Perfect Ice Tea

Homemade Iced Tea

  • 6 to 8 tea bags
  • 1 quart hot water (4 cups)
  • 1 quart cold water (4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup sugar or 1/4 cup honey, optional

Iced tea is one of those delicious flavors that just makes the summer time seem worth while. It has all of the caffeine of soda pop, but with none of the artificial bubbly junk that feeds nameless corporations and their ilk. Iced Tea is natural, honest, and infinitely cheap. If your tastes run towards the exotic, and away from caffeine, then try your favorite herbal tea on ice. Brisk and refreshing, it will open up new avenues of beverage exploration.

Pitcher of Ice TeaGet out a 2-quart size sauce pan. Put the hot water in it and bring it to a boil. Add the tea bags. Remove the pan from the heat, and allow it to steep for 10 minutes. No more, no less. Set the timer. If the tea sits for too long, it will extract bitter elements from the tea leaves, making the finished product taste horrible. If it doesn’t sit long enough, it won’t be strong enough to give you the caffeine jolt which iced tea was designed for. When the time is up, remove the tea bags and blithesomely toss them into the garbage, they have served their purpose. Put the cold water into a 2-quart size pitcher. Pour the hot tea into the pitcher, over top of the cold water. You put the cold water in first, because the hot tea could melt the pitcher, seeing as it is so hot. The cold water acts as a buffer, and cools the tea. Add the sugar or honey if you like, stirring to dissolve it completely. Put the pitcher into the fridge to cool. Or it can be poured directly into an ice filled cup.

I like iced tea strong, so I use 8 tea bags. I buy the boxes of 100 tagless tea bags, usually a store brand, for about $1 a box. This makes 2 quarts of tea at a cost of 8¢! I don’t add sugar to mine, preferring it unsweetened. But that is a personal choice, and lots of folks like it with added sugar. The nicest thing about this recipe is that it makes perfect iced tea every single time.

If you liked this recipe, take a look at my ginger tea mix. It’s another frugal drink recipe from my extensive collection.

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Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Nana - June 6, 2012

I don’t wan tto rain on anyone’s parade , but if you do a web search there are a multitude of sites which warn against making sun tea as it grows bacteria. The tea is never boiled and the addition of sugar make sa perfect medium for growing bacteria. You may have been doing this for years without problem, but even one stomach upset would not be worth using this method.

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    Sarah - June 14, 2012

    Fortunately, this recipe isn’t for sun tea.

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    Sherri - December 7, 2012

    Which is probably why this recipe says to boil the water. I’m not sure who’s parade you wanted to rain on…

    Reply
    yvonne - December 24, 2012

    Great advice Nana about why i’ll never consider making sun tea again. I usually boil my tea and the results are always a hit or miss. Since trying the homemade ice tea recipe, it comes out perfect each time!

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    Truth Teller - May 17, 2015

    Why don’t you consider reading the recipe before commenting on it? You probably ran from site to site to site cutting and pasting your oh-so-profound insights about sun tea without bothering to see if anyone was even making sun tea. What a supremely lonely life you must lead to have that much time on your hands!

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      PAT - May 17, 2015

      My goodness, there are some really perfect people in this world….Yes, she probably posted to the wrong site, but, did she really deserve that kind of a tongue lashing??? I wonder who it is that has too much time on their hands….KINDNESS, can go a long way…Try it sometime…I mean for real, what she said isn’t cause for such hatefulness….Just sayin…

      Reply
        Chris - July 23, 2015

        im with you Pat….. People are so quick to jump on others.

        Reply
      SaraJ - July 16, 2015

      Wow, you are so incredibly rude!

      Reply
    shirley Barnett - November 7, 2015

    Thank You Nana, I never really thought about something like that thank you for sharing with us.

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William Sander - June 12, 2012

Does the steeping time change if you mix a gallon at a time and also do you steep the tea covered or uncovered?

sounds interesting….thanks

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    Mary Forster - November 18, 2012

    Can sugar be added to hot water before mixing with cold water? And does it need to be covered while steeping?

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      Sherri - December 7, 2012

      I make this every week and I always add the spar to the hot water and tea bags to steep and I don’t cover it.

      Reply
    Barbara - November 10, 2015

    The two quarts of boiled water are for a gallon of finished ice tea, after the two quarts of cold water are added to the 2 quarts of steeped tea. I would be interested to know if someone too has tried making more than one gallon of finished product at a time. So far I have only made one recipe (1 gallon finished product) at a time. I will try it next time I have guests coming, and let you know if a double recipe works, when I make it for a large crowd.

