How to Make the Best Iced Tea (Cold Brew It!)

The secret to the perfect iced tea is to cold brew it. Step-by-step directions on how to cold brew tea at home. PLUS, how to make fresh fruit iced tea!

How to Cold Brew Tea photo

To make iced tea, I used to steep tea in hot water then pour ice and cold water into a pitcher. Sometimes the tea would be bitter and I would need to add sugar.

Little did I realize that the tea was bitter because I was steeping it for too long in boiling hot water to make it a concentrate. I just figured that’s how some iced tea tasted. Oh boy, was I wrong.

Let me tell you about cold brewed tea. It’s how you should ALWAYS make iced tea. It’s so good that it’s a game changer.

I like to make about 2-3 day’s worth at a time (two tall weck jars). Every couple of days, I’ll start a new batch so that it’s ready once I’ve finished the previous batch.

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cold brew tea

If you want to kick it up a notch, add fresh fruit! It’s pretty and deliciously refreshing.

I’ll share with you my formula and recipes for the best fruit cold brew tea, but first, let me show you how to make cold brew tea.

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How to Cold Brew Iced Tea Ingredients photo

What I Used to Make Cold Brew Tea

How to Make Iced Tea image

Why Cold Brew Tea?

The slow and gentle steeping creates a sweeter and smoother tea so you don’t have to worry about it being harsh or bitter.

There’s less caffeine in a cold brew so you can drink more of it without getting super jittery.

Making cold brew tea is also the fool-proof way of making iced tea. You can cold steep it for 8 hours or 20, it’ll still be delicious.

RELATED: Muddled Mint Lemonade Iced Tea

The Cold Brew Formula

The ratio for cold brew is one rounded teaspoon of loose tea to one cup of water. It doesn’t need to be precise and you can adjust if you like stronger or weaker tea.

If you’re using tea bags, you can use 1-2 tea bags per cup of water.

Why is Loose Tea Better Than Tea Bags?

If you’ve only used tea bags for iced tea, you’re missing out! The loose leaf cold brewed teas are so much better.

Loose tea in general is a much better quality tea than what you’ll find in tea bags.

Loose tea is a whole tea leaf. You can see the actual tea leaf after it has been steeped and unfurled. You get the most essential oils and aroma from a loose tea therefore it’s a better and more complex tasting tea.

Due to it’s high quality, loose tea can be steeped multiple times. It also costs a lot more than tea bags.

Tea bags on the other hand are bits and pieces of broken tea leaves, filled with ‘tea dust.’ Tea bags are a lot less flavorful and are usually a lot bitter than loose tea.

Low quality teas are what’s used for tea bags so it’s a lot less expensive.

Because loose tea is a better and more flavorful tea, I prefer it in cold brews than tea bags.

RELATED: Iced Tea with Lemon Verbena Honey Simple Syrup

Cold Brew Tea Tips

  • Make and store your tea in glass containers.
  • I like to use these tall Weck jars so that I can strain out tea from one jar to another.
  • Adding ice when serving the cold brew is optional. When it’s super hot out, I’ll add some ice to keep it colder longer but usually I don’t add ice at all to the cold brew.
  • If adding a sweetener, use simple syrup since sugar and honey can be hard to incorporate completely.

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Cold Brew Tea image

Cold Brew Tea in Three Steps

Step 1: Tea goes into a container with water
Step 2: Container goes into the refrigerator for eight hours or overnight
Step 3: Strain tea leaves and you’re left with gorgeous cold brewed tea.

I tend to like my cold brew as is, but feel free to add simple syrup to sweeten. (Here’s my Honey Simple Syrup recipe.)

If you want to go the extra mile, do a quick rinse using hot water to clean the loose tea leaves. (This step isn’t necessary if you’re using tea bags.) All you need is 10 seconds for the rinse.

And if you want to take it a step further, after you’ve filled the container with tea and water, let it sit for an hour at room temperature before putting it in the fridge.

You can reuse the tea leaves if it’s loose leaf tea. Just strain out of one container and just add it into another with water. If I see that the tea leaves haven’t unfurled much, I’ll use it again for the next batch.

