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Best tea for ICE tea

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Here is the DC area the summer heat and humidity has started early this year. Family is shouting for good ice tea. The wife has been buying Arizona and Lipton green tea (the premade stuff).

I am certain, I can do better. Can you recommend Teas by brand and type that you use to make great ice tea. As for sweetner do you go simple syrup, straight sugar, or honey?

I have an extensive array of loose leaf teas but when I was in college, I was using lipton bags or Luzzian (sp?) bags to make pretty good ice tea.

Any insight would be appreciate.


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  1. I love iced tea in the summer, and use any tea (often non-caff, since I avoid caff), although I must admit I still like Lipton. I really like Good Earth "original" or Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger. I make about 1 quart of strong tea (usually 6 bags, or as much loose leaf as you would use in a tea pot, but then you will have to strain it out) in a 2 qt pitcher. Once it is brewed, I add cool water (if I don't want it immediately) or ice to fill the pitcher.

    I don't like sweet tea, so can't really help with the sweetener. If everyone likes the same level of sweetness it would be easy to dissolve sugar in the hot tea before diluting. Otherwise, I would be tempted to make a simple syrup for ease of adding to a cold beverage.

    Anything you do will be better than the premade stuff IMO, and better for the environment -- it is better to reduce than to recycle!

    1. For straight forward sweet tea, I like to use Lipton or Red Rose or Luzianne - basic supermarket black tea in bags. Boil 2 cups of water, add tea bags (2 or 3 family sized bags or 6 regular bags) and steep for at least 5 minutes; add a cup or so of sugar while its still hot and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Then add cold water and/or ice to total a gallon.

      If you want unsweetened tea as your base, just skip the sugar and make a simple syrup separately. Once the tea is cold, sugar will never really dissolve well (not even superfine sugar, in my experience). The simply syrup is a great opportunity to flavor it, though: through a handful of mint into the syrup and then strain it out later, you'll have a mint simple syrup that adds a nice flavor to the tea.

      1. I buy Luzianne Decaf Family Size tea bags in the green box.

        Boil about a quart and a half of water. Put 2 tea bags in the half gallon plastic pitcher that has the tea stains. Pull the paper tags over the top of the pitcher and clip a clothespin to hold them. Pour the boiling water over the bags. Set timer for 4 minutes. Raise & dunk the bags a time or two and walk away. When the timer goes off, raise & dunk a few more times.

        If you want sweet tea, add sugar NOW while the tea is hot. Try maybe 3/4 cup and adjust your next batch up or down. Stir to dissolve. Add ice to fill to half gallon mark, stir, serve.

        1 Reply
        1. re: AreBe

          I too purchase Luzianne Decaf Family sized. I use 3 for a half gallon pitcher. I also like to use water from the brita pitcher both the boiled water and the cold.

          I sweeten with 1 tbsp of bulk sweet & low. I used to make both sugar and sweet & low for family events and the sweet & low always goes first.

        2. Bigelow English Breakfast Tea. We just add Sweet and Low to the glass filled with ice cubes.

          1. Two less traditional suggestions -

            Lychee tea and rooibos (South African red) tea. The lychee practically needs no sweetening at all and the rooibos can take a little honey, if you feel it needs more sweetness. Both have great natural flavors and, although they are loose leaf teas, take no more effort to brew than tea bags.

            1 Reply
            1. re: rockycat

              I just made rooibos iced tea yesterday with just 1/4 cup honey for the pitcher - very different and refreshing! I am totally craving it now. :)

            2. I like making my sun tea with Earl Grey tea. Twinings is very fragrant and tasty. I drink it straight up, no sweetener, but would use sugar or honey. Green tea is also good -- Stash is my preferred brand. Try a mint tea or some fruity tea if you're looking for more flavor.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Dr Chow

                Republic of Tea's ginger peach black tea makes a lovely iced tea. I don't sweeten it. It's kind of expensive, but the bags are stronger than less expensive brands.

                1. re: diva360

                  agreed - their grapefruit is good too. refreshing.

                  1. re: diva360

                    I love using Republic of Tea's Mango Ceylon for (unsweetened) iced tea. I'll have to try Ginger Peach, as I just got a 6-bag sample of it.

                2. I had a sample of a great iced tea at Costco last week made from Kirkland (housebrand) lemon tea and it was very good even without sugar.

                  1. I'm not a huge fan of mint, generally, but I do like to throw one mint teabag in when I'm making a large batch of iced tea. I typically pull that bag out early, too, but that light mint adds a brightness, a coolness, that's just perfect for iced tea.

