Iced tea is often considered something only for the summer months, or hot countries. In Britain we are certainly more accustomed to warming our hands around a lovely hot mug of tea, than sipping a cool glass of iced tea. The reverse is true in the USA where iced tea has long been more popular than hot tea, even in the colder regions and even in the winter. But it is often made with industrial teabags rather than the best loose leaf tea, and with rather a lot of sugar.
A real alternative
However, things are changing across the world as we reach for drinks to accompany our food, or to revive us in the evening, that don’t contain lots of sweeteners, colourings, flavourings or, alcohol. It used to be that if we are looking for something without calories or alcohol we are left with only water.
The only alternative was sparkling or still. It wasn't much fun when everyone else was enjoying and exquisite wine or a beautifully made cocktail.
Now we collaborate with many restaurants to create tea pairing menus. Iced tea is being welcomed into restaurants from Norway and Denmark to Edinburgh and Nova Scotia.
But its not any old iced tea. To change minds and win hearts it has to be the best iced tea.
The first thing to establish is that all tea is calorie free. And iced tea does not have to have any sugar in it to be delicious.
If you use the best loose leaf tea rather than an industrial teabag you wont get a mouth-puckering gulp of bitterness that needs sugar to make it palatable.
You’ll have something utterly delicious just the way it is.
The second strange notion we want to dispel is that its only English Breakfast tea that can be made into iced tea.
Our beautiful single estate black teas also make beautiful and very elegant, iced teas. Iced Earl Grey is one of our favourites and loose leaf green teas also make sublime iced tea. Iced white tea is delicious (and you don’t need to add any weird flavourings like the pre-bottled stuff). There is nothing to stop you but the breadth and depth of your tea cupboard.
We have a page here on how to make cold infused tea, but this does take some forethought. It takes at least 8 hours.
So we’ve come up with an à la minute guide to making iced tea. This method is for hot tea shaken over ice. You do need to adapt your tea recipe to compensate for the dilution of the ice - but it’s very quick and very easy.
You may wonder why we don't suggest making your loose leaf tea in the normal way and then letting it cool? That seems to it be the traditional way to make iced tea.
The problem is oxidisation. Once you have put hot water on a tea leaf it ruptures the cell structure and the tea starts to oxidise. The flavour dulls and starts to deteriorate. After 20 minutes it loses much of the deliciousness it held when it was fresh. That's why chilled tea is usually masked with lots of sugar. Sugar in ice tea wont stop the oxidisation of the leaf but it will disguise the not-so lovely flavour.
Oxidisation doesn't happen if you infuse tea in cold water. The cell structure stays intact when you cold brew your tea. But if you want your iced tea quickly - the best way is to be really super quick. Don't give the infused tea a chance to oxidise - chill it quickly and drink it right away.
For oolongs use 6g to 150ml of hot water at 90°C (194°F) for around 90 seconds.
For herbal infusions double the recommended grams for making a hot infusion – to 150ml of hot water at 100°C (212°F) for around 90 seconds.