The Best Tea for Iced Tea
On a hot day, there's nothing better than relaxing in the shade with a refreshing homemade iced tea. Making iced tea is simple and fast, but how is it different to cold brew? Should you add a sweetener? And which is the best iced tea base?
In this article, we're exploring the best tea types you can use to make iced tea including several high caffeine tea flavors from Zest Tea.
Why Iced Tea is So Great
75 to 80% of all tea consumed in America is iced - that's over 63 billion servings of iced tea per year. This is nothing new - iced teas have only been growing in popularity since 1904 and we are the only country in the world that consumes the majority of tea beverages cold rather than hot.1
Iced tea is easy to make, convenient to buy pre-made, and there are unlimited flavors to enjoy, most of which are very sweet. It's easy to see why iced tea is so popular.
How to Make Iced Teas
Creating iced tea is fairly simple. You first need to brew your chosen tea bags or loose leaf tea, add a sweetener or other optional ingredients, then pour it over ice cubes to create a delicious glass of iced tea.
We have a helpful Guide to Making Tea Like a Pro with detailed instructions, including water to tea ratios and timings. With iced teas, it's best to brew your tea strong as it will be diluted by cold water from the melting ice!
Black Tea is the Best Tea for Iced Tea
Most iced tea brands offer a black sweet tea. This is by far the most widely consumed tea type by tea drinkers, whether you like a cold brew tea, iced tea, or hot tea. On a hot summer day, a chilled cup of lemon black tea is a real treat.
Just like coffee, an iced black tea with milk or cream is also popular. Thai milk tea and boba are other iced tea types that are typically made with black tea and dairy - you can read about these teas in our article covering Thai Tea.
Black tea also compliments a wide range of flavors. Classic Southern iced tea is usually made with lemon and honey. Other popular flavorings include peach, mint (especially with green tea) and summer fruits such as strawberries. Furthermore, black tea is one of the easiest teas to brew at home if you wish to ice your own tea. Simply pour boiling water over the tea and let it steep before chilling it.
While black tea comes with numerous health benefits when consumed, iced black tea can sometimes be a different story. This is due to the high sugar content of iced teas, which may be more detrimental to your health.
If you want to drink iced tea for your health, then it's best to choose a sugar free type.
Zest Black Tea
If you want an unsweetened iced tea that still tastes sweet and is made with highly caffeinated tea, then Zest Tea is the perfect choice. Our tea leaves are boosted with additional tea extract and natural ingredients, for a plant-powered energy boost and refreshing taste.
- Earl Grey - a classic and one of our customer's favorite teas. The bergamot and black tea blend makes a great iced tea, as the slightly drying citrus flavor is very refreshing and bright. It tastes great without milk.
- Cinnamon Apple - usually thought of as our go-to fall flavor combination, Cinnamon Apple is great for pouring over ice cubes too. It's naturally sweet with real apple pieces and cinnamon chips amidst the black tea. Serve as an iced black tea with lemon, or turn it into a milky Thai sweetened tea.
- Blue Lady - our top choice for cold brewing and iced teas! It has that perfect combination of sweet, tart and juicy notes from the citrus fruits, hibiscus and passion fruit. The taste is delicate and goes well with a teaspoon of sugar.
The flavor from real brewed tea is fresher than pre-made and bottled iced tea. You have more control over the ingredients, the strength of the brew, and the sweetness. You can find all of these Zest Tea flavors and more available as loose tea or tea bags.
5 Other Good Iced Tea Types
Black tea is popular, but don't dismiss these other tea types that taste great iced. You can learn more about the different types of tea (and their caffeine content) in this article at Zest Tea.
Both green teas and white teas can have a bitter taste when they're hot brewed with boiling water. Brewing them at 80° reduces this, producing a smoother and sweeter cup. Green tea is also a great tea to ice if you want to enjoy those smooth and naturally sweet grassy flavors.
Iced green tea with mint is especially popular, and you can add some honey or lemon too.
Green tea typically has less caffeine than black tea... unless you opt for one of our high caffeine energy teas at Zest Tea. Superberry Samba makes a mean green iced tea.
Fruit tea is naturally sweet and provides a range of vitamins that have their own unique health benefits, whether you use a caffeinated tea base or not. Lemon slices are a popular additive for iced tea, but you can use any fruit you like.
The tart juicy flavor of hibiscus tea is a great choice for a cold drink (although it's technically made from flowers rather than fruits) with a generous teaspoon of cane sugar.
Citrus fruits and berries tend to be most popular, along with stone fruits such as peach.
Just like green tea, the brewing method for matcha is best at a lower temperature rather than a full boil. Matcha is made by whisking the powdered tea leaves into hot water. You could also whisk it into ice water, but as you'll be pouring the matcha over ice anyway it's not essential.
Iced matcha, with or without milk, creates a refreshing glass of medium-high caffeine tea. A shot of simple syrup or spoonful of fruit works well with iced matcha too.
