Iced Tea, What is It, Benefits, Side Effects, How To Make It

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Iced Tea is something that every tea-lover is thankful for in the hot summer months when you need your tea fix but also crave something that is cooler than a hot cuppa.

So What is Iced Tea? As the name suggests, Iced Tea is a tea served chilled. Although chilled herbal tea is also referred to as “iced tea”, usually iced tea is made from tea leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. Some of the most common teas for making iced tea are Black tea, Chai tea, Green tea, White, Herbal tea, Pu-erh, and Rooibos.

Iced tea is usually served without milk, but there are some varieties of iced tea that also include milk. The addition of sweeteners and flavorings, both natural and artificial, are also a matter of personal preference.

There are several varieties of iced tea that vary in terms of flavor, brewing method, and even cultural and climatic aspects. While each variety has its own unique flavor, it can’t be denied that all of them are refreshingly cooling and rejuvenating.

History of Iced Tea

Just Like all other things, iced tea also has a backstory to it. Popular lore has it that it was an American merchant, Richard Belchynden, who accidentally introduced iced tea to the world at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.

The day of the world fair was a swelteringly hot one because of this people had no interest in the hot tea he was selling and were instead looking for cool drinks to quench their thirst.

As Blechynden looked with despair at the empty pavilion, he had a eureka moment. He added ice chips in glasses and poured hot brewed tea over it.

Not surprisingly, the tea was a massive success. People queued up, on the once-empty pavilion, to get a cup of this refreshing cold tea to beat the heat and cool off.

While iced tea gained popularity in 1904, there are some accounts of iced tea dating back to the seventeenth century.

Different Varieties of Iced Tea

If you too like to experiment with your beverage choices, then you would be happy to know that there are several types of iced tea that vary in terms of the method of preparation, brewing method, and flavoring.

flavored iced tea

1. Sweet Tea

Sweet tea is basically sweetened black tea, served chilled and without milk. It is sweetened by adding sugar, syrups, or artificial sweeteners while the tea is brewing. Find out all you need to know about Sweet Tea Here.

Sweet tea is usually flavored with lemon, but other flavors like peach, raspberry, and mint are also commonly used. In the southern United States, sweet tea is a popular regional staple and is consumed all year round.

2. Sun and Refrigerator Tea

Sun tea requires steeping tea leaves or tea bags for hours under the sun. This method, however, is no longer used because of the possibility of harmful bacteria developing.

An alternative to this method is to steep tea overnight in the refrigerator, hence the name “refrigerator tea”

3. Fountain Iced Tea

Fountain iced tea was the brainchild of cola companies who brought in the culture of dispensing tea concentrate from a fountain dispenser, in an attempt to popularize their own tea concentrate.

4. Half and Half

Half and half, an invention of American golfer Arnold Palmer is basically a non-alcoholic combination of iced tea and lemonade. However, the term “half and half” is also used to refer to a mixture of sweetened and unsweetened tea.

5. Bottled Iced Tea

Bottled iced teas come with a longer shelf life and, if not opened, can be stored up to their expiry date. This has become a huge business and bottled or canned iced teas can be found almost everywhere; in convenience stores, supermarkets, and vending machines.

Bottled iced teas usually contain citric acid as a preservative and for flavor. While the sweetened version is more popular, some health stores, such as Role Tea, Tazo, and Sweet Leaf Tea, also offer unsweetened varieties.

Honest Tea, Lipton, Nestea, Snapple, and Turkey Hill are more popular for their sweetened bottled iced tea varieties.

iced tea
iced tea

Popular Cultural Variations in Iced Tea

Choosing which type of iced tea to drink can be a tough decision. While iced tea originally originated in the United States, it is now enjoyed worldwide.

Each country has its own unique version of iced tea, having a flavor of its culture. This is also why the tea house’s menu has all kinds of iced tea from Thai iced tea to chai iced tea.

• United States

It seems fitting to start from the largest consumer and originator of iced tea-united states. Americans love iced tea so much that it accounts for 85% of the total consumption of tea in the country.

Be it vending machines, convenience stores, restaurants, or supermarkets you can find iced tea almost anywhere. Iced tea in the United States is served both sweetened and unsweetened; though the southerners prefer the sweet tea, highly sweetened iced tea.