Best Iced Tea photo

Yield: Makes 4 servings

Cold Brew Iced Tea

How to make the best iced tea -- cold brew it!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups cold or room temperature water (filtered will taste best)
  • 4 rounded teaspoons any loose leaf tea (or 4 tea bags)

Instructions

In a pitcher, stir in loose leaf tea into cold or room temperature water. Cover and refrigerate for about 8 hours or overnight.

Strain out tea leaves and discard or reuse. If using tea bags, discard.

Cold brewed tea can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

cold brew tea with fruit

Cold Brew Fruit Tea

My formula for the tastiest and prettiest cold brew fruit tea is:

Tea + 1 Fruit + 1 Citrus + 1 Herb

When making the cold brew tea, add in sliced fruit, sliced citrus like lemon or lime, and finally an herb like basil or mint.

It all goes into a pitcher and gets cold brewed together. After 8-12 hours, take out the tea and it’s ready to drink.

Try any combination using my cold brew tea formula — they all pretty much taste great!

Since everything is going into the pitcher together to cold brew, I like to put the tea leaves in a giant tea filter bag so the loose tea has plenty of room to unfurl and also be removed easily.

cold brew tea

Tea (Black tea) + Fruit (Strawberries) + Citrus (Lemon) + Herb (Basil)

For the prettiest iced tea, add a burst of color by using a red fruit. When all the fruit is the same color, the iced tea doesn’t look as appealing.

When you add strawberries to cold brew, a nice surprise is watching the tea turn into a lovely shade of pink after a day or two in the refrigerator.

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cold brew fruit tea

Black Tea with Fresh Fruit

Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS
4 cups cold or room temperature water (filtered will taste best)
4 rounded teaspoons black tea loose leaf tea (or 4 tea bags/sachets)
6-8 sliced strawberries
1/2 thinly sliced lemon
small handful basil leaves

DIRECTIONS
Put 4 teaspoons of black loose tea into tea filter bags. (Use tea bags if you prefer.) 

In a pitcher, combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for about eight hours or overnight.

Discard tea leaves or tea bag.

Cold brewed tea can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days.

fruit iced tea

Tea (Oolong Tea) + Fruit (Peach) + Citrus (Lime) + Herb (Rosemary)

My favorite teas to cold brew are black tea and oolong. They pair really go well with fresh fruit.

White teas are the hardest since the taste is so subtle the fruit can easily overpower it.

fruit iced tea

Oolong Tea with Fresh Fruit

Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS
4 cups cold or room temperature water (filtered will taste best)
4 rounded teaspoons oolong loose leaf tea (or 4 tea bags/sachets)
1 thinly sliced peach
1/2 thinly sliced lime
2-4 rosemary sprigs

DIRECTIONS
Put 4 teaspoons of oolong loose tea into tea filter bags. (Use tea bags if you prefer.) 

In a pitcher, combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for about eight hours or overnight.

Discard tea leaves or tea bag.

Cold brewed tea can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days.

fresh fruit iced tea

Tea (Green Tea) + Fruit (Raspberries) + Citrus (Lemon) + Herb (Mint)

Since green tea is a lighter tea than black or oolong tea, it’s best not to overwhelm the flavor by putting in too much fruit.

fresh fruit iced tea

Green Tea with Fresh Fruit

Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS
4 cups cold or room temperature water (filtered will taste best)
4 rounded teaspoons green loose leaf tea (or 4 tea bags/sachets)
1/3 cup raspberries
1/2 thinly sliced lemon
small handful mint

DIRECTIONS
Put 4 teaspoons of green loose leaf tea into tea filter bags. (Use tea bags if you prefer.) 

In a pitcher, combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for about eight hours or overnight.

Discard tea leaves or tea bag.

Cold brewed tea can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days.

fruit cold brew

Tea (Herbal) + Fruit (Raspberries and Kiwi) + Citrus (Lime) + Herb (Thyme)

This one doesn’t have any caffeine since it’s an herbal tea, also called a tisane. I used dried elderflower for this cold brew.

I went all out and used TWO kinds of fruit. WHOA. Haha.

