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15 Most Refreshing Iced Teas for Summer 2021

three cups of iced tea with green and white striped straws

The sun is shining, little bits of green are already starting to peek through in our upstate gardens, and the days are getting longer and warmer...  This of course has us thinking about what iced teas we're going to be enjoying at home, on the lake, and at our Tea Bar this summer!

There's nothing more refreshing than an ice cold glass of cold brewed tea on a hot summer's day, and we're going to share a few of the best teas for making iced tea based on customer reviews and our experience of how well they brew. 

Whether you are looking for an invigorating boost of morning caffeine or a refreshing afternoon thirst-quencher, our favorite teas and caffeine-free herbal tisanes for making iced tea are sure to be a hit with you and yours. 

The Best Iced Teas for Summer

Since taste is a rather subjective measure, we are organizing our best iced teas by category and caffeine content rather than a ranking system. But stick around to the end of the article to find out what our most-requested, number one best iced tea is according to our CommuniTEA!

Best Iced Green Teas

Matcha

A wonderfully vibrant and brisk green tea made from powdered green tea leaves, Matcha is a highly caffeinated and invigorating drink - especially iced! Shake your matcha in a cocktail shaker with ice, water, and a little Mango Honey simple syrup for a delightfully tropical start to your morning!

Long Jing

One of the most famous Chinese green teas, the lightly vegetal and sweetly nutty character of Long Jing green tea makes for a refreshingly light iced green tea. We recommend pairing this delightful iced Chinese green tea with Peach Honey to make a luscious and thirst-quenching peach tea.

Kukicha

Bright and sweet, Kukicha cold brews to a brilliant lime green and has just as much lively character as its color would suggest. One of our absolute favorites iced, Kukicha pairs well with our fruit infused honeys (but we think it's best enjoyed plain)!

Best Iced Black Teas

Darjeeling

Darjeeling has long been one of the world's most popular black teas for a reason: it's absolutely delicious and extremely versatile! Well-balanced tannins with notes of malt and dried fruit make Darjeeling the perfect answer to both cold winter mornings and hot summer afternoons. We love how our Darjeeling cold brews to perfection for an excellently balanced iced black tea. Pair with local Wildflower Honey for sweet tea sippin' and front porch sittin'. 

Keemun Mao Feng

Keemun Mao Feng is probably the most-brewed iced black tea on our Tea Bar menu here at our Saratoga Springs flagship store. The lovely and mellow notes of sweet potato and chocolate give way to even tannins, making Mao Feng the perfect choice for iced black tea - whether you plan to brew it cold or hot. We recommend our Mao Feng without honey, but sweet tea lovers will enjoy Tupelo Honey in this delightfully balanced black iced tea.

Best Iced Oolong Tea

Da Hong Pao

One of our more oxidized rock oolongs, Da Hong Pao has excellent character iced. Brisk and rustic enough for the tannins to come through even cold-brewed, we love the rugged quality of this oolong for beating back the heat of summer. If you're enjoying your Da Hong Pao hot in the morning, brew your second or third steep extra long and then cool down for a refreshing iced treat in the afternoon!

Get Started on Iced Tea Season with our Good Libations Iced Tea Sampler....

Best Flavored Iced Teas

Blueberry Bumble

Lightly fruity and perfectly refreshing, this blueberry scented white tea is a makes an excellent afternoon pick-me-up or way to cool down at Fourth-of-July BBQs. Cold brew this tea for best results and enjoy a berry iced tea that's uniquely satisfying. We recommend this blueberry tea with our Lemon Tree Honey for a light and refreshing afternoon drink. 

Moroccan Mint

Nothing quenches thirst quite like a mint green tea on a hot, steamy day. The refreshing combination of invigorating mint and energizing green tea is sure to cut through any heat-induced stupor and get you going for a fun afternoon in the sun. Pair our Moroccan Mint green tea with Wildflower Honey for a sweet but refreshing pairing.

