large quantities, aim for 1 to 1 ½ ounces of tea per gallon of water.
Your tea’s packaging should offer guidance on water temperature and steep times. (Generally, black tea is brewed for four to five minutes with 212-degree water, with greens in the one- to three-minute range at lower temperatures, from 160 to 180 degrees.) If you’re going to be pouring the tea over ice, try doubling the steep time for a more robust flavor that can account for the dilution that occurs as the ice melts.
If you’re not in a rush, you can just let your hot tea come down to room temperature before chilling it in the refrigerator. For optimal freshness, drink it within a few days to a week.
Don’t totally discount cold brew. Yes, like coffee, you can certainly go the cold-brew route. Cold-brewing can allow you to get a different flavor profile of a tea — such as the fruity notes of a black variety — than you would had you steeped it in hot water.
You can steep cold-brew tea in the refrigerator for 12 hours and then consume it within a day or two to avoid possibly exposing yourself to bacteria. Avoid cold-brewing tisanes or herbal teas; their higher moisture content can harbor bacteria if they’re left to sit for extended periods of time.
Forget the special tools. You don’t need to buy a bunch of things to make iced tea. All you really need is a pot and tea and some way to get the tea out of the water.
A stainless-steel tea ball is a cheap investment. Other items in your kitchen can pull double duty for iced tea: Think a pasta pot or Dutch oven in combination with a fine-mesh strainer. Disposable tea filters are another possibility.
Sweeten with restraint. Southern sweet tea originated when tea was very expensive. People would oversteep the leaves to extract as much as they could, but of course that would lead to a bitter beverage. So they’d cover it up with much more affordable sugar. Add sweeteners while the tea is hot so that they dissolve. But don’t go overboard. Start with less and add more to taste.
Feel free to get creative. Black teas — Ceylon, Darjeeling and Assam among them — make some of the best iced teas. But that’s only the beginning. A Moroccan mint tea and Japanese sencha, which results in a vibrant green brew, are also nice, as are oolong and white varieties, such as silver needle. Don’t discount your favorite hot drinking variety, either — here’s looking at you, iced Earl Grey.
If you’re the kind of person who stockpiles a hodgepodge of boxed tea bags, go ahead and mix and match for a unique brew. (Don’t squeeze the bags once they’ve steeped or you will make the tea bitter.) Or experiment with muddled herbs from your garden, summer berries or spices from your pantry.