The Key to Awesome Iced Tea

Rachel Tepper Paley
July 14, 2014

Assorted teas at Artifact in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo credit: Artifact

For too long iced tea has played second fiddle to iced coffee, or has been sugared into treacly submission (as is true of the beloved Southern sweet tea).

Employees at Artifact Coffee in Baltimore, Maryland remedy boring iced teas with one simple trick: They make a high-potency, super-strength iced tea concentrate (similar to the trendy coffee concentrates). They brew it hot, cool it down, and dilute with water just before serving. That’s different from typical iced tea, which is usually made at “normal” strength, cooled, and poured over ice. 

Why do this? “Tea can be very complex and have a lot of different flavors,” explained assistant manager Ashley Gardner. Brewing a concentrated batch of tea —86 grams of tea, or 3 ounces, for every 96 ounces of hot water—”brings out more of the subtleties in flavor that you’re trying to get.” Even though the proportions pack a wallop, Gardner steeps the tea for a normal length of time, about three to four minutes. 

As evidence, Gardner points to the iced lemongrass green tea on Artifact’s menu. When concentrated, its notes of lemongrass and jasmine blossoms are more pronounced: a “clean and fresh-tasting” brew that’s flavorful without tasting heavy or bitter. “You’re tasting it exactly the way it should be.”

Gardner said concentrated brews tend to hold their flavor longer than diluted versions and will stay fresh roughly three times longer in the refrigerator. Diluting the tea right before serving it, too, helps her “do quality control” and ensure that the iced tea has just the right intensity of flavor. After all, it’s easier to add more water than remove it.

Best of all, Gardner says, the process is easy to replicate at home. Simply steep the tea in a large container, stick it in the fridge, and dilute individual servings to your liking.