5@5 - Brew your way to iced tea perfection
May 24th, 2012
05:00 PM ET
Share this on:

5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Iced tea is made for summer. It's there to quench your thirst in the heat, to tote to countless cookouts, and to leisurely sip on a front porch swing. Best of all, it's a breeze to make. All you need is tea and water, plus a little sugar if you're so inclined.

Here to steep you in a little tea know-how is David De Candia, the Tea Director for The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, a specialty coffee and tea retailer.

Five Tips for Making the Perfect Pitcher of Iced Tea at Home: David De Candia

David DeCandia

1. Use filtered water
"While the type and cut of tea leaves is essential for ensuring a quality brew, many people don’t realize that the water is arguably equally important. Think of it like a canvas for a painting or the fabric for a dress. The type and temperature of water you use will greatly affect the flavor of your tea, just like the quality of silk will impact the way a piece of clothing hangs. It is important to always use filtered water - never distilled - when making iced tea, as well as filtered water in your ice.

Temperature also makes a discernible difference. It’s ideal to use water that is just under boiling, around 190-195 degrees Fahrenheit. Although boiling water may remove some of the chemical flavors of tap water, it also removes many of its important elements and nutrients. I also recommend heating the water on the stove, not in the microwave, to ensure the temperature is consistent and even throughout."

2. Keep it consistent
"It is important to use a proportional amount of water and tea when preparing your beverage. A good standard to follow is one level teaspoon of loose leaf tea to every eight ounces of cold filtered water. If you are using a tea bag, one bag is proportional to 16 ounces of liquid. To ensure these proportions aren’t thrown off kilter when pouring the final product over ice, I like to use ice cubes made from the tea or with juice for a subtle tea infusion. This helps keep the tea from getting diluted.

The rule of consistency also applies to temperature. Let the tea sit for 45 minutes at room temperature before chilling it, as abrupt changes can alter the delicate flavors."

3. The tea isn’t always greener
"Just because a tea has a higher price tag, doesn’t mean it will make the best iced tea. Stick with the basics and you’ll be pleased. High-end, specialty and delicate teas are meant to be consumed hot, which allows you to savor the special aspects and flavors of the tea leaves."

4. Just say no to sun brews
"Although sun-brewed iced tea may sound like the perfect summer treat, it is not the best way to get the full flavor of the tea leaves. The sun does not allow enough heat for full infusion. While the end product may look dark, it actually has very little flavor and will require sugar and lemon to brighten and sharpen whatever flavor is there.

Properly brewed teas will have a clear, consistent color, lots of flavor and won’t need any add-ins. It should also be noted that sun brewing can also attract a lot of unnecessary bacteria in your beverage."

5. Build up the flavor with broken tea
"While many home brewers opt for the ease of using tea bags filled with 'dust' to make iced tea, it’s best to use loose leaf 'broken' tea for optimal flavor. Broken tea is hand-plucked and hand-processed directly from the grower and has a greater surface area to ensure a high quality, robust brew.

In terms of the type of tea, I usually gravitate toward medium-bodied black teas. My general rule of thumb is to find a tea that has enough body and heft to it to stand up to the cool water. Because heat intensifies flavor, a tea when brewed hot that might come across as too strong on the palate might be the perfect choice for a refreshing pitcher of iced tea."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

See all our best grilling advice at Grilling 101

Posted by:
Filed under: 5@5 • Sip • Tea • Think

soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. Nelson

    If you cannot use your sweet tea for pancakes syrup, it's wrong!

    May 25, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
  2. Janet


    October 1, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
  3. Totally Tea

    Unsweetened with lemon, please & thank you. Unsweetened mango, raspberry or peach flavors are good, too.

    May 31, 2012 at 6:58 am |
  4. Bobby G

    Anyone have tips on how to make "uncloudy" tea?

    May 31, 2012 at 6:21 am |
  5. Anna

    I like to boil water with sugar in a pot and when the water is boiled I add a few slices of peaches and 5/6 tea black or orange pekoe tea bags). I pour the water into a pitcher with more peach slices and ice cubes when the tea becomes pretty cool. Perfect summer drink for a barbeque!

    May 30, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  6. Matt

    Personally, I like Luzianne tea.

    I bring about 2 quarts of filtered water to a boil, then take it off and stick a probe thermometer in and wait until the water hits 195 degrees. Add 4 Luzianne tea bags, cover the pot with the lid, then let it steep for an hour and a half. Next, discard the bags and mix in 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda to cut the bitterness. Then I add 1/2 teaspoon pure Stevia powder (not Truvia – pure, unadulterated, Stevia powder. I have to order it online, I've never found it in a store) and 1/3 cup of sugar. I add the sugar because Stevia powder leaves a bitter taste in my mouth and the sugar seems to cut it/round it out/whatever. I pour the mixture into a pitcher and add another 2 quarts of filtered water. Stir to mix the tea evenly and refrigerate.

    16 calories per 8 ounce serving for what is, to me, a good iced tea with decent sweetness.

    May 30, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  7. tony

    Infusion is an infusion. I have discovered over the years to steep tea bags in cold water produces an iced tea just as good as those made with boiling water. Do not fall for the cold water brews. Made by steeping in the fridge is as good as the old fashioned sun tea or boiling water method. the sweetener and amount of ice is what really makes it your fav.

    May 29, 2012 at 1:23 am |
    • mark glicker

      Iced tea is a nice treat on a hot Summer day.

      May 29, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  8. tina

    For a good supermarket bought tea, without getting into specialty teas, Tetley is superior to Lipton, also Red Rose, tho it's hard to find west of MS.

