Iced tea is an essential summer beverage. The standard recipe for a pitcher of iced tea is simple, so that leaves plenty of room to get creative with spices. All you need is tea, water, spices, sugar, and the occasional fruit to create a crisp beverage to refresh you all summer long. We’ve been improving upon the standard iced tea formula in our test kitchen, and are excited to share our recipe notes with you.
What Is the Best Tea for Iced Tea?
The best tea for iced tea is whichever one you enjoy drinking the most. That being said, the most popular variety for iced tea is the standard bag of black tea. This is also known as Ceylon tea, and can be found at nearly any grocery store.
The simplest way to brew tea for a pitcher of iced tea is to steep three or four tea bags in a few cups of hot water. After about three minutes, you can cool it down with ice cubes and add more cool water. The hot tea will be extra strong, so adding ice and more water will dilute it to a desirable strength.
What Spices Go Well with Iced Tea?
Whole spices are often preferred for tea as ground spices will not dissolve in water and can leave sediment in the glass. You can still sprinkle ground spices right into your iced tea, but some people prefer using whole spices to add flavor and remove them later.
A simple way to use whole spices in iced tea is to place them in a sauce pot with room temperature water. Bring the pot to a boil, remove from heat, add the tea bags, and let everything steep for roughly three minutes. (You can also follow our simple syrup technique explained in the fruit section below).
Some popular spices to flavor tea are allspice berries, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, cloves, hibiscus blossoms, lavender flower buds, lemongrass, cocoa nibs, mace, nutmeg, saffron, spearmint, star anise, and vanilla beans.
Lighter herbs and spices like lemongrass, lavender, spearmint, saffron, and hibiscus can be introduced to the water with the tea bags. Over steeping these herbs could bring out bitter flavors.
Adding Extracts To Iced Tea
Extracts are another great way to easily infuse flavors into your iced tea. A few drops of your favorite flavors stirred into a pitcher of tea is an effortless way to elevate tea’s flavor.
A few extracts to try with iced tea are almond extract, anise extract, bergamot extract, chocolate extract, coconut extract, hazelnut extract, key lime extract, lemon extract, orange extract, orange blossom water, rose water, and vanilla extract.
Making Iced Tea with Fresh Fruit
Fresh summer fruit is a sweet addition to iced tea. To truly capture the fruit’s flavor, we like making an infused simple syrup. The recipe is easy, start with a 1:1 mixture of water and cane sugar in a small sauce pot. Dissolve the sugar in the water, then place it on the stove on low heat. From there, add slices of your favorite summer fruit, any spices you wish to include, and gently simmer the liquid until all the flavors have infused into the syrup. (Roughly 20-30 minutes.) Be careful not to let it boil or burn. Cooking the syrup too hot will result in a fruit jam and not a syrup.
Once your mixture is fully infused, strain it through a fine mesh wire sieve. You can then easily stir the syrup into cold iced tea. You can keep the syrup in your fridge for weeks and make a personal glass at your leisure or mix a full pitcher for company.
The best results for this cooking technique tend to come from firmer fruits, but you can experiment with whatever fruit you like. Stone fruits work especially well for this type of recipe, especially peaches, plums, and sweet cherries. Berries like raspberries, currants, and strawberries work well too. You can also try tropical flavors like pineapple, mango, passion fruit, or lychee.
Saffron Rosewater Iced Tea
This sugar-free tea recipe is an excellent way to incorporate spices in your iced tea. The saffron and rose water are natural flavor pairings for each other too. Rose water is naturally sugar-free and has a subtle sweetness to it.
Cardamom Plum Iced Tea
Cardamom's minty flavor adds an extra refreshing element to this summer recipes. Plus, the simple syrup can be used for craft cocktails or as a condiment for ice vanilla ice cream.