Iced tea is a great summer beverage option.

Iced tea has long been a summertime favorite for outdoor events, barbecues and picnics. It’s even known as the “house wine of the south.” Depending on what part of North America you are in, iced tea may be sugar sweetened or not. In many restaurants in Canada and the northeastern United States, sweet tea is unheard of. The further south you go, the more likely it is that sweet tea is the default, although both are widely available.

Tea comes in many varieties and flavors and this can be a great starting point for a variety of iced tea beverages. Fruit, herbs, spices, sweeteners and even alcohol are blended into tea for unique drinks and house blends.

At home, Canadians tend to prefer sweetened iced tea, but it’s generally made from instant powder rather than brewed from bags or leaves the way it is in the U.S.  All around the globe there are different versions of iced tea, from cold black tea with lemon, to cold herbal teas, or even teas with fruit infusions or different syrups for sweetness and flavor. Once you have found an iced tea you enjoy there is always an opportunity to dress it up, or enjoy it in a new way.

Good tea is the key! Black, green, herbal and fruit teas all have unique flavors and there are several different blends and ways to make the tea portion of your Iced tea.  Black teas tend to be a bit more dry or bitter to the taste, green teas have earthy undertones, herbal and fruit infusions take on the flavor profiles of the herbs or fruits used in the teas and are often blended with either a black or green tea base. White teas and red teas (rooibos) are becoming more common and also come in a range of fruit and herbal flavors.

When you’re making your iced tea, think about what kind of tea you enjoy, or what flavors you enjoy. If you can, visit a local tea shop and do some taste testing — most hot teas make fantastic iced teas.

Keep in mind that tea, no matter which version you enjoy, takes on the flavors and odours of stronger scents, so if you are brewing or storing your tea bags, be aware of what is around them. Herbs, candy, fruit and vegetables can all affect your tea if stored too close – no one wants onion-flavored iced tea!

If you are making iced tea from real loose or bagged tea, it will require time brewing and cooling.  Brew your tea as per the directions on the package if you purchase tea bags. If using loose-leaf tea, invest in a good tea infuser/tea ball or a strainer with a very fine mesh. One tea bag will generally produce 1 to 2 cups of tea, depending on your preferred strength. Start with 1 teabag per cup of water. For loose-leaf, start with 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of tea to 1cup of water.

When it comes to adding flavors to your tea, think about what you enjoy and then play with your iced tea.  If you’re adding flavors to your tea such as fruits and herbs, consider dropping them in when the tea is steeping and hot to extract the flavor, then remove them and add fresh after the tea has cooled.

Tea is a relatively cheap beverage choice, which makes it easy to play with and an economical option for community association gatherings and summer block parties. Iced tea is perfect for hot weather, so enjoy your summer and invent some new fun and fresh iced tea ideas.  Try the ideas below!

Iced tea beverages are economical and versatile

Basic Iced Tea

6 Cups Water, boiling
6 Teabags of any tea you like (Black, Green, Herbal)
Combine the 6 cups of boiling water and the 6 tea bags and let steep for 4 minutes.  Remove the tea bags and put the tea in the fridge to cool.  Serve over ice.

Sweet Tea

6 Cups Water, boiling
6 Teabags of whatever flavor tea you normally enjoy (Black, Green, Herbal)
1 Cup Sugar (see below for sugar substitutes and measurements)

Combine the 6 cups of boiling water, the 6 tea bags and let it steep about 4 minutes, then add in the sugar and stir until dissolved.  Put the pitcher in the fridge and let it cool, serve over ice.

Sugar Substitutes and Measurements:

1 Cup of White Sugar =   ¾ Cup Honey or ¾ Cup Maple Syrup or 2/3 Cup Agave or 1 Tsp of Stevia

Sweet Tea “Sangria”
6 Cups Sweet Tea
1 Bottle White Wine (Try Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Ehrenfelser or Chardonnay)
1 Cup Orange juice
Sliced peaches, strawberries, pineapple, starfruit, watermelon, raspberries, blueberries, orange, lemons, limes

Blend wine with tea and orange juice in a large container. Stir in fruit. Let steep at least 4 hours for the flavors to meld. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Serve over ice.

Ginger, Lemongrass, Chamomile Iced Tea
6 Cups Water
1 thumb-size piece of ginger root, peeled and cut into large chunks
6-8 Stalk Lemongrass, washed and diced (Available at most supermarkets in the produce section, or at your local Asian grocery)
6-8 Chamomile tea bags, or 8 Tablespoons of dry chamomile flowers

In a large pot on the stove, combine, water, lemongrass and ginger. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Add tea or chamomile flowers and let steep for about 15 to 20 minutes. Strain into a large pitcher and put in the fridge to cool, for unsweetened iced tea. For sweeter tea, add ¾ cup honey and stir well before placing in the refrigerator. This a great iced tea for upset tummies or pregnant women (without the honey) and can aid digestion after a heavy or rich meal.

Southern Comfort Iced Tea for a Crowd (also really good as a warm tea in the winter)
3 lemons, washed
2 cups water
1 large cinnamon stick
8 black tea bags
1 ½ cups sugar or equivalent amount of honey, agave syrup or stevia
2 cups Southern Comfort
4 cups ice cubes

Using a vegetable peeler, remove strips of lemon zest from 1 lemon. Juice the lemons. Measure out ¾ cup.

In a large pot, combine the lemon juice, rind (without pith), water, cinnamon and tea and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat. Stir in sugar or substitute and Southern comfort.  Strain. Pour into a large pitcher over ice and stir to partially melt the ice.  Serve over ice with a slice of fresh lemon.

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