One Night in Rio

Sipping this gorgeous combination of black tea, pineapple, and coconut will transport you immediately to white sand beaches and crystal blue waters. We recommend adding a splash of Mango Honey for extra tropical vibes and think this iced tea pairs particularly well with rum for adult drinks!

Strawberry Fields

Fruity drinks have a particularly thirst-quenching quality, and iced Strawberry Fields is no exception. Delightfully light, Strawberry Fields is a refreshing blend of berries, green, and white teas. We recommend cold brewing this tea and serving lightly sweetened with Lemon Tree Honey.

Best Caffeine-Free Iced Teas

Blood Orange Hibiscus

Citrusy blood orange and tart hibiscus combine with stevia in this caffeine-free tea to make a naturally sweet and refreshing iced tea. Blood Orange Hibiscus is one of our favorite recommendations for iced tea because its sweet-tart flavor profile makes for a particularly satisfying glass. Brew this tea hot and then cool overnight in the refrigerator before straining for best results. Pair with Lemon Tree Honey for extra sweetness.

Crimson Berry

Even in winter, this sweet-tart combination of ripe berries and hibiscus is popular iced at our tea bar. A particularly refreshing combination of black currants, cranberries, elderberries, and hibiscus, our Crimson Berry is reminiscent of some Teavana faves. Brew this herbal tisane hot and cool in the refrigerator for several hours before straining for best results. Our CommuniTEA loves Crimson Berry plain with Mango or Wildflower Honey or shaken with Matcha for a berry-kick.

Fountain of Youth

On the other end of the caffeine-free spectrum we have this turmeric, black pepper, and cinnamon tisane that will appeal to black tea and coffee drinkers looking for a way to quench their summer thirst without caffeine. Wonderfully spicy and revitalizing, you'll definitely want this anti-inflammatory tisane in your summer rotation. Brew this herbal tisane hot and cool overnight in the refirgerator. Pair with Ghost Pepper Honey for a surprising, extra kick!

La Provençale

Named for southern France's famous lavender fields, La Provençale is a gorgeous blend of lavender, mint, rosemary and other herbs that will immediately transport you to summer in the French countryside. Brew this herbal tisane cold and steep overnight in the refrigerator. Shake your iced La Provençale with Matcha and Lavender Honey for a CommuniTEA favorite: the French Matcha.

Spirit of Life

A refreshing combination of grapefruit, apple, and spices, Spirit of Life is one of those fruity teas that will appeal to almost all palates. Invigorating spice from the cinnamon and cardamom will win over lovers of black tea and coffee while the grapefruit and apple appeal to lovers of bright fruit flavors. Brew this herbal tisane hot and steep overnight for best results. Pair with Orange Blossom Honey for a little extra sweetness. 

The Number 1 Iced Tea in Saratoga

iced matcha green tea in a mason jar being presented on a tray

Have you guessed which one of these iced teas is consistently considered the best in Saratoga by popular demand? If you guessed either Matcha or Crimson Berry, you'd be right! Iced Matchas are hands-down our most popular iced caffeinated drink and weeks without Crimson Berry on the menu have been known to inspire an increase in submissions to our suggestions email. 

Crimson Berry + Matcha

That said, lots of teas make excellent iced teas - even those that didn't make our short list. Learn how to cold brew iced tea below and let us know your favorite iced tea on Instagram or Facebook - or in person the next time you're in our Saratoga Springs store!

How to Cold Brew Iced Tea

We find that cold brewing makes the best iced tea when you are brewing traditional teas in the green, black, white, or oolong families (yes, this includes scented or flavored teas with traditional tea bases). Many herbal tisanes, on the other hand, benefit from being started hot (though we do recommend letting them steep overnight as well). 

Ingredients:

12 grams of tea per 1 quart of water. 

Directions for Teas:

Steep 12 grams of tea per 1 quart of water in tap water overnight in the refrigerator (~12 hours). Strain in the morning (or after 12 hours) and enjoy within a week or two. 

