There are three basic summer modes when it comes to refreshments: iced coffee in the morning, iced tea in the afternoon, and a summer cocktail for happy hour.
Homemade iced tea just hits differently, something about that first sip instantly puts you into relaxation mode, as you unwind knowing that it’s time to sit back and soak in the sunshine. This is why it’s important that you have the best glass of iced tea you can get your hands on, each and every time.
We take summertime sippin’ seriously around here. If you haven’t tried cold brew iced tea before, let’s explore why this could arguably be one of the better methods for making iced tea. It’s super easy to do, you’ll just need to make it a day in advance.
Looking for a fast option? Check out my guide to making quick iced tea.
Why Cold Brew Tea?
Making cold brew iced tea is exactly what you think when you think cold brew coffee, with the same reasoning behind the method, too. It is a slow extraction process because no hot water is used; cold water and time extract the flavors from the tea leaves.
When tea is prepared using hot water, for either regular tea or iced tea, much more is extracted from the tea leaves, including tannins. Tannins are compounds that are bitter and astringent, found in wine, tea, and more, and give you that dry mouthfeel.
When tea is made using the cold brew method, the lack of hot water to release the tannins results in an incredibly smooth, sweeter tasting glass of iced tea. No bitterness here!
What You’ll Need
- Tea: many will tell you that loose-leaf tea is the way to go, there are many benefits to using tea bags. It’s easy to find in the grocery store and they make clean-up extra easy. Sachets are great options because they allow the tea to expand for the best flavor.
- Any kind of tea can be cold brewed – try oolong, green tea, or herbal tea. I enjoy black tea for the typical iced tea flavor.
- Filtered Water: this will give you the best-tasting iced tea.
- Large Pitcher or Jar: you’ll need a vessel large enough to hold the tea as it brews.
How to Make Cold Brew Iced Tea
If you’ve made cold brew coffee before, then you’re already well versed in how making cold brew iced tea is going to go. Dare I say it’s even easier because we don’t have to worry about grinding beans or filtering (if you’re using tea bags, anyway).
Place the tea bags in a large pitcher. Then, top with cold, filtered water.
Place the lid on the pitcher and stick it in the fridge. Keep it there to brew for the next 12 hours or so. Then, remove the tea bags, and either serve the tea immediately or place it back in the fridge to enjoy over the course of several days.
Because the ice is already chilled and not concentrated, you don’t have to serve it over ice. However, I really can’t have iced tea without ice, so I like to serve it in a glass filled with ice and lemon wedges.
If you don’t have a large pitcher (or if you’d just rather) you can make an iced tea concentrate which is essentially super concentrated tea that later gets diluted with water.
It’s perfect for making Starbucks-like shaken iced tea drinks, cocktails, or simply a glass of iced tea that’s exactly to your liking!
To make iced tea concentrate, double the amount of the tea-to-water ratio. You can again make tea using this method either with loose-leaf tea and a strainer or with tea bags. Let it rest in the fridge overnight, then remove the tea.
To use iced tea concentrate: add equal parts of concentrate and water to a glass filled with ice. Easily adjust to make it more or less strong, depending on your preference.
Make Sweet Iced Tea
If you’re looking to make it into sweet iced tea, I recommend adding simple syrup to the tea once it’s brewed. You can do this to taste, depending on the level of sweetness you prefer.
I like to use syrup over granulated sugar because it incorporates smoothly (especially because we don’t have any heat). No grainy tea with sugar on the bottom here!
Flavored Iced Tea
Once you have iced tea made, there are so many variations of tea-based drinks to make! You can easily turn it into flavored iced tea using a fruit or herb simple syrup or combining it with other flavors. Take a look at some of these ideas:
- Strawberry or raspberry syrup to make a fruity iced tea. Give blackberry a try, too!
- Ginger syrup is delicious and pairs well with lemon (try this with green tea, too!).
- Mint syrup for sweetness or fresh mint leaves is delicious.
- Rosemary syrup or lavender honey syrup would add a unique herby twist.
- Mix half with lemonade for an Arnold Palmer.
- Or turn that A.P. into a cocktail using this strawberry lemonade vodka recipe as a base.
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating and review in the form below. I appreciate your feedback, and it helps others, too!
Get the Recipe Cold Brew Iced Tea (with tea bags)
- 4 large tea bags*, or 12 regular tea bags
- 8 cups filtered water
- Ice, for serving
- Lemon slices, for garnish
- 2-Quart Pitcher with lid
- 16-Ounce Wide Mouth Mason Jar for concentrate
- Add tea bags to a large 2-quart pitcher and add cold filtered water. If using tea bags with tags, snip them off before adding them. Put the lid on the pitcher and place it in the fridge for 8-12 hours.
- Remove the tea bags and serve with or without ice, depending on your preferences. Garnish with lemon slices as desired.
- Store remaining tea in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
- *Large Tea Bags: marketed specifically for iced tea, however, you can use regular black tea bags (or another variety). The large tea bags I use have 6 grams of tea per bag.
- If using tea bags with tags, snip them off before placing in the pitcher.
- *Adjust: add an extra tea bag for stronger tea, and reduce by 1 bag for weaker tea.
- Make sweet tea by adding simple syrup or a sweetener of choice.