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Iced Tea

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Well gang, now that the subject of tea has been broached, may I ask about the classic iced tea? No doubt some will cavil abou ice in tea--and my European friends wil be first off the blocks on THIS issue!---but PROPER iced tea is one of God's gifts to a suffering people. Orange Pekoe, a litle lemon and MAYBE a bit of sugar (but not the "sweet tea" one finds in certain areas--may as lief suck a sugar cube fer cryin' out loud!)

Your onslaughts are welcome. Let's educate the world about the benefits of ICE as well as tea!

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  1. Nothing wrong with iced tea, in fact on a hot day it is perhaps one of the finest non-alcholic drinks one can partake in. Damn civilized as well don't you think.

    1 Reply
    1. re: steve

      Who said it had to be non-alcoholic? My favorite drink is gin and iced tea. Discovered when we ran out of tonic at home when I lived with a Southerner.

      For years, I ask waiters and waitresses, "Do you have any iced tea?" If they say yes, I confuse them by then saying, "Can you put some gin in it?"

      Not to seem heretical or anything, but I do also like it with. eh-hem, iced tea mix. I've tried all brands, even green teas. I prefer 4C. I tried naming the drink a "C4", but it never seems to stick.

    2. Most of my friends drink it unsweetened and add lemon. A few use artificial sweetener. To me the answer to every question of what to drink with (name the food) is invariably iced tea. But then I'm a Texan. Nuff said.

      1. Iced tea is great any way you look at it.
        First there is the Strength issue: I feel it needs to be a bit on the strong side to make up for the ice melt. This has to be taken into account. If you're gonna have it on ice then it better be real cold.

        On the Sweetening issue: Both sweetened and unsweetened are good. If it is unsweetened you need a tea that is less strong with more natural flavors and less tannic acid such as an uncured green tea. I prefer it slighlty sweet with honey or even a bit of maple syrup, over sugar, but will occasionally use sweet n low as I do have a bit of a sweet tooth and would rather have sugar in a drink than a sweet snack or dessert. After living quite a few years in Georgia and Florida, I find that "Sweet Tea" (pronounced Swee' Tea) has it's place, especially as the drink of choice with BBQ. Huge quart sized glasses constantly refilled and Hoo Yeah... I say Hot Damn to the sugar and 'Q buzz afterwards. Massive endorphins and energy! (Swee' Tea is also great for breakfast on those August scorcher days when it is 90F by 8am and you can't even cool off by swimming in the lake 'cause the muddy water is as hot as the air and you sweat more in the water than you do in the shade.)

        As for Fruit: Lemon or other fruits are good with lower quality teas. They cover up excess tannic acid or off flavors as well as contributing on their own. I prefer lime over lemon in most drinks and the same goes for tea. If the fruit is citrus the whole fruit has to be used, i.e., peel and all thrown in not just a squeeze of the juice. That way the citrus oils add to the flavor. Real peach or raspberry can be good.

        Commercial iced tea... usually should be relegated to the farther reaches of hell... Lipton and Nestea... Yuch... Snapple, bleah... Arizona and all the others... if it is the only choice, and only because I don't drink soda. (Except root beer which is an off shoot of iced tea.)

        Oh Yeah... and it's always spelled Iced Tea not Ice Tea. Hmmm... now I need a glass.

        I wonder what it tastes like with preserved lemon or lime. Is there any such thing as Sweet n Salty Iced Tea...? Maybe Vietnamese, Indonesian, or Malaysian? I have a few gallons of preserved lemons and limes that are just about finished pickling.

        1. I like the Peach Ice Tea that they sell in Europe. Nestea was one of my faves. Snapple is horrible in comparison. too frickin sweet. I've found the euro kind in a couple or places. Balducci's is selling Swiss Deliss which is ok. My fave of these kinds in San Benedetto which I spotted at Dom's on Lafayette once. Once! and when I went back they no longer had any!!! anybody like these commercial types?

          1 Reply
          1. re: SLAP

            Tazo Giant Peach Tea is the only fruit flavored tea that is any good. Not too sweet, you can actually taste the tea in it. Swiss Deliss is good too, but being packaged in those boxes ruins the taste, I think.

            By the way, most teas are at least tolerable if the water is actually boiling when placed on the teabag, assuming you're not going to get the real stuff. Most times it's barely tepid and the result is totally gruesome.

          2. When I make a pitcher at home, I use 4 to 5 tea bags. Two of them are usually a national brand (Lipton or Tetley) and the rest are a combo of nicer selections: English Breakfast, Earl Grey Etc.

            Then I steep them in a bowl with boiling water for quite while.