Directions for Herbal Tisanes:

Steep 12 grams of tea per 1 quart of water in 205F hot water. Cool to room temperature and steep overnight in the refrigerator (~12 hours) before straining. 

Recommended Iced Tea Pitchers

two glass iced tea pitchers with infusers

We've made a lot of iced tea over the years and have finally decided on our two favorite pitchers for brewing iced tea at home. We love the Takeya 2 quart pitcher with infuser basket and the 64oz Mist Iced Tea Jug. Both are excellent for brewing iced tea at home, though they are perhaps for different audiences. 

While both pitchers are excellent quality and wonderful for brewing iced tea, we do recommend them for different purposes. The Takeya pitcher is a workhorse - we use these pitchers behind our tea bar and they are great for families where small hands pour glasses of tea and fridge space is limited. The Mist Jug is more elegant and refined, making a gorgeous addition to summer tablescapes and afternoons on the porch. 

 Image of three iced teas with the words "Buy Your Iced Tea Starter Kit"

Brewing to a Tea 🌱

Now that many of us are spending more time at home, we are also brewing tea at home more than before. Due to this, we have decided to take a closer look at the brewing process, and review the components that lead to a wonderful cup of tea. Things to keep in mind when brewing a perfect cup of tea include your water composition, temperature, steep time, water to leaf ratio, brew vessel, and the type of tea you are brewing. Together, these components perform a delicate dance that will bring you many great steeps. 

Tea is made up of many different chemical components. Acknowledging these will help us understand later how they are affected by things like water composition and temperature. 

These components include polyphenols, amino acids like L-theanine, enzymes, pigments, carbohydrates, alkaloids like caffeine, minerals and volatiles. Below is a closer look at some tea chemistry vocabulary.

Polyphenols: This is a category of compounds found in plants that are produced to defend the plant against things like ultraviolet radiation, parasites, and plant predators.

Flavonoids: These are the main type of polyphenols found in tea.

Tannins: A compound in the flavonoid group that contributes to the astringent taste of some teas, or the sensation of having a dry mouth when drinking some teas and wines. 

Flavonols: A class of flavonoids that includes catechins.

Catechins: A group of flavonols found in tea, including (-)-epicatechin (EC), (-)-epicatechin-3-gallate (ECG), (-)-epigallocatechin (EGC), and (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). These are the components of tea that are said to have health benefits.

Theaflavins: These form from catechins during the oxidation of tea leaves, and found more in oolong and black teas. 

A variety of aspects determine how much of each of these chemical components are found in tea leaves. These include where the tea was grown, environmental factors, the season it was harvested, effects of pests and disease, and the process the leaves went through once picked.  For example, black tea is more oxidized than green tea. Oxidization, or the browning of the tea leaves when cell walls are broken and polyphenols hit oxygen, is a process done to some tea leaves once they are picked in order to achieve a certain flavor profile. Oxidation will lead to more theaflavins in black tea because polyphenols are converted into new compounds. Japanese shade grown teas are another example of tea producers manipulating the plant in order to produce more of a certain chemical component that will help the tea achieve a desired flavor profile. Shade grown teas are covered because the sun turns amino acids into polyphenols. Amino acids such as L-theanine are responsible for some of the broth like, umami flavor profiles in tea. Therefore, tea producers and growers seeking a tea with umami characteristics such as a Japanese Sencha green tea will cover the tea plants to shade them from the sun, preserving the amino acids.

Gyokuro Shizuoka

The combination of naturally occurring chemical components in tea plants, and the chemical changes that occur to tea when processed all contribute to all of the complex flavors we get out of a cup of tea. These chemical compounds are responsible for the aromas and tastes found in each unique tea and tea category. Generally speaking, teas within the same categories will have similar taste profiles due to being processed in similar ways. The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea describes these flavor profiles as follows. White and Chinese green teas are light in body, Japanese greens are thicker and brothy, oolongs coat your mouth with a milky or creamy sensation, and black teas are thicker and astringent. 

