Summer is just around the corner, and nothing says summer quite like a tall pitcher of iced tea set alongside ice cubes gently clinking in glasses. Whether you like yours southern-sweet with a hefty splash of sugar syrup, or with a lemon tang; cold-brew or hot, you can’t deny that a beautiful iced tea set really brings out the best of this classic drink.
What is Iced Tea?
Iced tea, as the name implies, is cold tea served in a glass, poured over ice. Any kind of tea can be used as the base for iced tea, but black tea is the most common choice. The tea may be sweetened with sugar, or, as sugar won’t fully dissolve in cold water, with sugar syrup, which is sugar mixed with hot water and allowed to cool.
Fruit is a popular addition to iced tea, and can really change the flavor profile. Lemon is a popular choice, making for a fresh, zingy drink on a hot day. Peach, raspberry, strawberry, orange, cherry, lime, and passion fruit are also firm favorites – check out our recipe for a bellini peach raspberry iced tea for your new go-to favorite.
What’s the Best Way To Make Iced Tea?
The best way to make iced tea is down to personal choice. There are two main ways to make it: hot brew, and cold brew.
Hot brew: Hot brew iced tea is made by brewing tea in hot water – in other words, the usual way – and then allowing the tea to cool. Hot brew iced tea tends to pack more of a flavor punch, but can overpower delicate flavors. It can also result in a bitter tea if left to steep for too long. On the plus side it is quick to make, so is perfect for when unexpected guests drop by.
Cold brew: Cold brew tea is made by allowing the tea to steep in cold water for at least a few hours. Some teas can take up to three days to properly infuse in cold water. Consequently, this method is more suitable when planning ahead (or if you just like to have a pitcher of cold tea in the refrigerator all summer). The upside is that the slower steeping method allows for a more gentle, subtle flavor profile to emerge from the tea.
Once you have your tea, it’s time to add sweeteners and flavors. As mentioned above, sugar and honey, another favorite sweetener, won’t fully dissolve in cold water, although you can add them to hot brew tea before it cools. For a cold brew tea, or to allow each of your guests to sweeten to taste, make up a batch of syrup by heating sugar or honey in hot water until dissolved, then allowing the mixture to cool. Maple syrup, agave, superfine sugar and most natural sweetners will dissolve right into the cold tea.
Flavors can be added in a variety of ways.
- Squeezing fresh citrus fruit juice directly into your batch of tea will result in a lively, fresh drink.
- Allowing a spring of herbs like rosemary, basil or thyme to steep along with the tea will lend a more herby, earthy flavor – and makes a nice garnish when serving the drink.
- Fruit chunks invoke memories of sangria drunk on a beach, and will also lend their sweetness to your iced tea. Try peach, strawberry, watermelon or pineapple – or even a fruit cocktail mixture.
Iff iced tea is a firm favorite in your household, why not treat yourself to purpose-made iced tea ware, for both making and serving beautifully fresh, crisp iced teas?
Iced Tea Makers
Best for Brewing For the Family:
Able to withstand temperatures from -20 to 300°F, this glass pitcher by Hiware is ideal for both brewing and serving iced tea to your guests. Made from lead-free borosilicate glass, you can even place the pitcher directly onto your hob to boil water. Once your tea has cooled, store it safely in your fridge for serving without having to decant your brew. The pitcher is designed with a wide neck to make adding fruit and other ingredients easy, and also comes with a built-in filter to stop the tea leaves and other ingredients from falling into glasses when serving.
- Material: lead-free borosilicate glass
- Capacity: 68 oz
- Dimensions: 5.5″ W x 9.5″ H
Best for Brewing For Guests
Just like the Hiware pitcher, Artcome’s heat resistant glass carafe is made from borosilicate glass which can withstand temperatures from -20 to 300°F, allowing you to use it directly on the stove to boil water for hot brew tea, then transfer to the fridge when cooled. It also includes a metal filter to sieve out tea and fruit pieces However, Artcome’s pitcher is more elegantly designed with a rounded profile, making it the perfect choice when expecting guests.