                    1. I became hooked on Paradise Tropical Tea while on vacation in Southern California last year. I found out I can get the tea bags at Trader Joes back here in the east. I usually use half Paradise tea and half just regular Tetley tea bags. I have also bought bottles of fruit syrups like mango and passion fruit from Monin and using them for the sweetner. Richie



                      1. I like Lipton or Luzianne, but I think it is more about the method then the tea bags. I brew mine in a 1 gallon glass jar via the sun-tea method.

                        I do like to replace a few of the regulars bags with 2 Twinnings Earl Grey for a twist.

                        1. We drink a lot of iced tea in hot weather so I keep a lot of different teas on hand to mix and match and play with. As a black tea base I like the Twining English Breakfast tea(i use the decaf myself). I keep green tea around as well. I always have some fruit infusions(we really like green tea with a blackberry infusion). My husbands favorite is peach tea so I try and always have some of that on hand as well.

                          I found some vanilla almond tea a while back and I find that makes a really nice background to any of the fruit teas we use. Unfortunately I got it at Tuesday Morning and have almost used it all up...hopefully I can find something similar again.

                          We drink ours unsweetened so can't help with sweetening.

                          I make it in a goofy $20 Mr Coffee Iced Tea maker. I laugh at myself all the time for buying this but it makes the process really quick and easy which we appreciate given that we go through a pitcher a day in the summer.

                          1. For black iced tea I use Luzianne. It is perfect. Lately I have been enjoying Acai Green tea from Republic of Tea. It is fruity and delicious.

                            1. Until Luzianne manages to get some store to carry their tea here in SoCal, I just use cheap discount tea bags from India or Sri Lanka.
                              My brewing process is simple:
                              - Microwave my 2 qt square glass jar full of water for four minutes on High.
                              - Add four tea bags, close lid, let steep for an hour.
                              - Remove tea bags and chill.

                              Iced tea has a surprisingly short shelf life, no problem during hot weather.

                              ccbweb, Which Store(s) do you purchase your Luzianne tea at?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: DiveFan

                                If there's a super walmart near you, check there for Luzianne. I'm pretty sure I've bought it there before in Socal.

                              2. I am a big fan of Twining's "Lady Grey." It's a black tea with bergamot & citrus. Sweetening with sugar-in-the-raw or honey both work. Citrus flavored orange blossom honey is delicious in it. If you want to get fancy you can even serve it with orange slices on the rim rather than lemon.

                                Twining's English Afternoon & Green Tea sweetened with berry juice or fruit punch also make great iced teas.

                                Twining's Iced Tea Recipe: http://www.twiningsusa.com/iced/

                                1. Left to my own preferences (black, with caffeine) my favorite iced tea is the same as my favorite hot: Formosa oolong. Lacking that, Luzianne or Lipton's works fine for me, and if I want to revert to childhood (which may happen soon enough whether I want it to or not!) I'll see if I can round up some Bigelow's Constant Comment, which is what my grandma always used. Heck, the only really BAD iced tea is either instant or old enough to get moldy, don't you think?

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                    Hey Will-
                                    I've done this experiment, and about ten years ago the people at Consumer Reports did it too. Although it was hard for me to tell the difference, Red Rose was consistently rated higher than Lipton by both them and my family members.
                                    My favorite thing to do is put eight tea bags in four cups of boiling water, along with a large bundle of fresh mint. Then after three or four minutes, pour out the hot tea into another six cups of water, along with the juice of six to ten lemons and a cup of sugar. Dynamite.
                                    Judging by the picture, your listed preferences and your posts, I've gotta say that you're the living embodiment of the literary gourmand and crimestopper Monseiur Pamplemousse. Written by the same guy who wrote Paddington Bear.

                                    1. re: Greg Strong

                                      Red Rose also makes a quite palatable decaf--since I go through iced tea by the half gallon in the summertime, it's my usual choice. Besides, I still get child-like glee in collecting the little china animals!

                                      1. re: Jeri L

                                        Red Rose was our standard when we lived in Nashville, but I haven't seen it here in SoCal. In fact, it's damned hard to find those big tea-bags anywhere - Ralphs (affiliated with Kroger) is the only store I've found that carries them, and only in their own brand. I don't mind using several small ones, or even loose tea in a big tea-ball, but Mrs. O is the main iced-tea drinker around here these days and she wants BIG bags of decaf.