            Then it is off to a pitcher with more spring water to tone it down

            No sugar, just a lemon wedge in each glass.

            1. Now, the Southern part of me loves sweet tea. The part of me that lives in Los Angeles loves sweet milk tea (Aunt Myrtle, pick your lorgnette up off the floor, it's not THAT bad of a sin.)

              The problem is ordering iced tea in restaurants. I hate adding sugar (or wannabe sugar) to already chilled iced tea. It gets gritty.

              I'd like to advocate (if any of you ever open restaurants) the use of simple syrup in iced tea. If you're going to serve unsweetened iced tea, put a cruet of simple syrup on the table. It mixes much better and prevents the icky sludge at the bottom.

              Now, when I make sweet tea at home, I use simple syrup to sweeten it - takes less time to make it. And I make some STRONG iced tea - the stronger the better, because the ice is going to melt and weaken it.

              Sun tea is another possibility - and another reason to use simple syrup, since it won't be hot enough when it's steeped to easily dissolve the sugar.

              Now I need a glass and some sweet tea.

              17 Replies
              1. re: PRSMDave

                Simple syrup is far superior to plain sugar---it stays in suspension whereas the granulated stuff fals to teh bottom and it looks like an aquarium. SAme is true for mixed drinks, of course

                I have never encountered a commercially made tea that was worth a damn. 'course, I gave up a long time ago and stick to the real thing. I once saw my father return some powdered mix at the old Barclay Hotel in New York (after New York Central had gone to hell and the place went downhill. It was undrinkable but the waiter said that it was all they had. So, of course, my father ordered hot tea and lots of ice and proceeded to make the real thing for an astounded waiter.

                It is certainly true that sun tea can be excellent; my tea-snob aunt loves for me to make it.

                Now "sweet tea" can be OK but I have had it in Mississippi and Georgia and Alabama where it was just overpowering. The first sip or two may be quite refreshing but after that, for me, it becomes a chore to drink it. Lemon cuts thirst better for me.

                I love the gin & tea C-4 idea . The name is terrific I'll see if I cannot popularize it..

                In a related field, a friend was eating at a place on Lake Pontchartrain years ago and was repulse by his first sip. "What is in this?" he demanded. "Raspeberry or rose water or something like that. "Don't you have an UN-TAINTED tea?" he thundered. this has become the gang moniker for iced tea that has been "tampered with."

                1. re: Hazelhurst

                  Sounds like me. I dislike the taste of passionfruit, and that's what's in 90% of "tropical" iced teas. I'll take a sip, and then whine, "Passionfruit? But I *hate* passionfruit!" I've taken to asking, "It's not got passionfruit in it, has it?"

                  Water's worse. I hate when I ask for water and it comes with a slice of lemon or whatever floating in it.

                  "Hi, can I have a glass of unadulterated water, please?"


                  "Excuse me, I'd like a glass of plain water, hold the fruit salad, please."

                  People tell me that the fruit covers any odd tastes in the water, or that it provides some "freshness" in it. Blah! I don't want lemon water. If I wanted lemon water, I'd order lemonade!

                  I'm very bitter about this.

                  1. re: PRSMDave

                    I hate fruit flavored ice tea, too. Peach is another offender.

                    And most places committing this offense don't even specify on the menu that "ice tea" means fruit flavored.

                    There's nothing more refreshing than plain iced tea without anything in it -- no sugar, no lemon, no nothing. I can almost feel my parched cells soaking in the crisp, slightly tannic liquid and sighing "ahhh."

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler
                      Caitlin McGrath

                      I keep iced tea in the fridge year round. I don't put anything in it, either (same with hot tea). I like to use Twinings lemon-scented tea, which gives a hint of lemon, but doesn't interfere with the flavor of the tea.

                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                        I can't claim to being such a purist with my hot tea -- I learned to drink tea in England, so I like my black teas with milk (or better yet cream, oodles of cream!). I only put sweetener in if I don't have milk -- preferrably honey.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler
                          Caitlin McGrath

                          I learned to drink tea from my mom, a svereal-times-a-day tea drinker, and she puts nothing in it. I do make one exception, though; in college in the dining hall we had Bigelow, and someone taught me her grandmother's trick of adding sweetener to Constant Comment, the orange-spice tea. Without sugar or honey, it's just aromatic, but the sweetener brings out the flavor. The only time I use lemon is when Lipton is forced on me (usually on a plane, if I forget to bring my own). Can't stand that stuff.

