Two tall mugs of perfect iced tea

How to Make Perfect Iced Tea

The only thing more comforting than a big, tall glass of iced tea on a hot summer day is knowing how to make that perfect iced tea yourself. With confidence and for just pennies per serving.


Two jars of perfect, refreshing ice tea sitting on a wood table

Proper Iced Tea

My dear mother-in-law, a very proper Canadian, taught me the difference between proper iced tea and the “swill” most restaurants pour, which in her opinion was, at best, a very poor facsimile. And trust me, she knew her stuff—including the six rules for proper iced tea:

Rule 1

Use plenty of tea. The flavor of tea served cold is not as intense as when served hot. That means it must be brewed stronger, so use more tea bags. Use two tea bags for every 3 cups of water.

Rule 2

Do not oversteep. Allowing tea to oversteep releases the tannins in the tea, which can make it bitter. If you want it weaker, reduce the steeping time, not the number of tea bags.

Rule 3

Cool first. Once you remove the tea bags, allow to cool before you pour it over ice but do not put it in the refrigerator to cool. Doing so will make your tea cloudy.

Rule 4

Do not add sugar to ice cold tea. If you prefer your tea sweet, add the sugar to the hot water so it dissovles first before introducing ice. If your guests prefer to sweeten after the ice is added, provide Simple Syrup rather than granulated sugar.

To make simple syrup, combine 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup boiling water in a large measuring cup. Whisk until clear and the sugar is dissolved. Makes 1 1/2 cups simple syrup.

Rule 5

Keep it real. Only use real, fresh squeezed lemon juice from fresh lemons for the very best outcome.

Rule 6

Make it fresh. Iced tea tastes best when it is freshly made. Make only what you will drink in two or three days and keep it covered in the refrigerator.

How to

The basic method for making proper iced tea:

  • Boil cold water. If your tap water is highly chlorinated, use filtered or bottled water. The amount depends on how much tea you’re making.
  • Turn off the heat and add the tea bags.
  • Steep tea. Pour the correct amount of boiling water over the tea bags (3 cups for every 2 teabags). Cover. Allow to steep for 3 to 5 minutes maxium.
  • Remove tea bags, or strain if you used loose tea.
  • Add sugar to taste, optional.
  • Cool. On the counter. Once cooled, cover and refrigerate.

To use

  • Fill a glass, mug or jar with fresh ice.
  • Pour cold, prepared tea over the  ice.
  • Add slices of fresh lemon, if desired.
  • Enjoy!

Southern Sweet Tea

I’m a northerner, as was my mother-in-law, so of course we thought the difference between iced tea and sweet tea was about 2 cups of sugar. And endless stirring to get that sugar to dissolve, which as you may know is nearly impossible.

Yes, that’s what I thought until I met food blogger extraordinaire, Wendi Spraker. Wow! I had no idea there was a specific method and recipe for Southern Sweet Tea. But there is, and trust me on this: Wendi is the authority on authentic southern cooking and she’s telling her secrets at

According to Wendi, “There is NOTHING more comforting than a big tall glass of my mama’s southern sweet tea. It tastes EXACTLY like home….”

  • Heat 2 quarts fresh cold water in a medium pan on the stove top.
  • When the water is near simmer, turn the heat off.
  • Add 1 cup of sugar and stir until dissolved.
  • Add 4 regular-size tea bags (or 1 gallon-size tea bag) to the water and place the lid on the sauce pan.
  • Allow to come to room temperature.
  • Remove the tea bags and gently squeeze to remove any remaining tea. Or strain loose tea. Discard tea bags.
  • Pour the tea concentrate into a gallon size tea pitcher and add 2 quarts of fresh, cool water.
  • Serve over a full glass of ice.


You will want to use the best quality tea that you can afford, advises Wendi. She prefers Luzianne or Lipton.

Use the BEST water you can for your tea. If you are using tap water, Wendi says to pour it from the tap the day before you make the tea and let it sit. This allows some of the chlorine to expel from the water

Never  boil the water with the tea bag in it. You want the hot water to steep the tea from the leaves. Boiling is far too rough.

Look for gallon-size tea bags (sometimes called family size). This allows you to use a single tea bag in this recipe instead of 4 little ones.

Wendi’s Pro Tip

Sugar is a highly variable taste for most people. If you have people in your family who prefer more or less sugar, I suggest leaving the sugar out altogether and making Simple Syrup instead. Then your family can add the amount of Simple Syrup they prefer to their own beverage.

Wendi’s Simple Syrup

Heat equal amounts of water and granulated sugar in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Refrigerate for up to 30 days.

This post originally appeared on the pages of Everyday Cheapskate on 6-30-19. 

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8 replies
  1. NF says:

    My friend makes the best iced tea using a coffee maker and tea bags(she opens the tea bags into the filter). I think she uses just plain tap water. I cannot duplicate and it is the best. I can even drink it unsweetened.

    • John Baber says:

      Hi Kristin, I add Baking soda as well but it is to counteract the acidity of the tea, keeps it smooth tasting and not bitter 🙂

  2. Gina Stevens says:

    You’re a mind-reader, Mary! I was getting ready to make iced tea for this hot summer day. I never knew refrigerating hot tea made it cloudy! Thanks for always being there!

  3. Connie Roberson says:

    I use a Capresso Iced tea maker, it is easy to use and ready to pour from the glass pitcher when it cools, I do not add ice to mine, I use ten tea bags (Lipton) and I also use bottled water. This makes very clear tea. The book has recipes for various other teas.

  4. chuck says:

    We go through tea way too fast to make just a little bit so I make concentrated sweet tea. 6 gallons fits in a half gallon jar. I use a large pinch of baking soda to counteract the acidity.


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