Cold Brew Iced Tea

Cold Brew Iced Tea is incredibly simple to make. A few tea bags, some water and time will make the smoothest, richest iced tea, then you can sweeten and flavor it however you desire.

a glass of iced tea on a napkin next to a pitcher

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Cold Brew Iced Tea recipe

Growing up in the South, iced tea was always a staple of summertime. My mom used to make a big batch to enjoy for picnics and parties.

I remember her boiling kettle after kettle of water to steep black tea — a process I was never allowed to help with because it was too dangerous for a kid! I used to think the tea was super bitter though, so I never loved it.

Later, I learned to love cold brew tea, which is much easier to make. No heat is required to make it, so it’s perfect for the summer months.

Plus, it has a delicate, smooth, balanced flavor and doesn’t have any bitterness.

Why you’ll love this recipe

There are a lot of benefits to cold brew tea. The tea drinkers out there are going to love this effortless and delicious tea

  • Cold brew tea is so easy to make! You need less than 5 minutes of effort, then you have ready-to-drink iced tea several hours later.
  • Cold brew has less caffeine (about 50% less!) than tea made with hot water.
  • It’s lighter, less bitter-tasting and is easier on the stomach for people with sensitivities.
  • And, you can use your favorite teas and sweeteners! The options are limitless.
two glasses of tea on coasters

What is Cold Brew Tea?

Cold brew tea is made by steeping tea in cold water for 6-12 hours. No heat is required to make it.

It has a less bitter taste than hot tea because the bitter tannins in tea don’t react to cold water the same way they do to hot water.

Cold brewing makes incredible iced tea, which you can then sweeten or skip. You can also flavor it with fruits, herbs and spices if you like.

Cold Brew Tea vs. Sun Tea

Cold brew tea and sun tea are brewed similarly, with water and tea bags steeping together over a period of hours.

Cold brew tea is brewed in the fridge. Sun tea is tea that is brewed with the heat of the sun.

However, there are risks with brewing sun tea. When water is heated below 130ºF, it can breed bacteria that can make you sick.

Cold brew tea is a much safer option. Because the water never gets warm enough to facilitate the growth of bacteria.

No matter what method you choose, make sure you use clean equipment and storage vessels.

According to Plum Deluxe, if you do notice ropy strands in your tea, or if it starts getting thick or smells sour, these are signs of bacteria formation. Don’t drink that tea!

a hand holding 10 tea bags

Ingredients

You only need two ingredients to make iced cold brew tea! Well, maybe three if you’d like a sweet tea.

Tea

While there are cold brew tea bags designed especially for the cold brew method, you don’t really need them. You can cold brew any kind of tea! This method works especially well with black tea, which is the most common kind of tea for iced tea.

The tea type you choose is part of the fun of cold brew tea! Green tea, white tea, rooibos tea and herbal tea all work just as well. You can even infuse fruit, herbs and whole spices to bring in more flavors.

You can use all the same type of tea or you can mix and match.

Feel free to use loose tea or tea bags for your cold brewed tea. See the section below called “What to make cold brew tea in” for tips on using tea leaves.

Water

Fresh, filtered water is perfect for making cold brew tea. You can also use distilled water from the store or boil water to get rid of impurities.

It may seem silly to take these extra steps, but this is actually the best way to ensure there are no bacteria in your tea, which is more likely to build from tap water.

Use cold or room temperature water to make this tea.

Sweetener

Where I live in the South, sweet tea is the only kind of tea! It can be super sweet though. Some people ask for half-and-half tea, which is made with half sweet tea and half unsweetened tea.

The beauty of making iced tea at home is that you can get the sweetness level just right!

I prefer to make a plain simple syrup to mix into my tea. All you need are equal parts sugar and water. You can also use a flavored simple syrup — see the section called variations below.