These chemical components, found in different amounts in dry tea leaf categories based on place of origin, harvest season, and processing, will further react and change once introduced to water. The cup of tea that you drink is 98% water, and only 2% compounds diffused into water. Therefore, the quality of water you use when brewing tea will have an impact on the overall taste of your tea. Water that is too high in certain minerals, such as limestone, calcium oxide, magnesium, led, and chlorine should be avoided. Water too high in minerals can taste tinny and metallic. The amount of theaflavins, catechins, and caffeine extracted in tea can be impacted if your water is too high in certain minerals, such as calcium oxide. This can weaken positive flavor profiles produced by these chemical components of tea, such as sweetness or umami. High levels of magnesium and calcium oxide can also result in limescale buildup, surface film, or tea scum to form in your kettle or your cup of tea. Too little minerals in your water may also negatively impact the taste of your cup of tea, leaving it too dull. A water free from any harsh tastes or odors, a balanced mineral content, and a neutral PH level around 7 is ideal. 

Lu Yu, a tea scholar who wrote The Classic of Tea during the Tang dynasty, suggested the best water to brew tea in is water from a mountain stream or spring in the same region the tea was produced. He said the leaves will reveal their true nature when in contact with the water they drank during their lifetime. Obviously, this is unachievable to the everyday tea drinker brewing from home. We are lucky, however, to have a variety of natural mineral springs right in our backyard. The State Seal Spring, located on the Avenue of the Pines in Saratoga Spa State Park, is often regarded as one of the springs with the best balance of minerals and PH levels. At Saratoga Tea & Honey, we use natural spring water gathered from the State Park for tea tasting occasions, such as the Aged Tea classes. 

Water temperature is also an important component of tea brewing. Each tea category, due to levels of chemical components and processing, has a recommended brew temperature guideline. These are as follows, in Fahrenheit. 


White, Spring Teas, Shade Grown Green: 160-170

Green: 160-180

Oolong: 180-200

Black:  190-212

Aged Tea:  212 


The chemical  composition of a cup of tea steeped at different temperatures will vary, sometimes greatly, and so will its taste. An increase in water temperature increases the kinetic energy of the water molecules, making them dissolve molecules in tea more easily. Different chemical components of tea leaves are more or less soluble at different temperatures. Water that is too hot for some delicate teas can dissolve chemical components like tannins and catechins too quickly, resulting in a negative bitter taste. Green tea tends to have more tannins than other types of tea, which is why it can turn more bitter than other teas when steeped in water too hot. Water that is too hot can also destroy or burn the desirable chemical compounds in tea that contribute to flavor. On the other hand, when tea is brewed in water that is too cold, with not enough kinetic energy, chemical compounds cannot dissolve properly, and tea will have less flavor complexity. Bringing water to a full boil and waiting for it to cool may not always be the best way to ensure your water is at the right temperature for your tea, since when water is boiled and cooled, oxygen is removed. This can have a negative effect on the flavor of your water. Keeping track of water temperature can be done with a variable temperature electric kettle, or a thermometer. 

Time is also an important factor in brewing tea. Through osmotic diffusion, compounds on the surface and within the interior walls of tea leaves will diffuse into water, until the concentration of compounds in the leaves reach an equilibrium with the compounds in the water. Different chemical components of tea enter the water at different rates. Ones that are responsible for the aroma of tea tend to be the first, with caffeine, pigments, and tannins needing more time to diffuse. The trick to brewing a great cup of tea is to balance the right temperature of water with the right amount of brewing time to get all of the desired chemical compounds and components to diffuse into your water, without over-diffusing and creating negative flavors. If you increase the temperature of your water, try decreasing the time you steep your tea leaves. If you increase the time you steep your leaves, try decreasing the water temperature. Play around until you find the best combination to reach the desired flavors you want out of your tea leaves.

