Best Teas for Iced Tea: Black, Green, or Herbal

by cazort

Best black teas, green teas, and herbals for preparing homemade iced tea. Buying tips. Simple recipes and brewing instructions.

Iced tea is easy to make yourself, and when you brew your own iced tea, the results are usually much better than bottled, ready-to-drink teas that you buy in stores.

Below you'll find advice about which teas make the best iced tea, including my recommendations of the specific teas to use for making iced black or green tea, as well as recipes and instructions of how to make a batch.

Best Black Teas for Iced Tea

I recommend a strong, loose-leaf black tea like an Assam or Ceylon.

Loose-leaf teas are the best way to make iced tea.  Loose-leaf is cheaper and higher quality because you're paying for the quality of the leaf rather than the packaging.  Although tea bags can make for convenient brewing if you don't own a tea infuser, I recommend buying one (my favorite is featured below).

I recommend choosing a strong black tea for making iced tea.  Assam and Ceylon teas, and teas marketed as "breakfast teas" like English Breakfast or Irish Breakfast all tend to make good iced tea, in my experience.  There are many good brands of black tea, but Ahmad Tea is my #1 recommended brand for iced black tea.  I recommend their Ceylon, Ceylon OPA, Kalami Assam, or Barooti Assam.  You can find reviews of Ahmad Tea by myself and others on RateTea.

A cafe near me, which has since closed, had a fantastic recipe for iced tea that was a blend of loose-leaf Ahmad Tea and Caykur brand Turkish tea.  Turkish tea is lighter and will result in a lighter flavor than Assam or Ceylon if brewing a similar amount.  As much as I love Chinese black teas, I find they have a warming quality that does not lend itself to iced tea as well as teas from India.  I prefer Chinese black teas (hong cha) in the winter.

I recommend this reusable tea filter. It is useful for preparing iced tea as well as single servings of hot tea in a mug. Durable and easy to use. Comes in 4 colors.
Finum Brewing Basket, Medium

Finum Brewing Basket Given the delicate tissue structure that makes up the filter, the product may be used for fine teas and coffee alike. The combination of high quality plasti...

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Ahmad Tea's Ceylon is my black tea of choice for brewing iced tea. Available online but also typically easy to find in Middle-eastern stores.
Ahmad Tea of London : Ceylon Tea (loose tea) 500g / 17.6oz

Quality Broken Orange Pekoe Tea chosen from the best teas of Ceylon to give you excellent color, taste and aroma.

View on Amazon

Do you ever brew loose-leaf tea?

Have you brewed loose-leaf tea, or have you only ever used tea bags?

Best Green Teas for Iced Tea

I recommend brisk, crisp, stronger-tasting green teas, like chun mee or sencha.

The higher-grade green teas have a subtlety that I think is usually lost when making iced tea.

I don't have a favorite brand when it comes to iced green teas, but I do have favorite styles or types of tea.  I recommend chun mee or precious eyebrows; it is an inexpensive and widely-available type of Chinese green tea which has a brisk, tangy flavor that is perfect iced.  It is a type of young hyson tea, and young hyson in general makes good iced tea.  Gunpowder green tea is another type of Chinese green tea that tastes good iced, and it especially blends well with spearmint.  It has a smoky flavor that some people don't like.

Japanese green teas also taste good iced.  Sencha, which is widely available, often makes good iced tea, and hojicha (roasted green tea) is a great option if you want green tea but still want something dark and rich, with a mild roasted quality suggestive of coffee.  Hojicha also tends to be very low in caffeine.  Bancha (coarse tea) and kukicha (twig tea) are also good choices, also tending to be lower than average in caffeine.

A few of my favorite brands worth mentioning are Foojoy and TeaVivre for Chinese teas.  Wegmans supermarket also has outstanding Japanese green teas.

Iced Herbal Teas (Naturally Caffeine Free)

Spearmint, peppermint, lemon balm, monarda, and other recommendations

Some people want to avoid caffeine but still want to drink iced tea.  Although there are decaf teas out there, I personally don't think they taste very good.

Herbs that I think taste good iced include spearmint, peppermint, lemon balm, the Monarda species (Bee Balm, Wild Bergamot, and Oswego tea) which taste a lot like Earl Grey, and lemon verbena.

A trick to make it taste like black tea: a caffeine-free herbal blend that tastes a lot like black tea is to use red rooibos and raspberry leaf.  Add Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) if you want it to taste like Earl Grey.

If you want to make it taste like green tea, try green rooibos, which is rooibos that has been processed in a manner similar to Japanese green teas.

