June is National Iced Tea Month, and fittingly so, with temperatures heating up around the country. What’s more refreshing than an iced tea on a hot summer day?
With tea growing in popularity, arguably for the health benefits, as an alternative to coffee, or just because it tastes great, you can find bottled iced tea in every cafe, convenience store, and natural market. Fortunately, iced tea consumers have a lot more choices now than in past years when the only iced tea was tea as sweet as soda.
Though store-bought iced tea is certainly convenient, here’s why you might want to make your own iced tea.
1. It’s good for the environment.
When you make iced tea at home, whether in a mason jar, a pitcher, or a dedicated iced tea jug, you are most likely reusing the container. By contrast, all the bottles on the shelves have been manufactured, shipped for miles (often in a refrigerated truck), before being consumed and tossed out.
Plus if you use your own glass containers, you’re avoiding the estrogen-mimicking compounds found in disposable plastic bottles.
2. You’ll get less preservatives.
In order for store-bought iced tea to travel and stay on the shelves long enough to be purchased, preservatives are necessary (particularly for shelf-stable drinks). Most of these are fairly harmless, such ascorbic acid, but they don’t always lend the best flavor to the tea.
3. You control the sugar content.
While it is possible to find lightly sweetened or even on rare occasions unsweetened bottled iced tea, when you make it yourself, you know how much and what type of sweetener is in it. And if you’re drinking tea for health reasons, you probably don’t want added sugar, both for your waistline and because research suggests sugar reduces the antioxidant activity.
4. It’s richer in antioxidants.
Fresh or recently brewed tea is richer in antioxidants (the health-boosting compounds) than bottled teas. Over time, and with bottling and transport, the antioxidant density declines, making bottled tea less beneficial in this regard. For greater nutrient content, making iced tea yourself is a better choice.
5. You choose the variety or flavor.
Bottled teas primarily come in flavored black or green tea varieties. By contrast, high quality tea is available in white, green, oolong, black, pu-erh, herbal, blended, flavored, and unflavored. What’s more, when you make it at home, it’s a lot easier to combine various teas and herbs to make your own unique flavor combinations, or boost the antioxidant quantity by adding more tea.
You can also adjust how strong or weak your like your tea, or add your own fresh natural flavors such as fruit and berries, fresh herbs, or a few slices of cucumber or lime. Some popular combinations are black tea plus peach, green tea plus tropical fruits such as mango, white tea plus mint and lime, pu-erh or any tea plus fresh ginger, and any tea plus berries with herbs.
6. The flavor is better.
Bottled teas are standardized by their very nature, and with the use of preservatives and low quality tea, sometimes they don’t always taste the best. Besides doing your own mixing and flavoring, if you do a ‘cold brew’ version of your favorite teas, you’ll likely get a completely different taste profile compared to a hot steep. Cold brew iced tea typically lends more complexities and subtleties (with less bitterness) to the beverage than other means of making tea. You can sip and savor cold brewed high quality iced tea just like you would a chardonnay or a rose.
To make cold brew, use 1-1.5x the amount of tea you’d normally use per serving (eg 2 tea bags per 12-14 oz water) and top with room temperature water. Allow to steep in the fridge for two hours to overnight. You can play around with the timing and amount of tea used to find your preferred flavor profile.
I highly recommend you consider making your own iced tea–it’s better for you, it’s good for the environment, it’s much cheaper, and it tastes better, too!
Finally, it’s actually really easy to make iced tea at home. If you opt for cold brew mentioned above, all it takes is putting a container of water with tea in the fridge before bed.
It’s not impossible to do single-serve, either. I like to reuse glass jars and bottles, oftentimes making a different tea in each bottle. When I’m going out for the day, I fill my water bottle with 2/3rds iced tea and 1/3 water for a refreshing, but not overly caffeinated, beverage on-the-go.
Now it’s your turn to celebrate National Iced Tea Month and enjoy your favorite version of this refreshing summertime drink!