• Thailand

Thai iced tea or cha yen, served alongside Thai food, is a common finding in Thai restaurants. This delightful iced tea is made from a rich concentrate of Ceylon tea, mixed with flavorings and food colors. It is served chilled in tall glasses, and topped with sugar and condensed milk.

Thailand has two other varieties of iced tea;

  • 1. Dark Thai iced tea: this cold tea, inspired by Indian black tea, is served without milk and may be sweetened with sugar.
  • 2. Lime Thai tea: this is sweetened, dark Thai iced tea, but its flavor is enhanced by adding mint and lime.

• Japan

Japanese stay cool on hot summer days with iced tea. Green iced tea is usually the beverage of choice, though iced tea from oolong and matcha are also welcome.

With Japanese company, Ito En, exporting its products all over Europe and North America, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Japan has made its place in the iced tea markets of the world.

• Taiwan

Bubble tea in Taiwan is quite a novelty. It is made from black tea which is then sweetened with sugar and flavored with condensed milk. Toppings of fruits, jellies, and tapioca are then added to it, though tapioca is the most common, much like Bubble Tea.

While a number of different varieties of iced bubble tea exist, black pearl milk tea and green pearl milk tea are the most popular.

my daughter Ruby who loves Bubble tea
my daughter Ruby …who loves Bubble Tea

• Switzerland

You may be surprised to learn that it was Switzerland who popularized the concept of bottled iced tea. It was the famous Swiss beverage company Bischofszell that came out with bottled iced tea in 1983 for the first time.

Since then, other beverage companies all over the world have followed their lead and are manufacturing bottled iced teas.

Health Benefits of Iced Tea

Iced tea isn’t just a tasty and refreshing beverage. Drinking it can also offer you a number of health benefits. But here is the catch; you can only fully experience the benefits of iced tea if you take it unsweetened.

1. Iced Tea is Rich in Manganese

Did you know that manganese is the compound that is responsible for healing your wounds, strengthening your bones, and boosting your metabolism?

Research reveals that one cup (8 ounces) of black iced tea contains 0.52 mg of manganese, which makes for approximately more than one-fourth (35%) of the required daily intake for women and one-fourth (23%) for men.

This means that each cup of iced tea is actually adding up to your manganese reserves. While another study revealed that manganese prevents tissue damage by activating the enzyme manganese superoxide.

So, while you enjoy a glass of iced tea in the sweltering heat you are actually protecting your body from tissue damage.

2. Iced Tea Can Burn More Calories

Yes, you heard right. Contrary to popular belief, unsweetened iced tea may actually burn more calories than hot tea.

Science says that for our bodies to be able to process liquids it needs to heat them to body temperature.

So, when you have a glass of unsweetened iced tea your body burns more calories by using energy to raise the temperature to body temperature. Also, opting for green iced tea over black iced tea increases its weight loss properties.

Green tea, being rich in antioxidants, helps to burn more fat than black tea. In a study published in the “International Journal of Obesity”, catechins found in green tea help burn calories and lose weight. In addition, the combined effect of catechins and caffeine in unsweetened iced green tea yields better weight loss results. Here’s my simple and ultimate guide to making Green Tea.

is sweet tea the same as iced tea
is sweet tea the same as iced tea

3. Iced Tea is Rich in Antioxidants

Another reason to enjoy unsweetened iced tea, be it black tea or green tea, is that it has a high antioxidant content. Antioxidants are powerful compounds that provide protection from cellular damage.

They do so by countering free radicals which are harmful compounds responsible for cellular damage and chronic disease. Research reveals that there are about eight to 10 times more polyphenols in tea than there are in fruits and vegetables.

According to Harvard Health Publications, antioxidants found in green tea are effective in providing protection against several different types of cancers. These chemo-preventive antioxidants are also good for your skin. They help maintain youthful skin by slowing down the aging process.

4. Iced Tea Helps Boost Heart Health

Unsweetened iced tea contains antioxidants called flavonoids, which play a vital role in protecting the heart from contracting a number of diseases and keeping your heart healthy and in good shape.

Flavonoids are anti-inflammatory antioxidants that are effective against cardiovascular diseases. They do so by protecting the vessels and arteries of the heart from inflammation and hardening.

According to a study, people who consume one to three cups of green tea daily showed a reduction in the risk of heart attack by 20 percent and a 35 percent reduction in the risk of stroke.

Daily black tea consumption is shown to lower the risk of heart attack and prevent the hardening of arteries.

