Everyone has a way of making iced tea at home. With so much information available with different tricks and tips, it is easy to get lost and overwhelmed. Let us simplify the process for you since making tea is as simple as combining tea, water, and time. We will look at each of these elements to help you determine which brewing methods are best for each occasion.
Difference between cold brew and hot brew
Iced tea can be made by brewing your tea with hot water (then cooldown) or by brewing with cold water for an extended period.
To better navigate and understand the difference, we will review the following for each iced tea-making method:
- Step-by-step how-to make iced tea for each brewing method
- The types of teas most appropriate for each method
- When do use which brewing method to suit your scenario
We use the loose and full leaf tea in our brewing guide, but the same could apply to bagged teas.
How it works
Cold brewing tea couldn’t be easier:
Ratio: 10 grams of loose-leaf tea to 1 Liter of filtered water
- Measure 10 grams of tea into a pitcher with a lid
- Pour in 1 liter of room temperature filtered water. Stir to make sure tea leaves are submerged in water. Cover with lid
- Refrigerated for 8 to 24 hours
- Strained the tea into a pitcher or glasses to serve (add ice, optional).
For this method, we prefer the Hario Cold Brew Tea Bottle, which has a built-in filter, allowing us to use loose leaf tea without a separate strainer, and making the process as simple as it could be. Since the carafe is beautiful and has a built-in filter, you can use it to serve directly.
This cold brew method is like making sun tea, just with longer steeping time at a cooler brewing temperature. Brewing tea without electricity seems appealing but can be hazardous to your health. Refrigerating the tea when it brews will prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and avoid the need for ice, therefore, diluting the flavor.
As a sweetener, if required, we recommend using agave or honey instead of sugar as they will dissolve more easily.
Best types of tea for cold brew
Most teas can be cold-brewed, but we recommend more flavorful ones since drinking tea iced tend to limit the aroma typically sense through our nose. Our recommended options are light and floral oolongs like the Baozhong, Graceful Hill, or Four Season Spring if you prefer something fruiter and sweeter (naturally) - the Oriental Beauty, Royal Courtesan or Jade Rouge are great choices. At our New York tearoom, we cold brew Iron Goddess for a gently smokey flavor.
For herbals, we recommend chrysanthemum for its delicate floral sweetness.
Cold-brewed iced tea can be more delicate in flavor, therefore we recommend drinking it plain.
Benefits of cold brew
Low-temperature brewing provides a gentler extraction, yielding a lighter brew with a sweeter aftertaste. Cold water-extracting also means significantly fewer tannins in the final product and therefore less bitterness, astringency, and caffeine.
The technical benefit of this brewing method is that is almost impossible to over-brew and the steps are super simple. You can batch brew for a large party ahead of time, or just have bottles of them brewed ahead of time stocked in the fridge throughout summer.
Who would enjoy a cold brew
We have been cold brewing our iced tea to serve at our store since opening in 2015. Anyone who prizes simplicity and enjoys a refreshing and crisp beverage without the addition of ice would love this method. It also works well for those who are caffeine sensitive.
Hot brew method
How it works
There are two hot brewing methods to make iced tea: one is batched brew for larger quantity and the other made to order by serving.
Large quantity batch brew:
Ratio: 12 grams of loose-leaf tea to 1 Liter of filtered water
- Measure 12 grams of tea in a pitcher (preferably glass) with a lid
- Pour in 1 liter of hot (195°F - 212°F) filtered water. Cover with lid. *brewing temperature depends on the tea
- Brew for 5 minutes
- Strained all the tea into another pitcher
- Cooldown at room temperature for 30 minutes before putting into the fridge for 2 hours. Or leave in room temperature for 2-3 hours until it comes to room temp.
- Serve over ice.
Ratio: 6 grams of loose-leaf tea & to 8 oz of filtered water + 4 oz of ice (makes a 12 oz serving)
- Use boiling water to heat the teapot or your preferred vessel
- Measure 8 grams of tea into your brewing vessel
- Pour in 8 oz of hot (195°F - 212°F) filtered water. Cover *brewing temperature depends on the tea
- Brew for 5 minutes
- While the tea brews, fill a large empty glass with 4 oz of ice (or ~9 typical ice maker cubes)
- Strained all the tea into the glass over ice
- For second serving, repeat steps 2-6 but increase brewing time to 10 min.
Plenty of ice is used in this brewing method, so make sure the quality of water used for the iced cube is as good as the water used for tea brewing. Stale ice or poor water quality made ice will dilute the flavor of good iced tea.
The hot brewing method uses lightly more tea leaves to accommodate the dilution caused by melted ice.
Types of tea & serving methods
All types of tea can be hot brewed and enjoyed over ice. Drinking teas iced reduces its aroma expression and the flavor can be more subdued. Stronger flavored teas are recommended here.
If you choose the hot brewing method, we also recommend trying Shaken Tea. Shaking tea in a cocktail shaker with ice creates a layer of foamy air bubbles that carry the aroma of the teas. Drink without a straw so you can enjoy the creamy tea foam. Cold-brewed iced tea has less desirable results compared to its hot brewed counterpart. We suggested slightly stronger brew for a more foamy and fragrant beverage.
Hot brewing extracts the full flavor spectrum of the tea, therefore, releasing all its potential. The infusion would be much more expressive than the cold brew version. Since the brewing time is short, hot brewing requires much less planning ahead. Just make sure you have well iced in stock!
Who would enjoy hot brewing
Anyone who values short rituals who is keen on brewing experimentation. Feel free to play with water temperature, amounts of tea used, or brewing time to suit your own palate.
The hot brewing also gives you full caffeine levels in addition to a more balanced flavor profile. This is the most popular method due to its versatility. If you make a stronger brew, some can stand up to sweeteners or other garnishes.
Mainly, you can enjoy a glass of iced tea very quickly using this method.
Our favorite Loose Leaf Tea for Iced Tea
These teas are the ones we keep going back to when we are looking for a refreshing beverage.