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How to Make Loose Leaf Iced Tea

Iced Tea

Introduction - A fresh look at a summer classic

Iced tea is a great and refreshing way to cool down in the heat. We here at Yezi Tea love to spend hot summer evenings outside drinking glass after glass of our favorite iced teas. While many may enjoy the taste of sugar filled prepackaged mixes or tea bag blends, we believe that there is no better iced tea than loose leaf iced tea. Just how do you make iced tea with loose leaf tea, you ask? Well, let’s find out! Below, you will not only find some of our tried and true iced tea recipes, but also, some tips and tricks to make your own great tasting refreshment all summer long.

Iced Tea Basics – Tips, tricks, dos, and don’ts

Before going on to some delicious recipes, we wanted to give you all a few basic tips that will help in your foray into the world of iced teas!

  • Having a basic understanding of how an iced tea will turn out is important. Each of the three main brewing techniques for loose leaf iced tea - traditional brewing, cold brewing, and ice brewing - will produce a different flavor, even if the tea used is the same.
  • Try to avoid using a plastic container or pitcher – It may impart its own flavors into the tea.
  • Invest in a glass mason jar and/or large pitcher or two as well as a sieve/strainer.
  • Iced tea can be oversteeped - We recommend tasting throughout the brewing process.
  • It’s best to drink the iced tea right away (within a few hours) however, it can be left in the fridge for a couple of days.

Now, on to the recipes!

Traditional Iced Tea Brewing

Traditionally, iced tea is made by brewing tea as one normally would and then chilling it in the refrigerator until cold enough for your liking.

What is it like?

Traditional iced tea will have a taste very similar to the tea when it is brewed hot.

There will be more tannins, caffeine, and catechins, making the tea overall a lot stronger than if it were cold brewed.

It is a great way to enjoy the flavors of your favorite teas in the summer without feeling overheated.

Our Favorite Recipe:

  • Using a gaiwan, brew four infusions of the tea (gongfu style)
  • Pour each infusion into the sharing pitcher (or a small pitcher suitable for high temperatures) through a small strainer
  • Pour the mixture of infusions into the large glass pitcher
  • Place in refrigerator to cool down to temperature of your liking
  • Serve

Tip: For those in a hurry, you can fill the pitcher up with ice. This, however, will dilute the strength of the tea resulting in a more subtly flavorful tea.

Cold Brewing

Iced Tea in Tea Maker

Cold brewed iced teas are made by placing the tea leaves in room temperature water and then placing the container into the refrigerator to brew for several hours.

What is it like?

Cold brewing teas is a great way to experience different flavors and aromas in some of your favorite loose leaf teas. Due to the fact that tannins are not released when tea leaves are brewed in water less than 140° F, the iced tea that is created when cold brewed contains no astringency and is milder than its traditionally brewed counterpart. Cold brewing requires a very long continuous steep which allows the natural flavors of the tea leaves to slowly release, resulting in a brew that is sweet, aromatic, and contains notes that closely resemble the notes of the leaf’s flavor fresh from the field.

Our Favorite Recipe:

  • Add 3 – 4 grams of either Yi Fu Chun or Gaoshan black/red tea into a large pitcher
  • Pour 500ml of room temperature water over the tea
  • Allow to steep for 1.5 – 2 hours in a refrigerator. -or- Allow to steep for 1 hour outside of refrigerator
  • Stir the leaves a bit by swirling the pitcher (This helps release more flavor and color)
  • Allow leaves to settle
  • Pour the fully steeped brew into a secondary pitcher or container through a large sieve
  • Serve

Tips: This method can be done for all teas. White teas will brew the fastest, then green teas, and then non-curled oolong teas. Curled oolong, black tea, and pu-erh will take the longest time to cold brew.

You can adjust the amount of leaves and water to your needs following the guideline of 4-5 grams of tea leaves per 500ml of water.

Ice Brewing

Ice brewing is accomplished by adding ice cubes directly into a pot of tea leaves and allowing the ice to melt naturally over the leaves until the tea is brewed.

What is it like?

This method of brewing is typically done for Japanese green teas - however, it can also be done with fresh Chinese green teas like Long Jing (Dragonwell) with amazing results.

Ice brewed green teas have an intense flavor with incredibly sweet and grassy notes.

Our Favorite Recipe:

  • Place 4-5 grams of Long Jing into 5 – 8 ounce wide ceramic or porcelain teapot
  • Fill the teapot with ice cubes
  • Allow ice cubes to melt enough to produce the amount of tea that you would like
  • Pour into a sharing pitcher or individual glasses

Tips: This brewing method can be sped up by adding some water and fewer ice cubes. However, the resulting flavor will not be as bold.

For subsequent infusions, either allow more ice to melt, or fill the teapot with new ice cubes and cold water. Taste periodically until it is to your liking.

Iced Tea in Tea Maker

The Best Teas for Iced Tea

We find that black teas and green teas make the most refreshing iced teas. Some of our favorites include:

Additions to Iced Tea

While we don’t recommend adding sweeteners to any of the iced tea recipes above; we did want to leave you with a recipe for a healthy twist on a classic, sweet, summer treat – The Arnold Palmer

What is it like?

A slightly sweet, malty, and citrusy delight. Utterly refreshing, crisp, and brisk.

The Recipe:

  • Squeeze the juice of 4 lemons into a 2 liter pitcher
  • In a gaiwan, brew 4 infusions of Jin Jun Mei (gongfu style) and pour all of the infusions into the pitcher with the lemon juice
  • Add 2 tablespoons of sugar to the tea and lemon juice while mixture is still warm
  • Stir with long chopstick or spoon until the sugar has dissolved
  • Add 1.5 liters of water to the tea, lemon juice, and sugar mixture
  • Serve and enjoy!

Final Words

Iced tea is not only a great way to cool down in the hot spring and summer months, but it is also a great way to experience new flavors of your favorite teas. There are many different methods to making iced tea, however, the ones that we listed above are some of our favorites as they are fun and easy to do. We recommend that you experiment with tea leaf amount, water amount, and, in the case of ice brewing, ice amount to figure out what methods work best for you. Just as everyone has their personal preferences for hot tea, personal preferences for iced tea can be just as varied, especially because of the new flavors and aromas experienced. Write down what you discover and share it with loved ones - It just may become a new favorite tradition. Happy brewing, everyone!

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