    May 27, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  9. Renny

    Does anyone know why i can no longer find bigelow plain ole oolong tea? Has everything gone to the horrid green tea now? I prefer oolong hot but have now switched to stronger irish breakfast tea.

    May 26, 2012 at 1:35 am |
  10. biggboyy

    i brew my tea in the coffee pot, makes it a excellent jug of sweet tea.

    May 26, 2012 at 1:16 am |
    • bass tard

      Yep, and I brew it double strength in the coffee pot so all them ice cubes end up diluting the tea in the glass just right. And I taint that tea (yea boy, howdy who doesn't like a taint) with a whole clove, some sin-e-mon stick and a orange rind if one is still near the cutting board. Get it just right by adding a right amount of bourbon in it and that smile will last longer than the ice tea.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  11. John MacDaniel, Huntsville AL

    I prefer Jasmine Tea – hot or chilled

    May 25, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • rftallent

      We might be neighbors, John. I prefer my tea unsweetened, and rather weak, and I add lemon (not lemonade). Lately I've been using Jasmine Green tea for homemade Kombucha and it's wonderful. I buy it at the Asian market on So. Pkwy.

      May 25, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
  12. jamie

    I'm from the south. I am NOT an overweight diabetic. I do enjoy sweet tea. Don't be such a bigot. . . I bet you are an ugly bugger.

    May 25, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  13. Lauren

    I heart tea! Unsweet, and if it is iced with lemon. Hot – with a "cloud" of milk.

    May 25, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  14. Ed

    Lipton sweetened with honey and lemon.

    May 25, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Lauren

      Lipton is pretty much blasphemy to most tea lovers.

      May 25, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
      • Lauren

        I agree with the other Lauren. Lipton – YUCK! Especially that Lipton diet green tea... so bad.

        May 25, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
        • Lauren

          Yep! The only exception is their Russian Earl Grey, which I have never been able to find in the U.S.

          May 25, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
      • bass tard

        yeppers Lipton is a sour puss. It got a bite, it be bitter.

        May 31, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
        • bass tard

          a sour puss with teeth.

          May 31, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  15. jkrizan

    Sweet tea with lemon! The quintessential summertime beverage.

    May 25, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  16. Katie B from NC

    Add just a pinch of baking soda while brewing and you'll get a darker, richer tea without the bitterness you can get from over steeping.

    May 25, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  17. Dean

    In the real south, there is no un-sweet iced tea.

    May 25, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • uglybugger

      In the "real south" there are a lot of overweight diabetics, too.

      May 25, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
      • bass tard

        say that to one's face and you get set upon by the shweaty crack. Respect the shweaty crack.

        May 31, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      There is, but they have to brew it up specially! I usually don't bother them & have been known to just water down sweet tea. I'm a wuss.

      May 25, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • rftallent

      Come on Dean, you know that when we order tea they ask us if we want sweet or unsweet (usually for the people who use artificial sweetener). But, I agree that, traditionally, people think of our Southern tea as sweet. Ocassionally, it's so sweet it makes your teeth hurt, lol.

      May 25, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  18. tea mom

    More tea nonsense.
    #1: H2O does not have "important elements and nutrients", let alone ones that will be removed by heat. (Cold) water contains oxygen, the flavour carrier of tea, which is why any brewed tea should start with cold water.
    #2:one tea bag is NOT "proportional to 16 oz. of water", unless one is drinking weak tea. Keep in mind that most people drink cold tea with ice, which dilutes – if anything, one should brew stronger tea.
    #5: "Dust" and "fannings" are industry terms for tea grades, not quality grades. Most commercial filling machines can process dust into teabags. To tell people to look for "broken" tea leaves for iced tea is to send people on a wild goose chase.
    #4: Sun tea does not invite any more bacteria than tea brewed in a teapot. Both are closed enviornments.
    Rule of thumb: any tea that can be brewed hot can be enjoyed cold. The Asians have been doing this for thousands of years, just without ice.

    May 24, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • Lauren

      To your first point...I think I've heard this before. So you would brew the tea with cold water, and then heat it after the fact if you wanted it hot?

      May 25, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Martini

      You tell em', Tea Mom! Thanks.
      I quit using boiled ( or hot ) water for my iced tea years ago. Too many issues with it being bitter or weak or too strong.

      I use Lipton bags in COLD water then put it in the fridge. I make it strong, then add sugar and lemon. Same way for 30 years. Dee-lish.

      May 25, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Enjoying Life

      More clueless MOM nonsense!

      1. Only extensively filtered water or distilled water is actually "pure" H2O! The cold water from your tap is INDEED FULL of MANY natural minerals (which vary according to your water source) and other intentional additives such alum, chlorine and flouride! Boiling the water DOES INDEED remove the obvious taste of most of these ingredients!
      2. Individual serving size teabags should be used with about 6 to 8 ounces of water, but the commonly used QUART size tea bags should INDEED be used with about 16 to 32 ounces of water depending upon how much ice you to intend to add!
      5. Tea "fannings" are the leftover powdery bits of tea that break off from loose "broken" tea and ARE INDEED considered to be LOWER quality than loose "broken" tea!
      4. Sun tea brewing is accomplished by leaving a clear container of water and tea in the sun for several hours. If you are using plain tapwater like you have already implied, you are VERY LIKELY to increase the bacteria content of your water due to the warm, but not boiling temperature of the sun-warmed container. The resulting temperature range is ABSOLUTELY IDEAL for growing bacteria!

      You might want to actually do some research before presuming that you know more than the author!

      May 30, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  19. O'Bummer

    McCain's tea bags are filled with dust.

    May 24, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • bob


      May 25, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  20. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    Here to steep you in a little tea know-how...

    I see what you did there.

    May 24, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • bass tard

      that was tepid at best.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
| Part of

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,974 other followers