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 that’s simple and easy. 

How to Cold Brew Tea

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Cold Brewing is THE Secret to the Very Best Iced Tea

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 brewing tea. It’s how you should ALWAYS make iced tea. It’s so so good and it’s a complete 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 Iced Tea Ingredients

What I Used to Make Cold Brew Tea

How to Make Iced Tea

Cold Brewed Tea and Caffeine

There’s less caffeine in a cold brew tea (about half) than tea steeped in hot water. Good news — you can drink more of it without getting super jittery.

Cold Brew Tea is the Best Iced Tea

  • Cold-brewing tea is a slow and gentle steeping process that creates a sweeter and smoother tasting tea. 
  • Tannins, which can make tea bitter or astringent, aren’t steeped out of the tea in cold water the way it does in hot water. No more harsh or bitterness in your iced tea anymore!
  • Because cold brewing doesn’t involve heating up anything on the stovetop, it’s nice and easy to make in the hot summer months.
  • Making cold brew tea is also the fool-proof way of making iced tea. Steep for 12 – 24 hours.

Free Quick Cold Brew Tea Guide

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Cold Brew Formula

The recipe for a cold brewed iced tea is more of a ratio since it just has two ingredients — water and tea.

The ratio for cold brew is 1 1/2 teaspoons of loose leaf tea (or 1 heaping teaspoon) 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 at 2-3 tea bags or 1 sachet per cup of water.

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Best Tea to Cold Brew

The best tea to cold brew is Taiwanese oolong tea like formosa oolong. I love oolong cold brews and once you try brewing it yourself, you’ll see why. It’s a little sweet, flavorful, and never harsh.

Here are my recommended of other teas to cold brew.

OOLONG TEA
Frozen Summit (Dong Ding) — My absolute favorite oolong tea to cold brew.
Formosa Oolong, Tie Guan Yin (Iron Goddess)

BLACK TEA
Organic Assam, Orange Pekoe, Earl Grey, Mango Black

GREEN TEA
Hojicha, Jasmine, Sencha

WHITE TEA
Silver Needle, Mutan White, White Peach

HERBAL TEA
Chrysanthemum, Chamomile, Peach Fruit Tea

How to cold brew tea

Loose Tea or Tea Bags to Cold Brew?

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 costs more than tea bags but you can cold brew it more than once.

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 in 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: 30 Refreshing Iced Tea Recipes

How to cold brew tea

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.
  • Cold brew for at least 12 hours in the refrigerator. 
 
 
Cold brew iced tea
 

Cold Brew Iced Tea

Cold Brew Iced Tea

Yield: Makes 4 servings

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

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a pitcher, combine loose tea and cold or cold water. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or overnight.
  2. Strain out tea leaves and discard or reuse. If using tea sachets, discard.
  3. Cold brewed tea can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

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27 Comments

  • Roxanne Testen
    2 years ago

    love your site

  • Stephanie
    2 years ago

    Where did you get those containers and strainer?

    • Jee
      2 years ago

      Hi Stephanie, I got them from Williams Sonoma.

  • 2 years 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
      2 years 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
    1 year 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
      1 year 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
    1 year 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
      1 year 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
    1 year 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
      1 year 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
    1 year ago

    What about using syrups in the recipes

    • Jee
      1 year 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
    1 year 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
      1 year 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
    1 year ago

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

  • Lenny
    1 year ago

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

  • Florencia
    1 year 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
      1 year 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.

  • John M. Rothschild
    4 months ago

    I put 9 black tea bags in a gallon container, add appx. .5 gal. boiling water and steep for 8 min. Lightly press bags, discard, and fill container with cold tap water. Pour out some to fill 20oz. ice-filled mug. Refill container with more tap water. Leave out to cool for a few hours, then put in refrigerator. Outstanding! I will try your method for comparison.

  • 2 months ago

    These guidelines work for all tea types?

    • Oh, How Civilized
      2 months ago

      Hi Antonia, yes! You can use the guidelines for all types of tea.

  • Matt
    4 weeks ago

    Hello! I was wondering about reusing the loose tea leaves? I assume they lose potency with each batch. So how often would you switch from reusing to new leaves? Also can you maybe recommend a ratio of old/new leaves if I want to have a consistent brew each day?

    For context, I plan on making about 3 cups to drink throughout the day each day. So that’s about 4-5 tsp of leaves for each batch. Maybe I should do half old and half new? What do you think?

    • Oh, How Civilized
      4 weeks ago

      Hi Matt, I wouldn’t mix the new and used brewed tea leaves. Make the first batch with new leaves, cold brew it for 12 hours, then strain out the leaves and put it in a new container and cold brew that one for 18-24 hours. So shorter cold brew time for new leaves and longer cold brew time for used leaves. I would cold brew used leaves just once.

  • 4 weeks ago

    I’ve ruined more than my share of sweet iced tea using boiling water. I have to give this a try, before the warm season passes. I think I’ll use a sheng puerh that I’m not too fond of, just as an experiment. Thanks!

    • Oh, How Civilized
      4 weeks ago

      Hi Mike, oh, I like the sound of your experiment! Hope it tastes better than when it’s made with hot water!

      • 3 weeks ago

        Ha ha, yes puerh can be a challenge but I have turned some disappointing ones into fine iced tea, Southern style.

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