You can also use a sugar substitute like Stevia to sweeten your iced tea without the sugar.

an empty mason jar with a tea strainer for cold brewing tea and coffee

What to make cold brew tea in

I recommend a glass, food-safe container such as a mason jar, pitcher or a large bowl that has a lid.

For loose-leaf tea, use a large tea ball strainer or disposable tea filter bags to contain the leaves. If you don’t have either, you can put them in a stainless-steel strainer that you rest in the water. You can simply add the leaves loose in the water and strain them out later.

Whether you use tea bags or tea leaves, you can use a pitcher or jar that is designed for cold-brewing. I use this cold-brew jar that has a strainer and I use it for both coffee and tea.

You can also use a French press, which is great if you are using loose-leaf tea because you can just push it down. Though these vessels are designed for cold brew coffee, you can use them for tea just as well.

a mason jar filled with water and tea bags that are lightly infusing
After 5 minutes
a mason jar with finished cold brew iced tea
After 12 hours

How to cold brew tea

Cold brewing tea is very easy to do!

  1. First you will need to add your loose-leaf tea or tea bags to a large pitcher or another container.
  2. Then top it with cold water. Cover it to avoid any other flavors seeping in! Then place it in the fridge to let the tea steep.
  3. After the allotted time, remove the jar from the fridge and discard the tea bags.
  4. If you put loose-leaf tea in loose, use a fine mesh strainer to remove the leaves.
  5. Then you can sweeten the tea if you desire! Keep it stored in the fridge.

Cold brew tea will stay fresh in the fridge for 4 days.

How to serve cold brew tea

Add your cold-brew tea to a pitcher or drink dispenser for a party. Be sure to serve it with lemon wedges and fresh mint for guests.

Serve this refreshing drink over regular ice. Tea ice cubes made with the same kind of tea will help to prevent too much dilution.

You can also simply add it to a water bottle to enjoy on the go!

a measuring cup of tea with a tea ball strainer

How long to cold brew tea

How long to cold brew tea depends on the type of tea you use. Follow this guide:

  • White teas: 6-8 hours
  • Green teas: 6-8 hours
  • Black teas: 8-12 hours
  • Herbal teas: 8-12 hours
  • Oolong teas: 8-12 hours

Tea steeped for the longer end of that range will have a stronger flavor, whereas a shorter infusion time will mean a weaker tea. It depends on your preference.

However, do not steep tea for more than 24 hours.

earl grey tea leaves in a bowl

How much tea for cold brew tea

According to Michelin Guide, the best proportion is generally 100ml water to 1g of tea leaves.

That’s equivalent to 1 tea bag or 1 teaspoon of loose-leaf tea for every 6 to 8 ounces of water, depending on the desired strength.

For a stronger tea, use 1 tea bag for every 6 ounces of tea instead of 1 for every cup.

simple syrup in a mason jar on a blue and white kitchen towel

How to sweeten iced tea

You can sweeten iced tea by stirring in your favorite sweetener. Sugar can take a while to dissolve, so a simple syrup works best.

Regular simple syrup is best for a traditional sweet tea but a flavored simple syrup will add more depth of flavor.

If you wish to add honey, it’s easiest to make a honey simple syrup for easier stirring.

I recommend adding sweeteners a little at a time and tasting after each addition until you reach your desired sweetness level.

a spoon in a glass of iced tea

Variations and substitutions

  • Decaf iced tea: Use decaf tea bags.
  • Fruit cold brew tea: Add fresh fruit to the water and tea bags to infuse while it steeps. (Similar to infused water.)
  • Peach iced tea: Add 2-3 sliced peaches to the brew before infusing, or mix in peach simple syrup.
  • Blackberry iced tea: Add fresh berries to the brew before infusing, or make a blackberry simple syrup.
  • Earl grey iced tea: Use Earl Grey tea bags.
  • Lavender iced tea: Stir in lavender simple syrup or use lavender tea.
  • Boozy iced tea: Add something boozy to spike it, such as rum or vodka!
two glasses of iced tea

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