Are you in need of a hot weather pick-me-up that’s good for you but neither bad for your bank account nor for the environment? Don't buy sugary bottled iced tea—make your own instead. It's so easy that there's even one version you can (mostly) do while you sleep. Plus, you can reduce plastic waste, save money, and control the amount and type of sugar you’re adding to your tea. Bonus: There’s evidence that tea’s antioxidants may reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease too.
How to make your own iced tea
You don’t need much to make your own iced tea, and it’s hundreds of times cheaper than bottled iced tea. Using one tea bag per cup or two of water is ideal. You’ll also need a mechanism to boil the water (or just make sun tea, substituting the sun and time for a kettle), ice to cool it down, and a sweetener if you want it. This method is flexible and easy to adapt to your circumstances, so it’s just as simple to make one glass for yourself as it is to make a whole pitcher for your pals.
The basic way to make iced tea is to bring water to a boil and then add approximately one tea bag per cup or two of water. Steep for at least five minutes depending on how strong you prefer your tea. When you remove the tea bags, give them a squeeze to extract a little extra flavor. Even if you like your hot tea weak, most people prefer their iced tea to be stronger, especially because it gets further diluted when you add ice.
Add sweetener to taste (it's easier to mix it into warm liquid than cold) and maybe a little lemon if you like. Pop the tea into the fridge to speed up cooling. When you're ready to drink, grab a glass, add ice, and pour the tea. Skip the straw—why add another piece of plastic to the world's waste problems?
If you're short on tea bags, it's easy to adapt. It's perfectly fine to add extra water if you only have one or two tea bags. Just let the tea steep a bit longer to get more flavor.
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Make your own sun tea
There’s even a method for some real cold brew tea where you can skip boiling the water. Simply let the sun do the work for you, perhaps while you take a nap. Make your own sun tea by filling a pitcher with water, adding one tea bag per cup or so of water, and then leaving the pitcher in the sun for four or five hours. Feel free to add lemon slices with the tea bags, but don’t add your sweetener until you’re ready to drink the tea. The sugar will attract insects to your brewing tea and cause it to spoil more quickly.
Make iced tea on the go
It’s so easy to make your own iced tea that you can even make it in your hotel room. Brew a cup of hot tea as you normally would and let it steep for several minutes or even add an extra tea bag.
While it’s steeping, grab some ice from the ice machine. Put the ice and a metal spoon in the glass (the metal will absorb the heat and prevent the glass from breaking) and pour your hot tea. You'll have iced tea in an instant.
If you're staying at a hotel, you'll probably have some new tea brands with which you can experiment. For example, try JW Marriott Parq Vancouver's luxe TWG tea, or try Fairmont hotels' exclusive tea blends including several created especially for making iced tea.
Don't hit the bottle to get your iced tea fix—just make it yourself, whether at home or in your hotel room.
Johanna Read is a Canadian freelance writer and photographer, as well as a management consultant specializing in workplace wellness. She writes freelance for publications like USA Today, Fodor’s, Montecristo and Canadian Traveller. Follow her on social media (Instagram @TravelEaterJohanna, Twitter @TravelEater, and Facebook at TravelEaterJohanna). Links to all her travel stories are at www.TravelEater.net.