How to Make Delicious Iced Tea at Home

Frosty glass of iced tea with lemon slices on white table with lemons in background

Ahh, summertime. Hot days, warm evenings, vacations, the beach and of course, iced tea. Iced tea first appeared in the US in the 1860s and was something of an overnight success. By the 1870s it was on everyone’s list of favorite beverages appearing on restaurant menus and being served at public functions nationwide. Everyone it seemed also had their own take on how to make it just right. Fast forward 150 years and there are still plenty of people who believe they know the best way to make perfect iced tea. That would include the Sparkling CBD Drinks team.

The CBD Beverage Blog's Tips for Making Perfect Iced Tea

Whether you pour it from a pitcher into a frosty glass, use Sparkling CBD Lemon Iced Tea to make scrumptious cocktails, or add fruit syrups to create an out-of-this-world taste treat iced tea is the archetypal summer drink (sorry beer but it's true).

Maybe the best thing about iced tea is that it’s easy to mix up your own at home. And that’s what we’re going to look at today. How to make iced tea at home that will impress family and friends alike. We’ll cover the best type of tea, whether certain tea bags are better than others and the right way to brew your tea. Let’s get started.

The Best Tea to Use

If you really want that signature iced tea taste you need to use black tea. This might confuse some folks who may have heard that the best type of tea to use is Orange Pekoe (the same kind used to make Lipton Tea). There’s actually no conflict here because Orange Pekoe is just one subclassification of black tea. Just keep in mind that you don’t have to revert to Lipton or another huge brand (not that there’s anything wrong with them). You can use Ceylon, Nilgiri, Darjeeling or any other type of black tea to make your brew.

If you want to wander off the beaten path of classic iced tea taste you can try using Earl Grey, which is a black tea but has a bolder flavor than most others. Or you can green tea or herbal tea, which have a lighter, airier flavor some prefer. Oolong tea is another viable alternative that is also light and has an innate sweetness to it. Those of us at Colorado's Best Drinks, however, are traditionalists and we’ll take black tea every time.

The Best Type of Bags to Use

There is nothing wrong with using the standard bags that the various teas listed above come in. However, these days you have an option in that some producers have begun to market tea bags whose contents are specially formulated for iced tea. An example of this is Lipton’s "Southern Sweet Tea" which includes their standard pekoe tea but with pectin and a sweetener mixed in. Twinings also produces their own iced tea brand, although it’s a "cold brew" product and for our purposes, it can’t compete with more standard teas. But you may feel otherwise.

Best Way to Brew Iced Tea

There is more than one way to brew tea for the purposes of iced tea, but they all have one thing in common. In each case, it’s better to make sure you brew the tea a little stronger than you would for normal hot tea. That’s because ice will dilute the taste. So brewing it stronger enables the tea to retain its flavor longer.

That said, everyone here at CBD Sparkling Soda agrees the best way to brew iced tea is the hot brew method. Other methods like the cold brew and sun tea methods have their supporters, but in our experience, they don't produce that traditional iced tea flavor.

The Hot Brew Method

The hot brewing method is the traditional method for making ice tea. You have a great deal of control over the brew strength, it only takes a few minutes to reach your preferred strength and you should be able to sample your finished product within an hour or two of brewing. Here’s how to do it.

  1. To make a quart of iced tea, heat two cups of water to between 200 and 210 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Add four tea bags (your choice of brand, but it should be black tea).
  3. Steep for three to four minutes, or to your desired strength.
  4. Remove the bags.
  5. At this point, we add sweetener. Many recipes these days completely eschew adding any type of sweetener, but for our money drinking unsweetened ice tea is like drinking flat beer.
  6. Mix the steeped tea/sweetener mix thoroughly and let cool for five to six minutes.
  7. Add two cups of cold water, squeeze ½ fresh lemon into the mix and stir.
  8. Place in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
  9. Serve over ice.

As producers of Sparkling CBD soda, we are well aware of the dangers of sugary drinks and that recommending adding sweeteners to a beverage won't sit well with everyone. But we're not advocating you add cups full of sugar or other sweeteners. Just enough to balance the natural bitterness of the tea and produce a more flavorful, more traditional iced tea.

One last thing: don’t forget that iced tea is almost entirely water. Therefore the quality of the water you use will have an impact on the final product. We would strongly recommend using bottled or filtered water.