                          I agree with your sentiment above about high-end restaurants and tea. It amazes me that places where I am paying $50 just for food present me with a choice of teabags I could buy at the corner store. The first time I went to the famed Union Square Cafe in NYC and ordered tea, they brought loose tea in a french press-style pot. On subsquent visits, I got a pot of hot water and a teabag. They actually regressed.

                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                            I resent restaurants that pre-sweeten their iced tea. Sweetening someone else's tea is like cutting their meat for them.

                  2. re: Hazelhurst

                    The first time I ran across "hot tea and a glass of ice" was actually in a restaurant, and I was amazed that the tea didn't melt all the ice. It's been my favorite way to make iced tea ever since.

                    I've also ordered hot tea and a glass of ice since then when the restaurant claimed it didn't have iced tea.

                    The problem is that most non-tea-drinkers can't be bothered with anything beyond tea bags at all. I don't drink coffee, so I usually order tea after dinner and I've had appallingly bad tea service in top-notch restaurants. I think it is hysterically funny when they ceremoniously present me with a fancy wooden cigar-type box filled with an assortment of ordinary tea bags. The same restaurant wouldn't dream of serving instant coffee, or coffee brewed from a can of preground Folgers off the supermarket shelf.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      They present you with that assortment of teabags to choose from, while the barely hot water they put into a room temperature teapot several minutes ago is now lukewarm.

                      1. re: ironmom

                        I once had (and lost) an argument with a waiter at a famous 3+star restaurant in San Francisco who flatly refused to take my tea bag and pot of warm water back to the kitchen where it could be brewed properly (as properly as you can brew a tea bag) by putting it in the empty pot and pouring boiling water over it.

                        Serving tea bags and then humiliating a customer who is spending several hundred dollars on dinner is a really stupid business practice.

                        Oh, and it was my birthday, which they knew. Nice, huh?

                      2. re: Ruth Lafler

                        I recall a funny incident a while back at Todd English's Kingfish Hall in Boston. It was a warm summer day, and I was with a group at lunch. I asked for iced tea; the server said they did not have any. I was stunned, but what can you do.

                        After the main course, we ordered dessert, and the server offered us coffee or tea. I asked for iced tea, and she reiterated that they did not have any. But, when I asked if I could have hot tea, she said yes.

                        So, what she failed to say is this: the restaurant was out of those large commercial packets of tea for making iced tea; they were clueless about how to make iced tea any other way.

                        At least Boston has gotten a teeny more civilized and there are more places that one can expect to get iced tea year round. It used to be (and still is in spots) that people would look at you funny if you requested it at any time other than summer, though they would happily serve iced tonics/sodas.

                        And a small dash from a packet of Sweet and Low works quite well in offering a hint of dissolved sweetness. But only a dash. Bring on the lemon.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          The ONE time, the ONE memorable time, I had good tea in a restaurant, was at Bridge Creek in Berkeley back in the 80s. It was loose tea and boiling water combined in a french press. I miss that restaurant.

                          1. re: susan blair

                            i don't think i would ever have considered using a french press for tea, but i will now! i have been toying with the idea of getting rid of mine, as i no longer drink coffee... but now i have a new use!

                            1. re: Fatemeh

                              Lalime's in Berkely also serves tea in those teapots that are modeled after a french press coffee maker (I think they are made by the same company: Bodum).

                              I'm not sure I'd use one that's been used for coffee, since it's hard to get the plunger completely free of coffee residue, but there's no harm in trying.

                              1. re: Fatemeh

                                You can still get rid of your French press. It only works if you're going to pour all the tea immediately. Most loose teas get bitter if they continue to steep in the bottom. Fine with some herbal teas though.

                                I just found a good alternative to my many teapots. It's a bag of empty tea pouches--about 2-3 times the size of a regular tea bag--that you can fill yourself. Got it at the $ store at Japantown, but I imagine other Asian markets should sell them.

                                1. re: Windy

                                  The french press concept works on the theory that once the leaves have been pressed to the bottom firmly, the liquid is no longer flowing through and coming into contact with the leaves.

                                  In addition, if you make it and pour it right away, oversteeping is not an issue.

                                  That said, I wouldn't let it sit too long and I wouldn't drain to the bottom of the pot.

                            2. re: Ruth Lafler

                              I ordered iced tea in a very nice restaurant -- Roux in the Napa Valley -- this weekend. No iced tea, the waiter said.

                              How about hot tea and a glass of ice?, I asked.

                              It was as if a lightbulb went off: I'll brew you some iced tea in the kitchen, he said.

                              A few minutes later: a perfect glass of iced tea, made with Earl Grey. Later in the meal, a second glass appeared for a refill.

                              It warms my heart to be able to say that a restaurant made the effort and got it right!