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How to Make Cold Brew Iced Tea

Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker with over 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, advertising, and public relations.

Cold brew iced tea

Cold brew iced tea

A Refreshing DIY Alternative to Soft Drinks

Those of you who follow my posts on business and self-publishing—and those who know that cookbook writing would be way out of my abilities range—might be surprised to see me writing a post on food and cooking. Let's just say it's not so much a recipe post as it is a life hack.

I'll let you in on a little secret: My writing is largely fueled by tea, unsweetened iced green tea in particular. Most of my reading and creative writing work is done while sipping an icy brew at the likes of Starbucks, Peet's Coffee, and Caribou (which, sadly, left our area—boo!).

My hubby also likes unsweetened iced tea since we both swore off all carbonated soft drinks many, many years ago, and drinking plain water sometimes gets boring for him. But he's not as keen on the stronger brews served at my coffee and tea haunts and prefers a milder choice such as Gloria Jean's Tropical Green (which I love, too). Problem is that it's kind of a hassle to run to the mall to get it—it's about an hour-long adventure. Plus, one of the nearby restaurants that had a terrific peach-mango tea he liked just closed (boo, again!).

So now what? Get an iced tea maker? That's a whole other subject.

Why I Don’t Use an Ice Tea Maker

Years ago, I purchased a popular iced tea maker. I had to buy filters, clean the darn thing which was a time-wasting project, and deplete my freezer's entire ice bin . . . it was just annoying.

But what really bothered me about it was the plastic pitcher. When I bought the maker, the BPA (bisphenol-A is a chemical in plastics that could have negative health effects according to Mayo Clinic) concerns were just coming into public awareness. The maker's product information did not confirm if it did, or did not, have BPA. Since, at that time, I couldn't find too many other alternatives, I bought it. Because of the BPA concerns, and the hassle, the maker has been sitting idle for years.

I looked into iced tea maker options again just recently. What's interesting is that the same maker I bought years ago is still available and STILL does not confirm if its pitcher does, or does not, contain BPA. Wow.

Other makers had glass or plastic pitchers which were BPA-free. But the expense and maintenance hassle were still there. The only options that seemed viable were infuser-type pitchers where you drop tea leaves or bags into the infuser and steep.

Even though there were options, none of them seemed ideal. So I had to get creative.

To make cold brew iced tea, I simply FILL my container (single serve shown), FLOAT the tea bags, cover them, and pop them in the FRIDGE to steep.

To make cold brew iced tea, I simply FILL my container (single serve shown), FLOAT the tea bags, cover them, and pop them in the FRIDGE to steep.

Cold Brew Iced Tea to the Rescue

I've tried heating water to make tea and then pouring it over ice. It's still kind of a mess and the tea gets diluted because of the ice.

I looked online for recipes to make cold brew. Though I got some ideas, there didn't seem to be a consensus on the method. I experimented and came up with my own recipe. Though making it is quick, steeping it takes time. So I've come up with an easy fill-float-fridge routine (see recipe below) that keeps cold brew iced tea on tap at our house. I make a batch in the morning to have ready for the evening, and then make a batch at night to have ready to go in the morning.

I've found that using a 1-1/2 pint (24 ounces) mason jar works great for single-serving batches. It makes a quantity similar to Starbucks' "Venti" size drink. For smaller serving sizes, try a standard 1-pint mason jar (16 ounces), and adjust the number of tea bags used to get your ideal strength level. Plus, the glass jars are BPA-free. Yay! Of course, for children who want to enjoy cold brew tea, supervise their use of glass containers and transfer the finished tea to a child-safe container that's the right size for them.

Since we're trying to reduce caffeine, I opt for herbal and green tea choices. My favorite is Celestial Seasonings because I love the taste, the herbal versions are caffeine-free, a wide variety of flavors is available, and they have more earth-friendly tea bags without strings and tags.

On top of all this, my method is pretty inexpensive. Even if you factor in the cost of the mason jar, the price per home cold brew is likely less than just one iced drink at your local coffee shop!

True, I still love going to my favorite coffee haunts regularly to get away from home distractions so I can get some reading and writing done. But this at-home solution is a good alternative to save some time and money.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

5 min

8 hours

8 hours 5 min

1 single serving of tea


  • 1 or 2 tea bags
  • Cold water, filtered tap water suggested
  • 1 Mason jar, 1 pint (16 ounces) or 1-1/2 pint (24 ounces) suggested


  1. Fill the Mason jar with cold water. Filtered tap water is suggested for better taste.
  2. Float one or two tea bags in the jar. I've found that two tea bags work well for herbal teas in the 24-ounce jar size. Experiment to see what number of tea bags provide the strength you prefer. If using tea bags with strings and tags, leave tags on the outside of the jar.
  3. Cover the jar and place it in the refrigerator for around eight hours. You may find that you need more or less time (or tea bags) to get the strength you wish. Again, experiment!
  4. After eight hours, remove the jar from the refrigerator. Open the jar and remove the tea bags. Pour the contents into a drinking container, or drink right from the mason jar using a straw. If desired, add ice and sweeteners. Enjoy!
  5. To make a larger quantity of tea, follow the same instructions as for a single serving, substituting a large glass or BPA-free plastic pitcher (48 to 64 ounces) for the mason jar, and increasing the number of tea bags to four. No change in prep or steeping time is needed. Again, experiment with time and tea bags to get the right strength for you. Also be aware that the larger the pitcher, the more awkward and heavy it is to handle. That's why I like making it in single-serve batches.

Questions & Answers

Question: Can fruit juice be added for flavor variety when making cold-brewed ice tea?

Answer: Actually, my husband adds some lemonade to the cold brew tea to give it some extra taste and variety. But he adds it in just before he's going to drink it. Adding it and letting the mixed brew sit could alter the taste. So brew, then mix.

© 2017 Heidi Thorne