I've seen methods that call for different variations of boiling tea bags - throwing in ice cubes, soaking tea leaves overnight - refrigerate, slowly pouring the tea over a large chunk of ice after boiling loose leaf tea. It seems as if they all make sense, but I would like to see a technique that works well consistently - what are the pros and cons of these techniques and what works for the different varieties of tea: Bags, Loose Tea, Tea Leaves? I'm not concerned about levels of sugar ect. but the actual techniques involved to make the tea...
Growing up, we'd always make 'sun tea' -- you leave it in a warm place for ~8 hrs (we'd use a glass container in a south-facing window). If you forgot about it, and left it overnight, it was foul -- you start extracting some of the more difficult-to-extract substances in the tea that are very bitter. In the summer time, this could happen in under 16hrs.
So 48hrs seems a little too long to me, even if you were extracting at room temperature, unless that room was in a very cold climate. I'm not sure off hand if there are issues with leaving tea out for long periods, as there'd be with food.
Now, after having lived for a bit in the US southeast, when they talk about tea, it's almost always 'sweet tea', which is always made hot, as you can't get that much sugar to dissolve in cold water.
The general method for iced tea is to boil water, and use double the tea for the amount of water and steep it for twice as long. Once steeped, add an equal amount of ice, and the ice will water down the tea as it melts and cools it down. If you want to sweeten with sugar, do it while the tea is hot.
This is the fast method, as you'll have iced tea as quickly as you can cool it (an hour or so in the fridge).
Alternately, you can steep the tea overnight in cold water in the fridge, using a normal tea:water ratio. This is the slow way. :-) If you want to sweeten the tea, make a simple syrup and add it (sugar won't dissolve very well in cold water).
Whether you use loose leaf or bags is really up to you. Tea purists will always say that loose leaf is better, but bags will work fine if you don't have a refined tea palette. Fruity teas often make really good iced tea, even if you're not a fan of fruity hot tea.
This might be a little off from what you were originally looking for, but I believe you will find it relevant. :-)
I'm a lover of tea - hot and iced. As a kid my dad would make Sun Tea fairly often - and I always enjoyed it. A couple years ago I decided I wanted to start making teas to have around the house as my "goto" iced drink of choice.
I experimented with many different methods - but had difficulty finding something that was easy to execute and still produced an excellent result. Ultimately I discovered the Hamilton Beach Electric Iced Tea Maker - and I've been happy as a clam since.
I've found that for straight black tea I prefer the tried and true Lipton's. I use 4-6 bags at a time, and do not load any ice into the pitcher (the direction suggest filling the container with ice). Instead I run two full cycles of water through the tea maker and end up with a full pitcher. I add a little under 1/2 cup of sugar to sweeten the tea, and throw it in the fridge. Serve over ice as needed, and I couldn't be happier!
I make 3-10 pitchers of this tea a week - and everyone (that likes tea at least) seems to love it.
This past summer I bought the same tea maker for my dad - which he said he'd never use. Within a week he became completely dependent on it, and swears by it now - just like me. :-D
UPDATE (2016): I wrote this quite awhile ago, and when I went back to that link, the only sellers of the Hamilton Beach Ice Tea Maker on Amazon were asking over $100+ for it. That's a little insane; I had paid only $30 for the ones I bought. So if you end up purchasing an ice tea maker, you may want to consider another brand or model, as the model I used doesn't not seem to be available at a reasonable price. Happy drinking!
I find this to be a great technique for making iced tea:
1) Use double the amount of tea as you normally would for the water. I prefer simple black tea in bag form for iced tea. Loose tea seems a bit high end for iced tea.
2) Bring water close to but not boiling (seems to make the right amount of bitterness for my taste).
3) Steep tea for normal amount of time. Sweeten while hot (so sweetener dissolves) to taste
4) Here is my move... pack a stainless steel cocktail shaker full of ice. Pour hot tea into cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. You will be shocked how quickly the tea cools down.