                                  2. lilikoi ice tea is the absolute best...refreshing in the summer heat...give it a try

                                        1. re: steve h.

                                          Peppermint iced tea and jasmine green iced tea are two summer favorites - I like them unsweetened, but agave nectar is a nice sweetener for either.

                                          1. re: janeh

                                            i'll stick with the orange pekoe recipe but a sprig or two of mint on top sure is good. no sugar, no lemon.

                                            1. re: janeh

                                              +1 for Jasmine Green Tea, iced and unsweetened! If I were to sweeten, simply syrup would be my choice.

                                        2. For plain tea, try to find Tetley.

                                          1. I like the English Breakfast Tea from Trader Joe's.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Antilope

                                              +1. Even though I love Twinings Ceylon (orange box) for hot tea, I can't tell the difference between it and Trader Joe's English Breakfast when I make iced tea. And Trader Joe's costs $3.98 for 100 teabags v. $12.22 for 100 of Twinings, and that's with the Twinings at Amazon's subscription price.

                                            2. i mix and match whatever is on hand..always with good results. i don't put any sweetener in so i just go for flavor of the tea. i like white, green, and a fruit based tea mixed. pekoe and berry mixed are nice. depends upon my mood. i boil water, pour into a tea pot, throw in a few bags, and then pop into the fridge. enjoy.

                                              1. 10 minute iced tea!!!
                                                I have a rubber-maid 2qt pitcher that I use to make iced tea every day. I fill the pitcher about 3/4 full with ice from my ice maker. I use an 8 cup pampered chef (pyrex-type) glass pitcher and 2 luzianne family-sized decaf bags or 6 regular decaf bags (tetley or bromley) and I microwave the glass pitcher with the tea bags in it for 2 cycles of 5 minutes. After the second 5 minutes, I dunk the bags a couple of times then I pour the hot tea over the ice in the rubber made pitcher and top with filtered water. I leave the tea bags in usually with the tags hanging out, but they could be removed, as their purpose is fulfilled. I try not to sweeten it for my family (though my kids prefer it (1/3 cup)... they will drink it either way) and I add a tiny splash of lemon extract (my grandmother did this) or fresh lemon and or fresh mint leaves... I make it every night... takes only 10 minutes!!!

                                                1. I'm from the south so I have to use Luzianne and it has to be sweet tea .... or they would take my southerners club membership card and kick me out!

                                                  It's like if anyone caught me asking directions, they would insist on me surrendering my man club membership card. Thank god for garmin.

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                    Have to agree - Luzianne. Originated in the South for a sweet tea drinking public.

                                                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                      Tritto on the Luzianne, and I'm not from the South. I buy the family sized bags from www.cajungrocer.com and sweeten it with sugar while it's hot; chill and serve lemon on the side.

                                                      It's not the only tea I drink iced, just my fav.

                                                      1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                        I'm from Atlanta originally and we never had sweet tea and I LOATHE it! Luzianne or Lipton. Only with lemon. And none of those fruity teas. I get cranky if I'm at a fast food joint and they have only that raspberry gack.

                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          Sir! or perhaps Madam! You will surrender your southerners membership card this instant!

                                                          1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                            That would be "ma'am" to you, suh. Perhaps my family was sweet enough as it was :)

                                                      2. Some of my favorites for iced tea:

                                                        Harney's Tropical Green
                                                        Harney's Passionfruit (comes in decaf, too)

                                                        Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf's (limited edition, sorry) Lavender Mint Green or any of their herbal or fruit infusions...I wish they were local to me, I love this place:

                                                        Teavana carries a wide variety of fruit-based tea blends, perfect for icing:

                                                          1. I actually think that the proper solution to the sweet tea issue is simple syrup at the table. Southerners, generally, make it sweet while it is warm so that the sugar dissolves. Nothing is worse than trying to dissolve sugar into iced tea! Simple syrup would correct this problem.

                                                            I'm just too lazy to make the simple syrup.

                                                            Let this stand as a lesson to all those restaurants out there that provide sugar packets at the table... provide simple syrup!

