When temperatures rise and visions of tall, chilled glasses start dancing in our heads, we know that iced tea season is upon us! While we all know that water is the most efficient way to meet our summer hydration needs, a cool glass of tea is a refreshing way to enjoy some variety, healthful antioxidants, and a little burst of energy on those days when an afternoon hammock nap is not an option. If you want to savor the very best iced black tea under the sun, homemade from scratch is the way to go—and tea type and technique matter!
Best Black Teas for Iced Tea
Many iced tea recipes use black tea as a base. Common reasons black tea has made its way into so many picnic-side pitchers over time include its wide availability and a boldness of flavor that can stand up to being diluted with ice. It’s probably my favorite choice for this purpose as well, but for a different reason: preparing and serving black tea cold allows me to experience its flavors in a whole new way.
Black Teas to Enjoy Iced
Three of my favorite organic black teas to enjoy iced are:
- Nilgiri Black Pearl: Bright, fruity, and oh so tangy, this tea creates a delightful pitcher with a striking visual, its vibrant amber color infused with all the energy of summer. This tea is from the Nilgiris region of South India, world-renowned for producing delicious iced teas that don't cloud over as they cool.
- Kumaon Black: This smooth, balanced tea really shines when cold brewed, offering sweet cherry notes that make each sip extra refreshing. The tea makers borrow techniques from Darjeeling, India's most decorated tea region, and Assam, its prolific, to create a tea with a foot in tradition yet a quality that's all its own—so choose this option for an elevated version of the classic!
- Nepali Golden Black: This naturally smooth variety is downright silky over ice, and since it lacks the mouth-drying finish of many black teas, it’s ideal for quenching a powerful summer thirst.
(You can get all three of these black teas in our Black Tea Bundle!)
Cold Brewing Loose-Leaf Tea
There are two basic approaches to making iced tea: hot or cold brewing. The most common, especially in restaurant settings, is to create a strong hot infusion of tea (a concentrate), let it cool, and add ice upon service. This works fine when you need a lot of tea quickly and often, but if you’re just making tea at home, if you have the time and fridge space, I very much recommend going with the second option: cold brewing.
Steeping tea leaves in cool water unlocks their flavors in a more gentle way, reducing bitterness and preserving the delicate volatile oils of the whole-leaf plant matter that can be lost in a hot infusion. The end result is a beverage that is remarkably smooth and delightfully complex, with fresh and floral notes that perfectly complement an afternoon of sipping tea in the garden, beside a stream, or at the bend of your favorite hiking trail. And best of all, the process is super simple!
How to Cold Brew Iced Tea:
- In a glass canning jar, combine 12 grams (or more, to taste) of premium loose-leaf black tea with one quart of cool, filtered water.
- Secure lid on jar and place in refrigerator. Let sit 4 to 6 hours to infuse.
- Remove jar from refrigerator and strain liquid into a pitcher (compost leaves).
- Pour into four glasses over ice and enjoy!
Interested in Other Tea Brewing Methods?
You might also enjoy:
Raj Vable, Founder
He has been confounded by the leaf since his first transcendental encounter with white tea in 2010. Three years later, he started Young Mountain Tea to bridge his budding tea obsession with his interest in traveling in the mountains and previous experience creating job opportunities in rural India. He revels in working across cultures and can be regularly found trying to get the rest of the team on board with another outlandish tea project. His favorite teas remain white, and he’s always searching for the next cup of magic.