In the spirit of National Iced Tea Month, David DeCandia, the tea director for The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, shares his five secrets to brewing the best glass of iced tea. Whether you want a to sip on ice cold sweetened tea or experiment, these tips will help you achieve maximum flavor and satisfaction with each glass.
Use Filtered Water –The type and temperature of water will greatly affect the flavor tea, always use filtered water—never distilled—when brewing iced tea, as well as filtered water when making ice. Temperature also makes a discernible difference, it’s ideal to use water that is just under boiling, around 190-195 degrees. Heat the water on the stove, not the microwave, to ensure the temperature is consistent and even throughout.
Consistent Ratios – A good standard to follow is one level teaspoon of loose leaf tea to every eight ounces of cold filtered water. If 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, use ice cubes made from the tea or with juice for a subtle tea infusion to 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.
Forget About the Price Tag – Just because a tea is more expensive, 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.
Stay Out of the Sun– Although sun brewed iced tea may sound like a fun 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. Sun brewing can also attract a lot of unnecessary bacteria in your beverage.
If it Ain’t “Broken”– 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. Use teas that have enough body and heft to it to stand up to cool water. Because heat intensifies flavor, a tea that might come across as too strong on the palate when brewed hot might be the perfect choice for a refreshing pitcher of iced tea.