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                              I am a Californian raised on Lipton, but I have to say that Luzianne tops the list for iced tea. Specially formulated for iced tea, it rarely turns cloudy. It was a tad hard to find in So Cal, but now I live in South Carolina, and it's everywhere- even in drive-thru fast food places (and the person in the box actually speaks English! but that's another story.) I've heard, but not sure, that you should not leave your bags/loose tea steep for more than 3 minutes- it will be bitter. I like it sweetened- while still warm- but I prefer the Demerara sugar - has a slightly caramel-ey taste. Also the Southern method of adding mint leaves and lemon wedges to the boiling water makes for a nice change. I think the best restauarnt-made iced tea is made by Atlanta Bread Company, a Souther chain restaurant- they use Luzianne. I don't like any of these new-fangled flavored teas- unless it is natural peach or a hint of lemon.` If I had to make a choice other than Luzianne, it would be Republic of Tea black tea, or Tazo black tea as served by Starbuck's. My generation likes herbal tea, but I think it is disgusting! Lipton is good for hot tea. The other off-brands at the grocery stores seem to be lacking something...don't know what. Maybe someone can answer this for me- I haven't been to California since 1999- I heard a rumor that sweet tea is catching on there. Is that true? When I lived there, they looked at you funny if you ordered sweet tea, and then would point to the sugar on the table. The sugar didn't melt till the end of the meal. I am as fussy about tea as my husband is about coffee (roasts his own beans:-)

                                                              1. re: kdsexton

                                                                kdsexton: "...Luzianne tops the list for iced tea. Specially formulated for iced tea, it rarely turns cloudy. It was a tad hard to find..."

                                                                You sold me. I drink iced tea all day, every day. Also, I found out Luzianne is available on Amazon Subscription for $12.96 for 4 boxes of 100 teabags.


                                                                1. re: Jay F

                                                                  In the Los Angeles area Walmart has Luzianne iced tea bags (regular and decaf).

                                                                  1. re: monku

                                                                    Alas, I live in Pittsburgh, not LA. Though I lived there once, in Santa Monica.

                                                                    1. re: Jay F

                                                                      I figured if anyone is near a Walmart they all must stock Luzianne.

                                                                      You're not missing much....the mornings have been in the 40's here lately.

                                                            2. I've been trying some of Lipton's Cold Brew family sized tea bags for iced tea this summer. Adequate, but not as good as hot brewed (I like chai or earl/lady grey as well as pekoe). No difference between Lipton's suggested cold water method or putting it out in the sunlight. I had some rooibos bags sitting around, and added one or two of these and it did seem to spice it up a bit. I would recommend the cold brew only if you really need to make some in a hurry.

                                                              1. I'm a bit of an iced tea fanatic. For regular iced tea it's lipton brewed extra strong with a huge handful of fresh mint from the garden thrown in at brew-time. I drink that straight up, no lemon and absolutely no sugar ever near my iced tea.

                                                                My recent favorite is yamamotoyama genmai-cha. I am not sure I'll ever be able to go back to black tea again.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: jencounter

                                                                  LOVE the yamamotoyama genmai-cha! i discovered it at Mitsuwa about 6 or 7 years ago, and only drank it hot in the beginning, but one day i decided to pour it over ice...wow. i just had some yesterday :)

                                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                    I have always enjoyed it hot, but never thought to ice it. I tried iced genmai-cha at Coffee Bean a couple of months ago and have been hooked ever since. It's almost like food, isn't it? It's just so good. I'm so glad found a deal online because I could not stomach paying over $5 for 20 tea bags at Galleria Market.

                                                                2. Try Market spice tea from Pikes market Seattle, it makes the best hot tea on a cold day, and ice it for the summer. If you like a orangy lemony flavor. It can be ordered on the web, a good xmas drink for sure, with a little red wine, to give the German mulled wine affect, Merry Xmas Canadian ideas, BARB

                                                                  1. Green tea - which I actually dislike hot - is my favorite iced; I generally have a pitcher of it in the fridge at all times in hot weather. Nice because in addition to being very refreshing it is so beneficial for health. I'm impressed by all the support for Luzienne, which I've never heard of, and am curious to try it, but is it good unsweetened, too? I do not like sweetened iced tea.

                                                                    1. Luzianne and Red Rose are my favourites for Iced Tea. I think there are a few little underlying steps in the procedure for making a good iced tea though. I like fairly strong tea in general, so I set the timer for 4 minutes, and step about 8 or 9 bags of tea in about 2 cups of water, then add the remaining cool water. Also, being careful about not squishing the tea bags is a big thing for me. Oh, those nasty tannins! Although, if I do forget and over-steep the tea, a pinch of baking soda usually does the trick, takes away the bitterness.

                                                                      1. After having China Mist iced tea at a restaurant I ordered their teabags online. They come only in a large size teabag that makes half a gallon and they have teas specially for iced tea. See details on their website. I think it's extraordinary. No, moderator, I don't work for them.