Iced tea is a very refreshing drink that can be made sugar-free, making it a healthy option for cooling down on hot days. When it’s really hot, I normally have at least two types of iced tea in the fridge so there’s always something available to cool me down, and so I don’t get bored with just one flavour. Iced tea is really easy to make and can be easily altered to adjust for your taste preferences or the equipment you have on hand. So rather than provide you with a specific recipe, today I’m going to describe the ins and outs of making healthy iced tea.
What equipment do you need?
A plastic or glass jug that will fit in your fridge. It’s really that simple.
If you make iced tea a lot, I highly recommend that you invest in a special iced tea jug. I actually have 3 of them: one is made by Bodum, and two are from T2. I also have one regular plastic jug that I use too (it’s a Décor 1L jug).
The advantage of an iced tea jug is the special container to hold the tea leaves. This allows the tea to infuse while keeping the leaves separate so that you don’t have to strain the tea before drinking. It also makes discarding the used tea quite easy.
What ingredients do you need?
It doesn’t really matter what tea you use. I use all types of teas to make mine. You can use high quality leaf tea, tea blends that contain added herbs/spices/fruit/flavours, herbal teas (which are really just herbs and/or spices), or dried fruit blends (which are often called tisanes). It also doesn’t matter if the tea is loose leaf or in tea bags.
When choosing your tea, the first thing to decide is whether you want a caffeinated or non-caffeinated blend. If you want caffeine then you must include black tea, green tea or white tea in the mix, but of course can add other flavours too. If you want a caffeine-free blend, instead choose from herbal or fruity blends, or you could try using rooibos. I quite like rooibos – which comes from the ‘red bush’ – because it has a rich flavour sort of like tea, but is less bitter and without the caffeine. Rooibos can make a nice tea base instead of actual tea leaves.
The next thing to decide is what flavour you want you tea to be, and that really depends on your imagination. You can mix different blends or tea bags together, add fruit, spices or herbs.
How to infuse the tea
There are two methods for infusing tea – hot infusion or cold infusion.
Hot infusion is the ‘standard’ method for making tea that most people know. Boil the kettle, put the tea in the jug, add boiling water and allow to infuse. Then let it cool down in the fridge before serving.
Cold infusion produces a less bitter tea and is my preferred method for iced tea. Put the tea in the jug, add tap water, put it in the fridge to infuse and get cold. A cold infusion takes longer for the tea to infuse and develop its flavour, but you get a less bitter and more subtle flavour compared to a hot infusion. I normally set up a cold infusion before going to bed at night, then the tea is infused, cold and ready to drink the next day.
How much tea to use? For hot tea, it’s normally recommended to use 1 teaspoon of tea (or 1 tea bag) for 1 cup (250ml). When I make iced tea, I normally use 2-3 teaspoons (or 2-3 tea bags) per 1 litre jug. This is because when I do a cold infusion, I leave the tea within the jug until I have consumed the whole jug, so it would become very strong over time if I made it at full-strength. A slightly weaker blend also means a less bitter tea, which is particularly good for caffeinated blends.
What about sweeteners? Tea is normally sweetened to get rid of the bitter flavours, but if you use a cold infusion and keep the blend slightly weak, the tea isn’t that bitter and doesn’t really need any sweetener. If you normally like your drinks to be sweet, then try using fruit-based ‘tea’ blends, but please taste them before you consider adding any sugar. If you use ‘tisanes’ as your tea blend, do be careful though to check the ingredients since many are loaded with sugar and are just as bad for you as cordial or soft drink.
Flavour suggestions to get you started
- Peppermint tea, or other mint blends are very refreshing.
- Chinese jasmine green tea – always use a cold-infusion.
- Black teas that have added flowers or fruit for flavour – always use a cold infusion.
- Fruit teas in tea bags – I quite like the Twinings Fruit & Herbal Infusions.
- Rooibos and mint.
- Lemongrass and ginger.
- I have many different loose leaf blends (caffeinated and non-caffeinated) that I’ve bought from T2 and also from a boutique tea store in the Dandenong Ranges called Tea Leaves.
Do you make iced teas at home? Which flavours do you prefer?