5) Pack a tall pint glass full of ice. Pour tea from shaker into glass. Garnish with lemon. Sip. Think of easier times.
I have never been a fan of melting ice into hot drinks to cool them off. Maybe you've got some high quality ice machines with high turnover, but I know more often than not my ice carries a few tastes of its own along with it. When it's just residual melting in an already cool drink it's not noticeable, but when you've melted a quart of it the freezer taste tends to add up.
I start off like most of the answers here (brewed hot, twice as strong). Then, I use two big metal mixing bowls of roughly the same size: I put a bunch of ice in one of the bowls, put the other bowl on top of it, and then pour the hot tea into that top bowl. The metal transfers the heat to the ice (and surroundings) very quickly. After a few minutes, the top bowl will noticeably have sunk into the bottom bowl, indicating all the ice is now melted. Depending on how much tea was made, it might be cool enough, or it might require replacing the melted ice with some fresh ice.
This way you don't have to worry about bacteria since it'll only take about ten minutes, and you don't have to make room in your fridge for a boiling hot kettle (and the subsequent heating up of nearby foods and such).
The first thing to remember is that everyone has different taste in tea. The most important thing is to know what you want, especially as far as strength. With you goals and standards firmly in mind, experiment!
When experimenting, only change one thing at a time, and make everything as precisely consistent as you can.
As far as technique goes, we have found:
The water used can make a difference. I use filtered water, but some tea enthusiasts would say to use spring water. Tap water is an option, but only if it's drinkable (not hard or too heavily treated). The best drinking water I ever had was near Mount Shasta in northern California (glacier runoff) - I bet it would make great tea.
Use ice made from the same water, and make sure that it's reasonably fresh. Ice should add nothing to the flavor because when it does, it's always bad. If the ice is coming out bad, dump it and figure out why. Is it the water, trays, or freezer?
Use a glass container to mix and store the result. Make sure it's washed or at least thoroughly rinsed each time. We have a pitcher that we use just for iced tea, so it's easy for me to see if it has the right amount of water.
Steep time is critical. When you steep regular teas for longer than a few minutes, you get a stronger, more bitter flavor. Some people actually like their tea that way. I don't like mine that strong, so I stop steeping the tea after three to four minutes.
Different teas have different flavors. We use a blend with three different brands to get the flavor we want.
you tend to want to get more flavour into your iced tea because adding ice cubes will dilute that flavour, but if your preperation includes boiling water, steeping tea, and then cooling (so not sun tea), don't try to get more intensity into the tea by steeping or boiling for longer than is recommended; use more tea instead. mainstream black tea blends like rose or lipton are made so that they won't go as horribly bitter as some darjeelings or greens will if you oversteep them, but they still won't taste as good oversteeped as they would otherwise.
I agree that sun tea and sweet tea are wonderful. for something different try an herbal like red zinger.
I boil and seep cinnamon sticks let it cool and pour over ice not adding any sort of sweetner and it is very refreshing. I also found a lose leaf tea by rishi called blueberry roolbos which i brew and pour thru cheesecloth chill and pour over ice and it is good as well. I am seeking to cut down on sugar, however maybe once a week i will drink a glass of one of the above with kefir plain whole or lite and sweve sugar and it is really good. Cinnamon sticks are fair trade and/or simple organic. I normally use ground cinnamon in steel cut irish oatmeal. Again i am attempting to forego sweetening my food.
Lots of good answers here, so I'm not gonna be repetitive. What I can recommend is to consider cold brewing as well. The advantage is that the tea will not taste bitter at all, while still have strong flavour. The downside is that you need it to be kept in the refrigerator for many hours before it's ready. You can try this video guide: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0Oyg_xWjZ4
Place tea in clear 1 gal. jug. Set outside on east side of house at 7 to 8 am. In 30 to 45 min. Turn jug 180 degrees in sun. When color you wish is reached. remove to indoors. Add a little lemon or lime. Set in freezer. I 1 hour should be cool. Remove to refrigerator door. For your tea for the day. If more is needed in afternoon. Repeat on west side of house.