- Material: lead-free borosilicate glass
- Capacity: 65oz
- Dimensions: 5.1” W x 9” H
Best for storing horizontally
Fridge space a little tight? Look no further than the SnapPour pitcher by Pratico. The innovative design of this pitcher means that you can store a full pitcher of iced tea lying on its side with no spills or drips – perfect for cold brewing. Simply unlock the lid mechanism with your thumb to pour, then slide it closed again to lock in the liquid. Made from a heat-resistant plastic, you can also pour boiling water directly into the pitcher.
- Material: heat resistant BPA-free SAN plastic
- Capacity: 102 oz
- Dimensions: 6.5” W x 4.1” D x 11.5” H
Best for Iced Tea On-the-Go
Iced tea isn’t only for long afternoons in the garden; thanks to the caffeine content, it’s a great drink to take with you to the gym, on a hike, or even just to work for your lunch break. Invest in one of these cute glass infuser bottles from Pure Zen and you’ll never have to be without iced tea again. Simply load up the infuser with loose leaves, fill the cylinder with ice and water, and off you go.
- Material: double-walled borosilicate glass and stainless steel
- Capacity: 13oz
- Comes with a neoprene travel sleeve
Best High-End Tea Maker
Real tea connoisseurs will love this tea maker, and not just for your iced teas. The Breville Tea Maker is the ultimate device for anyone who LoveLoves tea. The water temperature can be set at increments of 5°C, with pre-programmed settings for black, white, green, oolong, and herbal teas, and another for the strength of the tea: mild, medium or strong. The infusion basket automatically lowers when the temperature is precisely right, and the water can be kept hot for up to an hour after first brewing. Good iced tea starts with good tea, and it doesn’t come much better than this.
- Material: German glass and stainless steel
- Capacity: 51 oz
- Dimensions: 8.6″ W x 8.4″ D x 10.1″ H
Glasses and iced tea sets
Best Country Style:
Nothing says ‘country living’ quite like a Mason jar, and now you can get a whole set of them just for your iced teas. The pitcher’s wide mouth allows plenty of space for ice-cubes, fruit and other garnishes, while the sturdy handle allows for ease of carrying and pouring. Match with the four 16oz mugs, add a straw to each, and you have a picture-perfect slice of Americana.
- Material: Glass with embossed design
- Capacity (pitcher): 64oz
- Dimensions (pitcher): 8.07” W x 14.57” H
Best Contemporary design:
Designed by Tomas Kral and cut from clear lead-free crystal, this show-stopping set will bring a touch of class to any intimate garden or patio setting. Nude takes an artisanal approach to the creation of its glassware; each piece is hand-made by master craftsmen, delivering bold lines and statement pieces.
- Material: Crystal
- Capacity (pitcher): 33.75oz
- Dimensions (pitcher): 4.31” W x 11.01” H
Best Vintage Style
Those who prefer a vintage look can’t go wrong with this set from Kingrol. The sturdy yet elegant pitcher is designed with a flat topped handle and tapered spout for ease of pouring, while the straight sides allow for easy stirring when mixing in fruit and other ingredients. The embossed pattern on both pitcher and glasses lends an air of elegance to any dinner party or informal gathering.
- Material: Clear glass
- Capacity (pitcher): 50oz
- Dimensions (pitcher): 4.87” W x 9” H
Best decorative glasses:
Whether sipping on a cold iced tea or indulging in a hot drink at the end of a day, these double-walled glasses are sure to make you smile. The inner wall is decorated with bright blue herons, colorful citrus fruit trees and delightful song-birds, whisking you away to a beautiful orchard paradise.
- Material: Double walled borosilicate glass
- Capacity: 15 oz
- Dimensions: 3.5″ W x 5″ H