The most important thing in making the perfect tea, whether iced or hot, is using a high-quality tea. But that doesn’t mean you should go for the green-raspberry-mango mumbo jumbo teas you like in the winter. "Just because a tea is more expensive doesn’t mean it will make the best iced tea," says DeCandia. "High-end, specialty and delicate teas are meant to be consumed hot, which allows you to savor the special aspects and flavors of the tea leaves." So stick with your basic black or green tea for iced tea — and save the expensive blended teas for when the weather gets cold. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pick a tea that packs a big flavor, like a rooibos tea. Because heat intensifies flavor, a tea that’s brewed normally and chilled will make for a refreshing iced tea.
The real debate is whether to use loose-leaf tea or tea bags. Loose-leaf, or "broken" tea, imparts more flavor than a tea bag, but there’s no wrong answer. "Loose tea is not necessarily better than a tea bag," says DeCandia. If you do use a tea bag, he says, look for a tea bag that’s large enough to accommodate the tea leaves when they expand.
It’s the same concept for making iced coffee — your drink, whether coffee or tea, will take on the flavor of your water if it isn’t filtered. Then, heat up your water to just below boiling point, at 195 degrees Celsius.
A good standard to follow is 1 level teaspoon of loose-leaf tea to every 8 ounces of cold filtered water," DeCandia says. "If using a tea bag, one bag is proportional to 16 ounces of liquid."
Once you’ve brewed your tea with just boiling water, stick it in the fridge to chill for a few hours. And if you’re really feeling fancy, pour some tea into your ice cube trays. Iced coffee needs coffee ice cubes, and iced tea needs tea ice cubes — amazing.
No, not like Frank’s "sun tea" on 30 Rock — sun-brewed tea is when you put tea leaves in water and let it sit in the sun to brew, rather than brewing with hot water. But sun-brewed tea doesn’t allow enough heat in to properly infuse the tea leaves, says DeCandia. "The end product may look dark, but actually has little flavor and will require sugar and lemon to brighten and sharpen the drink," DeCandia says. "Properly brewed teas will have a clear, consistent color, lots of flavor, and won’t need any add-ins." Another reason to avoid sun-brewing tea? The sun-brewing process can also attract a lot of bacteria — almost as gross as Frank’s "sun tea."