5. Iced Tea Provides a Quick Pick Me Up

The mid-day slump can be extremely frustrating. But a glass of iced tea can surely ward the blues away, thanks to its caffeine content. Caffeine stimulates your nervous system, leading to increased alertness and improved performance.

The caffeine content in iced tea is pretty mild, up to 50 mg per cup. Moderate caffeine consumption is 40 to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day; so, you can easily consume two to three glasses of iced tea without worrying about the adverse effects of caffeine.

6. Iced Tea is Good for Oral Health

Unsweetened iced tea, be it black tea or green tea, is a rich source of fluorides. According to one study, the fluorides in unsweetened black tea protect against cavities and maintain good oral health. An 8-ounce cup of unsweetened black iced tea contains around 0.5 mg of fluoride.

According to a team from the University Of Illinois College Of Dentistry, compounds in black tea provide protection against plaque by fighting against plaque-causing bacteria and preventing bacterial growth.

7. Unsweetened Iced Tea Is a Healthy Alternative to Sugary Drinks

If you are looking to swap your sugary drink with something healthier, iced tea is for you. Not only is it refreshingly cool, but it also offers a number of health benefits.

Compared with a 12-ounce can of regular Coke, 12 ounces of unsweetened iced tea contains 2 calories and no added sugars while the former has a total of 140 calories and 39 grams of sugar.

This means that you can safely consume two to three cups of unsweetened iced tea and still remain under your recommended sugar intake.

The Harvard School of Public Health recommends 24 grams of added sugar per day for women and 36 grams for men. Hence, swapping your coke with unsweetened iced tea could help you lose weight due to a lower calorie count.

Also, since iced tea does not contain harmful chemicals, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners, it is also healthier for your body in the long run.

8. Iced Tea Helps Stabilize Blood Sugar

Good news for diabetics and anyone else looking to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Unsweetened iced tea can help stabilize blood sugar levels.

According to a Japanese study, people who consume up to 6 cups of green tea a day showed a 33 percent reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who had less than one cup per week.

The flavonoids and phytochemicals present in tea, both black and green, help stabilize blood sugar levels.

Polyphenols, commonly found in teas, help diabetics by increasing insulin activity and keeping blood sugar levels in check.

iced tea
iced tea

Side Effects of Iced Tea

Scott Young Quist, MD, an emergency physician at the University of Utah Health, rightly says, “Anything consumed to excess can be toxic – including water!” Similarly, too much of iced tea, especially sweetened iced tea, can be detrimental to health.

1. Iced Tea Can Cause the Development of Kidney Stones

In May 2014, a 56-year-old man was diagnosed with kidney failure. Upon questioning, it was found that he consumed about a gallon, 16 8-ounce glasses, of iced tea per day. Research reveals that black tea if consumed in excessive quantities, could lead to the development of kidney stones.

Black tea consists of a compound called oxalate that binds with calcium preventing calcium absorption in your body.

This unabsorbed calcium forms calcium/oxalate crystals in the kidneys leading to the development of kidney stones, inflammation, and, in severe cases, kidney failure.

In the above-mentioned case, this man was consuming about 1500 milligrams of oxalic acid daily, compared to a recommended daily intake of 150 and 500 milligrams.

2. Sweetened Iced Tea Is a Risk Factor for Diabetes

While iced tea is a healthier alternative to other carbonated and sugary drinks, if you’re going to opt for sweet iced tea, then you might be missing out on the health benefits and in fact, could be putting yourself at a risk of developing diabetes.

Research shows that sugar increases the risk of diabetes by increasing inflammation and insulin resistance in the body. So, if you really want to go for that glass of iced tea make sure it is unsweetened.

3. Too Much Iced Tea Can Cause Caffeine Withdrawal

All teas contain at least some amount of caffeine. While the caffeine content in iced tea isn’t high, excessive consumption of iced tea can have negative effects.

For starters, excess caffeine could result in dehydration. Dehydration in itself is a magnet to many other health issues including irritability, reduced focus, and headaches. As far as pregnant women are concerned it is advisable to stick to three cups or less.

It is considered unsafe for pregnant women to exceed more than the advisable amount as it could lead to an increased risk of miscarriage, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

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“Anything consumed to excess can be toxic – including water!”

