Lindas Iced Tea to Perfection

Posted: Updated:

PHOENIX - When my family moved to Arizona years ago, I remember many sights new to a Chicago girl like myself.  And, one of those was something little, but funny to me.  On most block, backyard walls (also an oddity, no one in the Midwest had fences back then) sat a large jar in varying shades of amber with tea bag strings hanging off the sides.  I learned that it was a desert method of making iced tea – they called it Sun Tea and I’ve probably consumed literally gallons of it.

Now, as I researched this topic, I found – or rather couldn’t find – many of those tea-brewing jars atop fences these days.  It must be that we are using our fancy coffee or tea makers to produce our iced tea or we’re simply buying it by the gallon.

Regardless, I had to try it out again and make some good old Sun Tea and see how it stacked up to other types of brewing.

I found three basic methods of making the perfect pitcher of iced tea. I didn’t even consider an electric iced tea maker, by the way – wanted this to be an old-school, inexpensive project.

So, I started with the most basic type of tea bag – nothing fancy or special for iced tea.  A $3.99 box of 100 store generic black tea bags.  Enough for at least 10 batches of iced tea – a real bargain.

Here are the three methods and what they produced.  Plus, some “recipe” guidelines to mix it up a bit and add a little zing to your tea.

Hot Brew
This is the old standby – produces strong, fast but slightly cloudy iced tea.
Bring 8 cups of water to a simmer.  Remove from the heat and add 6 tea bags.  Let steep for 4-5 minutes until as strong as you like.  Remove the tea bags, let cool and transfer to a pitcher, cover and plop in the fridge.

Cold Brew
This is much slower but produces smooth, subtle tasting iced tea without a bit of cloudiness.
Combine 8 cups of cold water and 10 tea bags in a pitcher.  Cover and refrigerate 15 to 36 hours until as strong as you like.  Remove bags and enjoy.  This was my favorite method if you have the time.

Sun Tea
This is my old-Arizona stand-by.  Still really good and sort of a combination of the two.  Place 8 cups of water and 10 tea bags into a big jar.  Set in the summer sun and let brew all day.  Remember to bring it in at night and remove tea bags before refrigerating.

Now let’s fancy it up.  Here are some homemade solutions to high-priced restaurant iced tea concoctions:

Southern Sweet Tea
85% iced tea with 15% simple syrup
Simple syrup:
¾ cup water
¾ cup sugar
Combine in a saucepan and heat until sugar dissolves and water is simmering.  Let cool and add to tea or lemonade.  This sweetens a cool liquid evenly without any graininess.

Thai Iced Tea
95% Iced Tea
5% sweetened condensed milk

Arnold Palmer
50% Iced Tea
50% Lemonade

Boston Iced Tea
50% Iced Tea
50% Cranberry Juice.

The bottom line is that delicious iced tea is cheap and easy.  I found it a great solution to buying it by the bottle.  And nothing says summer like opening your fridge to a cool, crisp pitcher of homemade iced tea.


Live and Learn.