It's like black tea, but caffeine-free. That's the best way to sum up the rounded, full-bodied and sometimes malty unique flavor of rooibos tea. There are many different teas that are classified as herbal, but rooibos is one of the best teas if you need to stay away from caffeine but love your usual iced black tea.
When iced, rooibos can have a nutty or medicinal flavor. Just like black tea, it's great with lemon and/or honey.
Mint is another herbal tea that's popular iced. Most varieties of mint are naturally sweet, from the cold and sharp flavor of peppermint to the softer and earthier flavor of spearmint. It's a great choice for a sugar-free cold tea as a result. Mint iced tea can be made with dried mint teabags, or with fresh mint leaves.
You can also pair mint with caffeinated tea types as a way to boost the sweetness and refreshing sensation. It's a key non-GMO ingredient in our Pomegranate Mojito blend.
Loose Leaf Tea or Tea Bags?
When it comes to brewing iced tea, it makes little difference whether you use tea bags or loose tea leaves. It's purely down to your personal preference.
Tea bags tend to brew quicker, while loose leaf tea offers you more flexibility with your leaf to water ratio. Sometimes you'll find that the tea within tea bags is a lower quality compared to loose leaf. At Zest Tea, however, we use the exact same black tea leaves in our pyramid sachets as our loose leaf pouches.
Whichever you choose, you can still create a great iced sweet tea.
An Easier Option - Zest Sparkling Teas
Adding bubbles to our teas didn't add more flavor, but it certainly made them extra refreshing. At Zest Tea, we currently have 6 sparkling iced tea flavors. They're formulated with natural ingredients and our high caffeine tea, to create a beverage that's vegan, non-GMO, plant-based, keto-friendly, gluten-free, and paleo-friendly.
When you've got a craving for iced tea, all you need to do is crack open a can.
For a sugar-free glass of iced tea, choose:
- Blackberry Lime - a tangy and energizing flavor.
- Blood Orange Mango - sweet and so juicy.
- Cucumber Melon - chill vibes on another level.
Or one of our classic fan-favorite flavors:
- Passionfruit Berry - the berry tea you love but with bubbles.
- Pomegranate Mint - our most refreshing sparkling tea.
- Sweet Chai Infusion - a spiced tea, but cold (it really works).
Sip the entire collection of ready-to-drink high caffeine sparkling teas.
What kind of tea is used for iced tea?
Black tea is used most often for creating iced tea, however you can brew any tea you like and add ice to create an iced tea.
What teas are best to drink cold?
Black and green teas taste great cold, but they also taste pretty great hot as well. It's down to personal preference on what you think is the best flavor. In general, fruit teas and tea blends with fruit flavors work particularly well as sweet iced tea.
What tea does Zest Tea use?
We use high quality tea leaves sourced from India and China for our tea blends. You'll find South Indian Flowery Orange Pekoe (FOP) black tea and Young Hyson Chinese green tea in our best-selling blends.
Can you make iced tea with tea bags?
Yes, you can! Brew your tea bags or loose leaf as normal, then pour over ice. Read our Guide to Making Tea to learn more.
How long should I steep tea for iced tea?
As a general rule, you should brew your tea slightly longer than usual if you plan to ice it. By pouring your tea over ice, you'll dilute it slightly with the melting cold water. Add a minute or two to your usual steeping time. Furthermore, as we recently explored on the blog, cold temperatures can suppress sweet flavors so brewing for longer can help the sweet taste shine through when it's iced.
Is iced tea bad for you?
No, plain iced tea is actually great for your health. You'll be enjoying all the health benefits associated with a cup of tea, but cold instead of hot. The problem is really sweetened iced tea. The pre-bottled kind is usually full of sugar and only contains a small amount of real brewed tea - the rest is flavoring.2
The best way to ensure that your iced tea is good for you is to brew it yourself. Alternatively, you can carefully check the ingredients labels of pre-made iced teas available to buy. Compare your usual sugary iced tea to Zest's cans of sparkling iced tea, for example.
Is iced tea better than iced coffee?
Both tea and coffee have unique health benefits and will energize you with caffeine - just select sugar-free brews. We prefer tea to coffee as it's a source of L-Theanine and many antioxidants that are great for focus and productivity as well as health.
Where can I find sugar free iced tea?
Your kitchen! Brewing iced tea at home is simple and can be made with any tea type you like. For a more convenient option, you can also buy Zest Sparkling Energy Teas. We ship across the US.
How to sweeten iced tea?
You can add any sweetener you like to your tea. For sweeteners that need to dissolve into the liquid (cane sugar, for example) it's best to add them while the tea is hot. Liquid sweeteners (honey, for example) will dissolve fairly easily in cold iced tea with a good stir.
To learn about the different sweeteners you can add to tea (including some zero calorie sweeteners) read our article How to Sweeten Tea.