There are a few more factors that go into steeping your tea, including how much tea to use. Ideally, you would want to weigh the amount of tea in order to keep things consistent. We recommend about 2 grams of tea per 8 ounces of water, or one rounded teaspoon. How dense or airy your tea leaves are can change this ratio, so always experiment until you find the amount that fits your personal preference. The benefit of brewing whole leaf loose teas, in comparison to tea bags, is an increase in resteepability. The high ratio of leaf to water means there is a lot of flavor to be extracted from the leaves over multiple infusions. When given space to spread out in hot water, the tea leaf can rehydrate fully and chemical compounds can diffuse into your water over time. Broken, small pieces of tea leaves, often referred to as tea dust, diffuse their chemical compounds that make up flavor very quickly, and can’t be resteeped as many times. More nuanced, layered, and delicate flavors are also more prevalent in loose leaf teas. The brew vessel is also an important component of brewing the perfect cup of tea. Your vessel should allow your tea leaves enough space to spread out in the hot water. Preheating your brew vessel is another trick to ensuring you are steeping your tea leaves at an appropriate temperature. When water hits an unheated brew vessel, the temperature can drop significantly. There are many different vessels to choose from, ranging from traditional to more modern. Choose what works for you!

The final chemical composition of the cup of tea you consume is a result of these many factors. The long journey the tea leaves make from the plant to your cup makes these steps to a perfect steep well worth it when the result is a beautiful complexity of flavors. Feel free to experiment with the water used, steep time, temperature, amount of tea, and brew vessel until you find the perfect combination that works for you and your unique taste buds. We wish you many joyful steeps!

 

Endnotes:

1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/polyphenols
Tea and taste - Exploring Everyday Chemistry
2. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/tannins-in-tea#basics
3. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2018/9105261/
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4276998/
5. The science of tea
6. Chemical Compounds in Tea
7. Gascoyne, Marchand, Desharnais. Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties.
8.  The Influence of Water Composition on Flavor and Nutrient Extraction in Green and Black Tea
9.  Heiss, Mary Lou and Robert. The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide.
10. Kinetics of Steeping Tea – World of Tea
11. Does Water Temperature Change Tea?
12. Tea Brewing Water Temperature Guide
13. Kinetics of Steeping Tea – World of Tea
14. TEA DYNAMICS: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE STEEP TEA?

The Perfect Pumpkin Spice Latté

Nothing says fall in the US these days quite like Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Our chai tea latte answer to the espresso-based PSL, you will love how this fragrant and cozy latte warms you up! 

Full of all the usual warming chai spices (think cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and black pepper), our Pumpkin Pie Spice Chai adds even more spicy fall goodness with extra pumpkin pie spices! Sweeten the pot with our Pumpkin Pie Spice Honey, and every PSL lover in your life will never want to go to Starbucks again. 

Pumpkin Spice Chai Latté

How to Make Pumpkin Spice Chai Lattes at Home

Ingredients:

5 tsp Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea

3 c water 

c milk of your choice

2 Tblsp Cinnamon Infused Honey, or more to taste!

Procedure:

1.  Heat water in a small saucepan until in reaches a boil.  Add in the tea and simmer at low heat for 5-10 minutes.

2. Add in the milk on low heat until it has warmed with the tea, about 5 minutes. Stir in honey and then gently strain into mugs or strain and store in the fridge for later reheating!

Our Pumpkin Spice Latté serves 2-3 people.  We love this easy stove-top preparation of chai because it fills the air with the fragrant scent of fall!

If you're planning to serve this latte in the afternoon/evening, but wondering how much caffeine is in chai, head on over to our page about caffeine in chai to learn more about the history of chai and how caffeine levels may differ between various types. 

How to Cold Brew Tea

Cold brewing your tea leaves is the easiest method for consistent, delicious results. All it takes is a bit of foresight to plan an eight hour brew!  We love to start our pitcher in the evening so by morning we have a ready to drink tea that will last up to 5 days, if kept refrigerated.

 

Cold Brew Iced Tea at Home

 

From glass to BPA free plastic, shop our pitchers with brew baskets, here!