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As a proud Middle Easterner, I like to keep a few different types of caffeinated black tea in my home at all times. It’s my favorite thing to offer people after dinner, and plays into all of my creature of comfort ways—I'm always demanding that everyone sits around for just a few moments longer to unwind and warm our insides after a meal.
Iced tea, however, is a completely different story. It's a refreshment that's mainly enjoyed outdoors and at almost every cafe I go to during my workdays, especially since I’m a non-coffee drinker. I love to drink it when I'm feeling productive and trying to get work done.
But, here's a confession: I’d never actually made iced tea at home until this week and I was a little intimidated by it. Sounds silly, I know. You’re probably thinking: It’s not hard. or You're overthinking it! But I come from an Egyptian culture that takes tea very seriously—everything we do in the kitchen is done with nehfis, the Arabic concept of cooking with heart and soul.
So, I decided to embark on a mission to find the tea that would make the very best iced tea (I suspected it would be different from the best tea for hot tea!). I stuck to black teas (we were going for standard iced tea here) that were widely available and that could be ordered easily online for the sake of convenience. Iced tea is a casual summer beverage—no need to reach for anything fancy. So, in honor of the official start of summer and refreshments that counteract the heat, here are my favorite black teas for making iced tea.
The Best Tea for Floral, Fruity Iced Tea: Bigelow Earl Grey
Earl Grey teas are infused with bergamot oil, which adds a floral, citrusy flavor to the black tea base. When I posted a video on my Instagram stories about testing teas, my friend replied that she already knew it was going to be the best one—she wasn’t wrong. Though bergamot is technically a citrus flavor, I found this tea to have a lovely mild vanilla note when I drank it in iced form. It was comparatively light in color (and I had steeped all of the teas for the same amount of time) and it had a remarkable smoothness and much less bitter taste than many of its competitors, making it extra refreshing.
The Best Tea for Smooth, Nutty Iced Tea: Numi Breakfast Blend
The smoothness of this tea really won me over. I don’t drink coffee mainly because of this disparity between smell pre-brewing and after. I've always loved the smell of the beans and hated the smell of the liquid and never understood precisely why they're so different.
I say all of this because the first thing I noticed when I put this cup of iced tea to my mouth was how nice it smelled, and how that nice smell directly translated to the taste. Of all the teas I tried, this one’s smell and taste felt the most similar—I loved its somewhat earthy with woody undertones.
The Best Tea for Feeling Fancy: Harney & Sons
Drinking this tea made me feel regal, especially because the tea bags feel silky and come in a metal tin. In its final iced form, this black tea was naturally sweet with flower-y undertones. Like the Bigelow, it’s very light in color—but this one had a bit of an herbaceous, savory kick to it. It definitely left an impression on my palette and would be the tea I'd turn to if I wanted a more nuanced iced beverage.
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Other Teas I Tried
Newman’s Own was the blackest, darkest flavor profile of the teas I tried. It didn't have a lot of complexity in flavor and it was kind of bitter. I think it would be good hot with some milk, but it wasn't my favorite for iced tea.
Though it's known as a very strong "builder's tea" in England, when served iced, I found that PG Tips was distinctly medium bodied. It wasn't too jarring and went down relatively smooth. It had pretty minimal after taste and not too much tannin—nothing too fruity or elaborate going on here!
Tazo, on the other hand, would fall under the category of full-bodied. It was a bit of a shock to my mouth and was probably the only tea I tried that made me want to reach for the sweetener.
Twinings teas have always been a staple in my tea collection, so I guess I felt a little bit of allegiance to them—still, it didn't turn out to be a favorite in this taste test. I’d describe the overall composition as somewhat earthy, with a pleasant, inoffensive but slightly bland finish.
Now that you know the best tea for making iced tea, try a few of these recipes:
Originally Appeared on Epicurious