Big Heart Tea Co. Guide: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Iced Tea and Then Some
Ice, ice, baby — it’s not just a song, it’s a state of mind.
When the weather gets hot, you’ve gotta stay cool — and iced tea is a lot more pleasant than sticking your head in the air conditioner.
But as simple and universal a pleasure as iced tea may be, there are plenty of mysteries around it. For instance, where did it come from? Why does it turn cloudy sometimes when you make it? What’s the best way to make iced tea, and what is the best tea to make it with?
It’s officially National Iced Tea Month, so let’s talk about it.
In this article, I shall endeavor to answer some of these important iced tea questions and then some.
What is Iced Tea?
Iced tea is just what it sounds like: tea that’s been put on ice.
But the holes in that definition start pretty much right away. Technically, not all iced tea is made with ice. For instance, cold brew iced tea is a thing.
So to be inclusive, let’s just say that any type of tea that is served chilled is iced tea.
Fun fact? Iced tea is apparently so basic that Merriam-Webster doesn’t even have an entry for it. I know this because I tried to find one so that I could share something official-sounding with you in this post.
No such luck. However, they do have a definition for “iced-tea spoon.” Here it is:
Iced-tea spoon (noun): a teaspoon with a very long handle.
Aren’t you glad you know that? Moving on…
A Brief History of Iced Tea
Now that we’ve defined iced / cold tea, let’s talk about where it came from.
Like many food and beverage items, the exact origins are tough to pinpoint — rather, it’s a number of different things coming together to create one iconic beverage.
By most accounts, iced tea only really became a thing when ice became more readily available. While Americans had been sipping on hot tea since the first settlers came from Europe, it wasn’t until ice became a hot commodity in the American South and the Caribbean that people started to get creative with cold tea recipes.
That said, tea had been used in (chilled) alcoholic punch drinks since as far back as the early 18th century — notably, a recipe for “Regent’s Punch,” dated 1815, includes tea, arak (a potent South Asian liquor), citrus, sugar, brandy, and rum.
But it seems that the concept of iced tea as a warm-weather cooler only started to gain traction in the late 1800s.
While it existed before the event, iced tea is said to have cemented its place in culture at the 1904 World’s Fair.
As I previously reported in my incredibly witty A Brief History of Tea blog post, St. Louis was pivotal in making iced tea the Big Deal it is today.
Iced tea was served at the fair, and it was a huge hit. It seems to be a matter of timing and circumstance: the weather was hot, the tea was cold, and people really, really, liked it.
Fairgoers brought the concept back home, and iced tea became an international sensation.
Of course, prohibition (when people were seeking refreshing bevs to enjoy instead of alcohol, or an innocent-looking drink to covertly sneak alcohol into) and greater availability of home refrigerators helped maintain and increase iced tea’s popularity.
Fun Fact: Americans LURVE Iced Tea
In the U.S., we’re really, really into iced tea. According to the Tea Association of the U.S.A. (we’d love to be in one of their meetings), up to 84% of tea consumed in the U.S. is of the iced variety.
However, it appears much of that iced tea is of the ready-to-drink tea variety. That’s a sector that has really blown up — the ready-to-drink tea industry is reportedly worth $5.2 billion.
Friends don’t let friends drink ready-to-drink.
Instead, here’s what you should do: make iced tea with some Big Heart Tea Co. products!
Let’s talk details:
How to Make Iced Tea, Two Ways
The Hot Way
- 8 cups water
- 8 bags tea (or about 8 heaping teaspoons loose tea)
- In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Remove from heat; add the tea bags, and let steep according to package instructions or up to 10 minutes.
- Remove the tea bags.
- Let the tea cool to room temperature.
- Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.
- Serve with ice (if desired) or other garnishes like lemon or mint.
If you plan on adding a lot of ice to your tea, add another tea bag or two when brewing.
If you like sugar or honey, add your desired amount to the mix during step 3, while the tea is still warm, and stir to incorporate (about 1/3 cup sugar will make a nice, lightly sweet tea).
The Cold Brew Way
8 tea bags (or about 8 heaping teaspoons loose tea)
8 cups water
- Place 8 tea bags in the bottom of a large glass container. Pour 8 cups of water (cold or room temp) on top.
- Cover and refrigerate. Steep from 6 to 12 hours. Strain the bags or loose tea. Serve cold; ice and garnishes optional.
Note: I adapted this “lazy” method from this more-involved post. If you’re a foodie, fast-forward to this recipe!
Iced Tea Best Practices
Here are some pro tips for making the best iced tea…
How to Avoid Cloudy Tea
If you’re a Carly Simon fan, you might like clouds in your coffee.
But pretty much nobody likes clouds in their tea. Unfortunately, it’s an all-too-common occurrence when you make iced tea with black tea. (It’s something about the tannins.)
To avoid clouds in your DIY iced tea, it’s all about temperature maintenance. When making iced tea the hot way (above), be sure to let the tea cool to room temperature before adding ice or cold water. This can help you avoid that dreaded cloudy effect.
Iced tea has relatively few ingredients. And as is usually the case, the fewer ingredients, the more you can taste each one. So this is one of those times to use the good stuff.
Now, since you’re here, maybe we can tell you why Big Heart Tea. Co’s offerings really are the good stuff —
- Our teas are all-natural. No unnatural added flavorings here.
- All of our teas are blended by hand in small batches.
- Our teas are FRESH, baby! They feature freshly-ground spices to maximize your tea-drinking experience.
- We care about our sourcing. A lot. Read more here…
What’s the Best Big Heart Tea for Iced Tea?
So glad you asked. Here are just a few of our favorites:
Iced Tea Recipes + Inspiration
Looking for some inspiration for your iced tea? Get started here:
- The BEST Iced Tea (including Iced Tea you can make FAST)
- Easy Cold Brew Tea at Home
- How to Cold Brew Tea
- Kid-friendly Iced Hibiscus Tea
Congratulations! You are now fully immersed in the wonderful world of iced tea. What was your favorite thing to learn?
If you’re ready to get brewin’, check out the extensive Big Heart Tea Co.’s collection of teas — if you love ‘em hot, you’ll love ‘em iced.