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    Barbara - November 10, 2015

    I make it a gallon at a time, and use the same steep time as a single batch; and it’s always come out great!! YIKES, I replied to another post here about multiple batches and said I had never tried to make multiple batches at once. I have since the beginning, come to find out. I have used 16 teabags and made a gallon, a half gallon would be gone in a flash in our house. I have steeped it as the recipe calls for, but then I stir it after removing the teabags, to ensure an even mixture. I hope this helps, and I am sorry to the other poster for getting my response wrong to her. I can’t find her post to give her a second reply to correct the other reply.

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Kath Balestrieri - June 16, 2012

No wonder I’m amped all the time ~ my “sweet tea” recipe goes like this:

I boil a quart of water in a RevereWare saucepan. When boiling, turn the heat off, drop in 5 Family sized Lipton tea bags and cover the saucepan. Let it sit 5-6 hours.

Pour the concentrated tea into a gallon sized pitcher. Stir in 1 cup of sugar until dissolved. Add water to make one gallon; refrigerate.

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    Lisa - July 5, 2012

    FIVE family size bags???? Yep, that’s a lot of caffeine! I use 2 family size bags (decaf), and I put a pinch of baking soda in the hot tea to keep it form being bitter.

    Reply
      Lisa - July 5, 2012

      Oops, forgot to say that is for making a gallon of tea.

      Reply
    loving the life - September 28, 2013

    My mom taught to make ice tea in a Revere ware saucepan. She said that is the “only way” to get great tasting tea. thanks for a good memory!

    Reply
Dan Michau - June 29, 2012

Tried this recipe today, as written, for an alternative to the dry mixes and bottled stuff (various brands) from the supermarket.

EXCELLENT! Fast, simple, extremely low cost, and so superior to the pre-made commercial products!

Many many thanks.

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    Steph T. - June 30, 2012

    Oh good! I’m making this now. I have been spending $2.71 on a large iced tea each morning from Dunkin Donuts and it seems such a waste! Glad to hear this is delish! It will save me $704 a year. Can you believe that??? CRAZY!!!

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      Kimmie - May 15, 2013

      I’m an addict as well of the DD black tea blend and would love to make my own. I asked a few months ago at Dd if they sold their tea. I was told “no.” Then last week they displayed 4 boxes which I tried to buy, but there was no barcode. I just now went online to purchase it direct and only the green tea was available. Apparently the black tea regular and the black tea decaf are “out of stock.” Going to check the site everyday until it’s in stock again.

      Ah, so frustrating!!!

      Reply
Jan - July 7, 2012

I am using this recipe right now – making it with Earl Grey Cream Tea. We served it at one of our kids’ rehearsal dinners and it was a definite hit – many asking where I got the recipe! :)

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scarlet13 - July 22, 2012

Many thanks for this recipe I’ve been looking on how to make iced tea without the bitterness that can upset anyone stomach! Its amazing and have saved this recipe! Mmm so good on hot days and great to bring to outdoor events!!

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Cynthia Waite - July 24, 2012

Good and simple!

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Jennie - July 27, 2012

Thank you for this quick, easy recipe! I use decaf green tea – my fave – since I can’t have caffeine while breastfeeding. There’s a big pitcher of yummy iced tea in my fridge now, waiting for my hubby, kids & I to enjoy whenever we want! Great recipe!

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Nana - July 27, 2012

Bitter tea is from brewing black tea too long or squeezing the teabags over the hot tea and/or pouring the hot tea over ice. Use a timer to steep black tea 6 minutes, toss the bags into the sink and pour the hot tea into a pitcher of refrigerated water. Mix and now you can pour over ice.

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Rick F - August 12, 2012

You make a classic mistake. If you are making sweet tea, you must–absolutely must–dissolve the sugar in the hot tea before mixing it with the cool water.

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Steve S - August 15, 2012

I make classic black iced tea by cold brew or hot brew method using ArtOfTea.com iced tea pouches. Each pouch makes a half gallon. Yum!