One of my favorite companies to buy bulk herbs from is Mountain Rose Herbs.  The best option for herbs though, if you are able to garden, is to grow them yourself.  Mint, lemon balm, and Monarda in particular grow very vigorously in most temperate climates.  Raspberry leaf is also easy to grow yourself.

Do you prefer black, green, or herbal iced teas?

Brewing Iced Tea: A Basic Recipe

My quick, energy-saving method for brewing high-quality iced tea

There are different ways of preparing iced tea, but this is my favorite and recommended approach.

Ingredients and Equipment:

  • 1 teabag or 1 teaspoon of loose-leaf tea per cup you plan on making.
  • One cup of water or less (just enough to cover the tea completely).
  • A mug or small pot to brew the tea in and a pitcher or larger container to store the cold tea in.
  • A way of heating water.
  • A refrigerator, or ice.

You can vary this recipe to taste.  The amount of tea is a total amount--you can blend different types of tea and/or herbs to suit your needs.  Use more leaf and/ol a longer steeping time to make the tea stronger.  If the quality of flavor is poor, try increasing the amount of leaf used and using a shorter steeping time.

Instructions:

  • Heat the water to boiling (for black tea) or about 180F (for green tea).
  • Pour the water over the tea and let steep.  I recommend 3-5 minutes, longer results in a stronger taste.
  • Remove the tea bags or tea.  Cover the hot tea (to hold in the aroma) if possible, and let it cool. (Trick: for cooling it quickly, I pour the hot tea in a heat-proof canning jar and submerge it in a bowl or pot of cold water from the tap).  Do not do this for normal glasses; quick temperature changes can cause standard glass to shatter.)
  • Dilute the tea to the amount of tea you wanted to make, and chill by putting in the fridge or pouring over ice.  If possible, store the tea in a sealed container; a pitcher of tea open to the air will lose its aromatic quality and may also be affected by the other smells in the refrigerator.

I recommend this technique, and not others, because I think that steeping the tea with the proper hot temperature is important for optimal flavor, and because only brewing a small amount saves time and energy for heating and cooling.

If you want to cold-brew, it can save even more energy, but you will generally need to experiment with teas, as not all of them work well with this method.  Cold brewing generally requires a much longer steeping time, and I find it works best with higher-quality teas.

Adding Other Ingredients to Taste

Some things people like to add include:

  • Mint.  I find spearmint works best for iced tea, as it has a natural cooling quality.
  • Sweetener.  Although I like my iced tea unsweetened, you can sweeten it with sugar, honey, or any other sweetener.  It's easiest to add the sweetener when the tea is hot, because sugar dissolves faster in hot water than cold water.
  • Lemon.  Lemon is especially good at cutting out the astringent qualities in strong black teas.  If you have a black tea that tastes too bitter or astringent, try adding lemon.

If you want to go fancy, I recommend experimenting with different types of mint and related herbs from the mint family.  My favorites besides spearmint are Monarda and lemon balm.

Cloudy? It's okay.

Iced tea often turns cloudy. This is okay; what matters is taste.
Updated: 06/03/2013, cazort
 
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cazort on 08/13/2013

I have definitely carried a bottle of iced tea or iced herbal tea with me as a refreshing drink...I find unsweetened tea is about as refreshing as pure water, and sometimes slightly more so.

2uesday on 08/13/2013

I drink my organic tea with skimmed milk, no sugar but occasionally I get tempted by the idea of sweetening it.

Sometimes I have fruit teas, but mint is my favourite alternative version of tea. I am not sure why I have never thought of making iced mint tea, but if the sun returns and it might I will try an iced mint tea as the idea sounds good. This might also be useful in another way. As I do not like the sugary drinks that are popular and on sale now and often have to resort to carrying a small bottle of water with me. On a hot day I could take a small bottle of iced tea out with me as a refreshing drink.

cazort on 06/03/2013

Thank you everyone! I was definitely motivated to write this article by the recent hot spell; we had a few days with highs in the low 90's and I made several batches of iced tea. I also like to blend my iced teas, especially blending herbs like mint and lemon balm.

MikeRobbers on 06/03/2013

Great recommendations and info about tea varieties. I also found the instructions quite useful and easy to follow. As the summer is almost here this is a timely article.

katiem2 on 06/03/2013

I chose green tea as my favorite iced tea although I like black as well I drink green more. I like to blend my iced teas, I commonly mix loose leaf teas such as green, oolong and perhaps a smidgen of black or yerba mate for a stellar iced tea. BTW, I never add sweeteners but mint is nice, I grow my own and love lemon. I sometimes juice a lemon adding it to my iced tea. I look forward to iced tea every year.

A great guide to great iced tea.

Sylvia1 on 06/01/2013

This seems like a good way to make a lot of iced tea without using much energy.

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