5 expert tips to make the best, healthiest iced tea

Baby, it’s hot outside. And a perfect drink to cool down is a frosty glass of iced tea. Plus, as Joyce Hendley reported in a recent issue of EatingWell Magazine, studies show if you drink tea regularly, you may reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and diabetes, plus have healthier teeth and gums and stronger bones. How? Tea is rich in antioxidants called flavonoids, which are most potent when tea is freshly brewed.

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Another benefit of brewing your own iced tea? When you make your own iced tea at home instead of using a powdered mix or buying it bottled or from a fast-food restaurant or coffee shop, you’ll save money. Plus you can control the calories by limiting how much sweetener you add (or by not adding any at all).

Hendley talked to co-owner and tea sommelier at New York City’s Tavalon who recommended these 5 tips for making perfect iced tea.

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HOW TO MAKE THE BEST ICED TEA

1. Use fresh tea. Look for fresh tea at a tearoom or a market with high turnover, because the oils that give teas their flavor break down over time. Opt for loose tea rather than tea bags, as tea leaves need room to expand to release their flavors. If you use tea bags, look for larger ones shaped like pyramids, which give the leaves more room to bloom. Look for brands that list the region where the tea comes from so you know exactly what you’re getting.

2. Start with spring or filtered tap water. Mineral water contains too many minerals that can create off-flavors when they come in contact with compounds in the tea leaves, and mineral-free distilled water produces a flat-tasting brew.

3. Turn up (or down) the heat. Use boiling water (212°F) to brew black, herbal and darker-colored oolong teas. But use cooler water (170° to 180°F) to brew green, white and lighter oolongs teas. Brewing teas that need cooler temps with boiling water can result in bitter or astringent flavors.

4. Use just enough tea. Use 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons per cup of water when brewing teas with bigger leaves or flowers, like green tea or chamomile, and 1 teaspoon per cup for teas with denser, compact leaves, such as most black teas. If you want to make iced tea and don’t have time for the tea to cool down, brew it double-strength to compensate for the resulting water from melting ice cubes. Or cool it to room temperature and refrigerate until cold.

5. Steep long enough to release flavors, but not so long that tannins and other bitter-tasting compounds dominate. Heartier teas, like black teas and darker oolongs, should steep for 3 to 5 minutes, while green, white and lighter oolong teas need just 2 to 3 minutes. Herbal tisanes and infusions have fewer tannins, so there’s less risk of oversteeping.

Tea Health Tip: Regardless of the variety of tea you brew, maximize the power of its flavonoids by drinking it freshly brewed. If you want to keep a batch of cold tea in your refrigerator, “add a little lemon juice,” recommends Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston. The citric acid and vitamin C in that squeeze of lemon—or lime or orange—help preserve the flavonoids.

What’s your favorite tea for iced tea: green, black or herbal?

Carolyn Malcoun combines her love of food and writing in her position as contributing food editor at EatingWell. Carolyn has a culinary arts degree from New England Culinary Institute and a degree in journalism from University of Wisconsin—Madison. Carolyn lives in Portland, Maine, and enjoys cooking, gardening, hiking and running in her free time.


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