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Sarah - September 17, 2012

I made this but unfortunately it didn’t turn out too good, I’ve never made it before, let alone even drank iced tea! haha but I’m thinking I either didn’t make it strong enough to my likings of tea or I added too much sugar… hehe

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Maryellen - April 11, 2013

I found tagless teabags only one time in my life and have been looking for them ever since. Anyone know the name of the brand or where to buy them?

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    stella - May 16, 2013

    Tetely makes teabags without tags. they are little round pouches.
    You can get them at walmart

    Reply
Katelyn - April 15, 2013

I made this yesterday. Instead of using sugar, I used Agave Nectar. Served each with a slice of lemon. Absolutely delicious!

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Karen - June 6, 2013

I made this today! I did everything it said exactly except I used 14 packets of Splenda instead of sugar (and my tea bags were decaf)…. EXCELLENT!!!!!! So happy I found this recipe!!!!!!! With 7 kids I will probably make a gallon of this per day all summer!!!!!

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    Chris - July 23, 2015

    Be careful not to use too much Agave Nectar….. My specialists at the Mayo Clinic said it “deranges liver function”! (It contains a high content of fructose)
    Research it….a little is ok, but he recommended I don’t use it at all…..

    Reply
      Chris - July 23, 2015

      Sorry, that post was for katelyn!

      Karen—please research the dangers of using Splenda before giving it to your children! It’s said it has more in common with DDT than with food!
      Check out Stevia as an alternative

      Reply
Harriet - July 13, 2013

I made this a few weeks ago, but for some reason it was just too weak :( . I used a brand name and used 8 bags. Today I bought a box of the tagless bags (National Cup is the brand name I bought at Walmart), and I used 10 bags. Also, the way I sweetened it is very easy – I made a simple syrup, which is just equal parts sugar to water, boiled and then simmered for one to two minutes (till all the sugar dissolves). That way you don’t ever have sugar crunching between your teeth, or have to keep stirring and stirring. They call it simple syrup for a reason, and I made it a wee bit more sugar to the ratio than half.

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JAMES R. - August 23, 2013

This recipe is how I make tea now….
someone asked about when to add the sugar.
What I do, is I add the sugar before adding any water…
What I mean is, I put the tea bags in the pitcher, followed by 1 cup of sugar, then I wait for the water to run through the coffee maker(no coffee, just water), then I pour the hot water in the pitcher, let it steep for 1 hour, lastly I remove the tea bags, & add cold water to fill the 1 gallon pitcher. The tea bags I use, are regular sized tea bags…8 of them.

It must be good, because I have not had any complaints yet, 8 )

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Lillian - September 18, 2013

I make lots of ice tea. I make one big container with sugar for my grandson and I and one big one for my husband with Stevia sweetener since he has to limit sugar. I love to make the old fashioned brewed tea that I grew up with in the South but I feel like I am spending all my time just keeping it going as we drink it so fast. So I began to use the Cold Brew tea bags that you find in most stores now. There are at least two different brands. I just fill my glass containers with cold water, stir in my sweetener or sugar and throw in a bag or two depending on how strong one likes it. These bags are family size. It is handy since there is no boiling. My husband doesn’t like to put ice cubes in lukewarm tea, preferring his to be completely chilled before he drinks it. Be careful that you don’t confuse Cold brew bags with another type called Iced Tea bags. I used to make Sun Tea years ago in florida. I had never considered the bacteria angle. I can see how that might happen.

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Jim - December 22, 2013

Regardless of any nuances around steeping time, covering while steeping etc., just follow Hillbilly Housewife’s recipe for this tea and you will indeed achieve amazing iced tea at incredibly minimal expense. I make it by the gallon following her recipe. Awesome, simple, effective formula – Thank you Hillbilly Housewife!

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Karen - December 30, 2013

I followed your recipe exactly and it turned out wonderfully! I had been considering buying an iced tea maker, but they are pricey and from previous experience, hard to clean. Was so glad I googled the recipe and found yours! And it is so much quicker than an iced tea maker too! Love it! Thanks!

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Kirk Buckner - February 8, 2014

How many family tea bags do i use to make 3.68 quarts of tea. Oh and how many cups of water do i use.

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    desert verdin - April 2, 2014

    @Kirk:

    You yourself would use 3.68 family teabags and 14.72 cups of water.

    Reply
Lorraine - October 11, 2014

Perfect iced tea. Made exactly as written. Just moved to the South and needed to learn how to make homemade iced tea. This is it. Thanks hillbilly housewife!

