After a long period of mainly consuming either fresh brewed tea from restaurants or bottled Tejava iced tea, I have started to really enjoy brewing tea at home for my daily consumption. You can read the reviews of a number of traditionally home brewed teas by clicking here, and instant teas here. After tasting a number of these teas, I have settled on two that I enjoy the most. Those being S&D iced tea and Mighty Leaf organic black tea. Both rank very high in flavor and price. You can read a more in depth analysis of those teas by clicking here.
As far as preparing the tea, I have also tried a number of methods over the years. At first I would try to follow the instructions on the box as closely as possible. This will usually give you a pretty good tasting tea. However, in my experience, if you want to brew the tea stronger than normal, steeping the tea for longer than the recommended time can cause many teas to have an astringent taste.
A few years back, I also tried an iced tea maker. The one I owned was the Mr. Coffee brand maker shown here. This model specifically has some issues which would lead me to not recommend it. First the plastic parts are prone to leaking and also hard to get clean. This is one of their cheaper models and if you are going to try a brewing machine like this I would try one with less plastic parts and a glass pitcher. Mr. Coffee makes a more expensive model sold here on Amazon, and so does Capresso. These are fine options for iced tea brewing, but all of these types of machines brew in the same way, which I don’t believe give you the best tasting tea.
Another tea making option that I have found intriguing is the Tekeya flash chill iced tea maker sold here. I admittedly have not tried it, but it gets pretty good reviews on Amazon and I like the design. However I am pretty sure it is plastic and I prefer to avoid both brewing and storing my iced tea in plastic. I feel like it negatively affects the taste.
As of late, I have settled on the brewing technique that I heard about from Chipotle’s customer service (click here for more info) and I have really enjoyed the result. Basically this involves putting a tea bag in a stainless steel pot on the stove with half the amount of water you intend to finish with. For example if I were to use a Mighty Leaf organic black tea gallon sized tea bag, I would start with half of a gallon (64 ounces) of water. Or for the S&D brand half gallon tea bags I will start with 32 ounces of water. I then begin heating the water until a decent amount of foam forms at the edges and on the top of the liquid in the pot. This usually takes about 5-10 minutes. The tea bag is then removed from the pot (ideally a little before the water starts boiling) and then it’s allowed to boil for an additional 1-2 minutes. Chipotle noted there is a risk of the tea bag exploding which I have not experienced. After allowing the tea to boil, I immediately pour it over an equal amount of ice. For me this technique has resulted in more consistent and stronger tasting iced tea, regardless of what brand of tea I use. I have also not experienced the astringent taste I sometimes got when I tried to brew the tea a bit stronger using the instructions on the box.
For storing the tea I have really liked using this Bormioli Rocco brand glass pitcher I found on Amazon. It is a really nice shape that fits in the refrigerator very nicely. It also has a sealable lid which keeps the tea from picking up tastes from the fridge. Because of its large opening, the pitcher is also quite easy to clean. My one complaint is that it would be nice if they made it in a larger size that could hold more than 68 ounces. Also if using this pitcher or any pitcher that is not intended for hot liquids, it is critical that there is plenty of ice in the pitcher prior to pouring in the hot tea so that it will be rapidly cooled.
Enjoy, and feel free to tell me your favorite way of brewing iced tea in the comments.