A lot of people ask me how to make iced tea. Our favourite tried and tested method for enjoying the flavours of tea cold is to cold infuse your leaves – I’ve written about how to do it here (and even made a video on it here). It’s a simple method that uses time to extract flavour and body. Sometimes though the sun catches me out and I want the refreshment of a cold tea, but don’t want to wait the 2-4 hours that a cold infusion needs…
Apparently, I’m not alone! It's one of the top questions I'm asked every summer:
To make iced tea, can you make the tea hot and pour it over ice?
Previously I’ve answered this by extolling the virtues of the cold infusion method, wanting to avoid any chances of overly sweet iced tea, in which sugar or honey is used to mask the bitterness and astringency that comes from an over extraction of the tea, typical with this method. But as I’ve had time this summer and there have been a lot of very hot days, I decided that there must be some teas that this works for.
It’s been a great excuse to spend longer in the garden after lunch, and I’m happy to report that the answer is yes, you can make tea hot and pour it over ice to make flavourful iced tea. But it only works for some teas – and there are a few things you need to know before you begin your experiments.
Here’s what I learnt about how to make iced tea from hot tea:
1. Choose teas that are low in tannin
This means teas that feel soft and smooth when you drink them hot, not teas that have noticeable structure. This is important because with this technique you’ll make your tea concentrated. When I tested it with teas that are highly structured the results were overwhelmingly astringent – that drying feeling masked any good flavour. Teas that are low in tannin won’t become astringent.
My favourites are:
Try this if you want something malty and a little bit sweet that has the deep and familiar taste of black tea.
Jade Sword™ Organic Green Tea
This is where the experiments started and although I tried lots of other green teas, this remained my favourite. It packed a good “green” punch that lends itself perfectly to cool refreshment. Grassy, light and with a satisfying umami finish.
It was aromatic and complex – and really refreshing.
2. Use the largest ice cubes you can find
The larger the ice cube, the slower it melts. That means that when you add the hot tea, they’ll work to cool the tea down but not dilute it.
Look for a silicone tray too, it’ll make getting the ice out all the easier. They are very easy to come by, thanks to the at-home cocktail revolution.
3. Make the ice cubes with filtered (and ideally softened) water
As with all decent cups of tea, hot or cold, you need to make sure all the water that you’re using is good enough to carry the best flavours.
4. Add 1tsp more leaf that you usually would to your hot brew
Making a more concentrated infusion will ensure that there is plenty of flavour and your final drink isn’t watery or insipid.
5. Drink your iced tea immediately
The heat from your initial infusion has activated and extracted the plant compounds that are giving the flavour and body to your drink. Even though you’ve cooled it down with the ice and separated the leaves, the infusion will continue to get stronger and more intense. You’ll lose some of the aromatics too. So, make sure you drink it straight away.
Afterall, we did ask for immediate refreshment…