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Dawn - November 5, 2014

Can you use herbal teas with this recipe???

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    Hillbilly Housewife - November 12, 2014

    Of course. I grew up on iced peppermint tea instead of the traditional southern sweet tea.

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      Shelley - July 15, 2015

      Instead of peppermint tea, can I flavor this with mint leaves from my garden? If so, how much mint do you recommend? Thanks!

      Reply
        Hillbilly Housewife - July 20, 2015

        I would start with a handful of fresh mint leaves and tweak it from there. If it doesn’t come out minty enough for your taste, add more the next go around.

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Linda lee - November 15, 2014

I have been making homemade ice tea for years. I recently moved and suddenly I have entered the ice tea challenge. I never changed my brewing method but my tea went from crystal clear to muddy sludge. Tasted ok just looked disgusting. After a few googles I realized my new stove was boiling at a much higher temperature. That solved I still cannot get the tea back to the original strength, I like my tea very strong, it usually looks like strong coffee. I am using 5 family size tea bags and 5 to 6 regular size Lipton Black tea. I boil for apprx. 10 min and let sit until cool enough to mix or overnight. This week tea phenomenon only started after I moved. I did try bottled water and the outcome was the same. Anyone have any idea what I am doing to my tea. I would appreciate the help I have turned this cheap drink into one very expensive habit, I’ll soon be up to half a box per quart. Thank ypu

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    Jill - December 23, 2014

    I wish I knew the answer but mine did the same thing when I moved where there is stinky well water. I make the tea the same way every time and maybe 1 out of every 6 times I get a nice clear batch. So it is a mystery. I to like the tea strong and the best, no bitter way has been to buy Cracker Barrel family tea bags. I use the above recipe with 4 bags and it is nice and strong. I am pretty sure you can only get the tea bags at a CB but if you can find them, I think there were 20 in a box for $1.99.

    Good luck and if you figure it out, please come back and share.

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Rhonda Bowling - February 9, 2015

I love Ice Tea and drink it everyday unsweetened!

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Todd - March 10, 2015

Ice tea is my all time favorite. Unsweetened of course. I do not boil however. I use Reverse Osmosis “RO” Water &; cold brew tea bags. Perfection every time. :)

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d blake - March 19, 2015

This tea recipe has changed my life as well as my wife’s!
After years of drinking bottled sugary garbage we enjoy our own “healthy” tea.
We prefer Chinese green with a dash of agave nectar.
Thanks for posting this.

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Laurie - March 27, 2015

I add a 1/4 tsp baking soda. It cuts some of the bitterness and keeps your tea from clouding.

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Robyn - May 2, 2015

Thank you for the Iced Tea recipe. It came out perfect.

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Sonia - September 2, 2015

If you like your iced tea REALLY strong, where it’s practically black and opaque, try boiling 2 quarts of soft or filtered water, steep about 12 tea bags OVERNIGHT. Stir in one cup of sugar, it will NOT be bitter tasting, it might be if you don’t sweeten it, but I’m from the south where sweet tea prevails. Serve over ice with a wedge of lemon for a very refreshing any-time-of-the-year drink.

I’m not criticizing this recipe, it sounds delicious for those who prefer unsweetened tea or don’t like it super strong, I’m a unique one in that regard :)

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Joe - November 1, 2015

Thank you Hillbilly housewife for your excellent tea recipe.
I make a gallon at a time with honey and I will never go back to instant.

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Jessica - March 6, 2016

I never leave comments online, but I found this recipe and it absolutely perfect so I just had to say thank you. Thank you so much.

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Tim - March 13, 2016

To all who jumped on the sun tea lady:
Bwahahaha! You all are real jerks!!! To the hillbilly housewife: I enjoyed this tea. Thanks!

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gen - April 5, 2016

I don’t know if it’s a southern thing, but a pinch of baking soda does help with bitterness. I too make a simple syrup, but I don’t add it to the jug of fresh brewed tea. This way company can have their tea unsweetened, or spoon enough of the simple syrup in to get the sweetness they like. To each their own, and no sugar crystals left at the bottom of the glass – people don’t have to keep adding more sweetener because the syrup blends right in.

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Robert - April 13, 2016

Instead of boiling the water I just throw 6 regular tea bags and a sliced up lemon with no sugar in a gallon pitcher of water and put it in the frig overnight mine turns out great. Mom’s diabetic. I drink it with her been doing it for years.

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