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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  1. Nana says

    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.

    • Sherri says

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

    • yvonne says

      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!

    • Truth Teller says

      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!

      • PAT says

        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…

  2. William Sander says

    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

  3. Kath Balestrieri says

    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.

    • Lisa says

      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.

    • loving the life says

      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!

  4. Dan Michau says

    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.

    • Steph T. says

      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!!!

      • Kimmie says

        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!!!

  5. Jan says

    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! :)

  6. scarlet13 says

    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!!

  7. Jennie says

    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!

  8. Nana says

    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.

  9. Rick F says

    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.

  10. Sarah says

    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

  11. Maryellen says

    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?

  12. Katelyn says

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

  13. Karen says

    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!!!!!

    • Chris says

      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…..

      • Chris says

        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

  14. Harriet says

    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.

  15. says

    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 )

  16. Lillian says

    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.

  17. Jim says

    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!

  18. Karen says

    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!

  19. Lorraine says

    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!

  20. Linda lee says

    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

    • Jill says

      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.

  21. Todd says

    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. :)

  22. d blake says

    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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