Cold brewing: This one’s simple—combine tea with cold water and refrigerate the mixture for 6–12 hours. Unlike hot brewing, this cold method won’t over-extract those bitter and astringent compounds, which means you can keep the leaves in the jar for an extended period of time. Cold-brew iced tea requires virtually no prep time, but takes a long time to steep: Great for the forward thinkers, but not so much for last-minute brewing. And it doesn’t extract as much flavor from the tea as other methods.
Ambient brewing: This in-between method requires neither boiling nor refrigeration. Left out on the counter, the tea steeps in cool room-temperature water for around an hour. Once steeped, it’s served straightaway, never hitting the fridge at all. This method is similar to the one used to make “sun tea,” or tea that brews solely in the heat of the sun. Ambient brewing extracts more flavor from leaves than a pure cold-brew method, but can’t be made too far ahead of time, so it requires precise timing to get right.
How to make a perfect pitcher of iced tea:
So what’s the best way to make iced tea? Well, that depends on 1) what type of tea you’re brewing, and 2) how soon you want to drink it. The below methods, all hybrids of popular brewing techniques, are thoughtfully designed to yield your best pitcher.
How to make iced white or green tea:
Brew method: Ambient + cold brew
Total time: 1½ hours
Combining the flavor-forward approach of ambient brewing with the make-ahead convenience of cold brewing, this method (which comes by way of Postcard Teas in London) involves steeping the tea for an hour at room temperature, then transferring it to the fridge for anytime enjoyment. Cooler temperatures emphasize the sweet and subtle umami flavors of tea, making this method ideal for lighter teas, like green and white varieties.
For maximum convenience, brew the tea in a French press or an old cocktail shaker with a filter on the pour spout—that way, the strainer is built right into the storage vessel. For a family-sized batch, simply double these amounts.
- 1 heaping Tbsp. loose-leaf tea (8 to 10 grams) or 3–5 teabags
- 1 liter cold or room temperature water
- Lemon slices, fresh mint, or any other garnish that suits your fancy
- In the vessel of your choice, add 1 heaping Tbsp of loose-leaf tea to one liter of cold or room-temperature water. Let the tea steep for 1 hour on the counter, then transfer to the fridge to chill for an additional 30 minutes, or until ready to drink.
- Strain the tea over a glass of ice. Garnish with lemon slices, fresh mint, or any herbal-citrus combo, and enjoy.
How to make iced black, oolong, or herbal tea:
Brew Method: Hot brew + ice