The kiwi can overwhelm the flavor so I only used half and then added raspberry for a pop of flavor and color.

fruit cold brew

Herbal Tea with Fresh Fruit

Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS
4 cups cold or room temperature water (filtered will taste best)
4 rounded teaspoons herbal loose leaf tea (or 4 tea bags/sachets)
1/3 cup raspberries
1/2 thinly sliced kiwi
1/2 thinly sliced lime
2-3 thyme sprigs

DIRECTIONS
Put 4 teaspoons of herbal loose leaf tea into tea filter bags. (Use tea bags if you prefer.) 

In a pitcher, combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for about eight hours or overnight.

Discard tea leaves or tea bag.

Cold brewed tea can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Recommended for This Recipe

 

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19 Comments

  • Roxanne Testen
    1 year ago

    love your site

  • Stephanie
    1 year ago

    Where did you get those containers and strainer?

    • Jee
      1 year ago

      Hi Stephanie, I got them from Williams Sonoma.

  • 11 months ago

    Great summary! What are your thoughts on brewing at room temperature vs in the refrigerator? I tend to do my coffee at room temperature on the counter but my tea in the fridge but I’m curious if anyone here prefers tea at room temperature?

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Jee
      11 months ago

      Hi Chip, I like my tea either hot or cold so I’ve never tried to brew it at room temperature although I know some people like to brew it at room temperature for a couple of hours before storing it in the fridge. If you like yours room temperature, I don’t see any reason not to brew it that way!

  • Lenny
    6 months ago

    Would it be okay to add a simple syrup to my loose tea iced tea and if so should i wait for the syrup to cool down to room temperature before adding it to the cold brew tea.

    • Jee
      5 months ago

      Hi Lenny, best to wait till the simple syrup cools down a bit before adding into your iced tea but if you’re in a hurry, you can just add more ice. And yes, definitely ok to add the simple syrup to your iced tea if you prefer.

  • Lenny
    5 months ago

    I usually make a 2 quart (usually 8 cups all together) pitcher of cold brew tea what would be the right amount of equal parts sugar and water for my simple syrup that would give me just the right amount of sweetness but not overly sweet.

    • Jee
      5 months ago

      Hi Lenny, it’s a little hard to say since everyone’s idea of the right amount of sweetness is a bit different. I would start with 1/2 cup of sugar for the 8 cups and adjust from there.

  • Lenny
    5 months ago

    What would be the maximum time that i can cold brew my loose iced tea in the refrigerator before having to strain it

    • Jee
      5 months ago

      Hi Lenny, you can probably go up to 48 hours but I wouldn’t do it for longer since the cold brew would be too strong.

  • Abdulaziz
    5 months ago

    What about using syrups in the recipes

    • Jee
      5 months ago

      Hi Abdulazis, you can use simple syrup which is half sugar (you can also use honey) and half water that comes to a boil on a stovetop.

  • Lenny
    5 months ago

    I’m making an 8 cup pitcher of loose tea iced tea by adding 1 teaspoon of loose tea for every cup so basically i’m using 8 teaspoons but if i wanted to make a stronger tasting tea how much more teaspoons can i add to the pitcher. Should i double that amount (16 teaspoons) or less than that.

    • Jee
      5 months ago

      Hi Lenny, I would double if you want it to be super strong. But if you just want iced tea that’s stronger than normal, I would go with 12 teaspoons for 8 cups.

  • Lenny
    4 months ago

    Did you ever receive my last 2 messages to you, thanks.

  • Lenny
    4 months ago

    Why steep the tea at least 8 hours or overnight instead of less than the minimum of 8 hours, just curious.

  • Florencia
    2 months ago

    Hi! How long it last the ice tea in the refrigerator after the cold brew? It would be better to add the fruit and the leaves of mint or basil when i am going to serve it if i want my ice tea last longer? Thank you!

    • Oh, How Civilized
      2 months ago

      Hi Florencia, the cold brew will last up to five days in the refrigerator. You can cold brew with the fruit and herbs for 2 days (you want to make sure the flavors get a chance to infuse into the tea) then discard so that it’s not in the cold brew for the entire 5 days.

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