How To Tell If Your Iced Tea Has Gone Bad

There's nothing like a refreshing glass of iced tea. Whether you prefer yours with lemon or sweetened, as it's served down south, iced tea is a beverage enjoyed by people in every part of the country. It's inexpensive and refreshing, and there are so many ways to change the flavor profile, from the type of tea you use to what you add to it.

According to What's Cooking America, iced tea first became popular around the time the first ice box was invented in the early 19th century; the United States has had a love affair with iced tea ever since.

In its purest form, iced tea has only two ingredients: water and tea. Because it contains two simple ingredients, you may think iced tea will last forever, but nothing could be further from the truth. Here's what to look for if you think your tea might have spoiled, as well as how you can prevent it from happening next time.

Pay attention to the smell and taste

Mary Hunt from Everyday Cheapskate has some advice on what you should look for to see if brewed iced tea has gone bad. If the tea has mold, or if its aroma, appearance, or taste has changed, it's time to discard it. Those could be signs of bacterial contamination.

Intentional Hospitality adds that freshly brewed iced tea should be kept in the fridge for no more than three days. Brewing small batches is the best way to avoid getting sick. If you're entertaining, you can keep iced tea at room temperature for up to eight hours, but leaving it out for longer than that can create the perfect environment for bacteria to flourish, notes Lacademie.

To make iced tea last as long as possible — and to prevent foodborne illnesses — it's crucial to thoroughly clean the vessel in which you brew your iced tea. Bacteria can be present inside the container, and urns with a dispenser spigot should be avoided, as they can be difficult to clean.

Cold brew for the win

What could be easier than filling a clear container with water, adding tea bags, and setting it outside to let the sun do its thing? While many people love making sun tea this way in the summer, there are some hidden dangers associated with brewing tea using this method. Brewing tea in the sun can create a breeding ground for bacteria, explains Food Safety News. This is disappointing for sun tea aficionados, but don't worry — there's a solution.

According to Mary Hunt from Everyday Cheapskate, there's a safer way to brew iced tea, and it's just as easy. Hunt recommends cold-brewing your tea in the fridge overnight to avoid contamination. Not only does it keep the bacteria at bay, but it can also improve your health if you're a white or green tea drinker. An Italian study found that cold-brewing is the ideal way to protect white and green tea's health-boosting but heat-sensitive properties (via

Following these guidelines will ensure that your tea stays pure, delicious, and free of harmful bacteria.