~ Dr Scott Youngquist

How to Make a Cup of Amazingly Refreshing Iced Tea

You don’t have to go to fancy restaurants to enjoy a cup of amazingly refreshing iced tea. You can easily make it from within the comforts of your own home in a few easy steps.

Before you set off to make yourself a glass of iced tea, here are a few things to keep in mind;

  1. Use filtered water for a better taste
  2. Don’t overstep your teabags. Overstepping can cause your iced tea to taste bitter. Therefore, it is preferable to steep for no more than ten minutes and use more tea bags if a stronger flavor is required.
  3. Brew the tea in hot water to truly bring out the flavor
  4. Instead of adding raw sugar to your iced tea, use sugar syrup instead. Sugar syrup can easily be made at home by boiling a cup of sugar in a quart of water.
  5. To prevent your iced tea from turning cloudy, always cool it before refrigerating.
  6. Boost your iced tea health benefits by steering clear of artificial flavors and using fresh fruits and herbs instead.
  7. Iced tea is best served fresh.

Basic Iced Tea Recipe

iced tea recipes

There are endless possibilities once you know how to make a basic iced tea. You can come up with hundreds of different varieties of iced tea by creating different flavor combinations.


  • 4 tea bags
  • 4 cups of hot water
  • Lemon wedges
  • Mint sprigs

If you prefer sweetened iced tea, then you will also need to make sugar syrup using 4 cups of water and a cup of sugar.


  1. Boil 4 cups of water in a saucepan
  2. Add in the tea bags, cover, and let them steep for 5-10 minutes
  3. Once steeped, gently squeeze the tea bags and discard them.
  4. Make sugar syrup by boiling 1 cup of sugar in four cups of water.
  5. Add the sugar syrup to your brewed tea as per your liking, and mix.
  6. Let it cool and serve in tall glasses over ice cubes.
  7. Top it off with a lemon wedge and/or mint sprigs.

Peach Iced Tea

A popular flavor among flavored iced tea is peach. Here is a recipe to make a delicious peach iced tea at home.


  • 2 ripe peaches
  • 4 tea bags
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 4 cups of cold water
  • 1 cup of sugar


  1. Peel the peaches and cut into slices.
  2. In 4 cups of boiling water, steep 4 tea bags along with the sliced peaches for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Make sugar syrup by boiling 1 cup of sugar in four cups of water.
  4. Add the sugar syrup to your brewed tea as per your liking, and mix.
  5. Remove the peach slices if you must.
  6. Let it cool and serve in tall glasses over ice cubes.

Minty Cucumber Iced Tea

This one is for all the health enthusiasts out there. Not only is it refreshingly cooling, but it also helps lose weight by preventing water retention and detoxifying your body.


  • 4 green tea bags
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 4 cups of cold water
  • 1 cucumber
  • Lemon (optional)
  • mint


  1. Cut the cucumber into slices and chop the mint.
  2. In 4 cups of boiling water, steep 4 teabags.
  3. Add in the cucumber and mint, and let steep for 5-10 minutes
  4. Let it cool and Dilute your brewed mixture with cold water as per your liking
  5. Serve in tall glasses over ice cubes.
  6. Garnish with cucumber wedges and mint sprigs
  7. You may squeeze a lemon to add a tangy flavor to it or add honey to sweeten it.
iced tea in a glass

Sweet Tea vs. Unsweetened Iced Tea

Sweet tea, also called iced tea by the southerners, is a popular staple of the Southern United States.

Sweet tea is basically tea sweetened with sugar or sugar syrup while it is still hot, and is served ice cold. While iced tea is preferred during the summers only, southerners like their ice-cold sweet tea the whole year round. Read my complete guide to making Sweet Tea here.

Iced tea, on the other hand, is any tea that is served chilled, over ice. It is usually enjoyed unsweetened and mostly during the summers.

A number of countries have jumped on the iced tea bandwagon, and now different cultures have their own unique versions of iced tea. The Japanese, for instance, have Sencha, Bancha, and Houjicha; all of which are different varieties of iced tea. While, in Singapore, iced tea is served with lemon.

Iced tea and sweet tea also differ in terms of flavor, brewing methods, and health benefits.

Sweet tea, since it’s brewed in boiling water, has a stronger flavor. While iced tea may have a smoother and milder taste since it is not always brewed in boiling water and may also be cold brewed. As far as health benefits are concerned, unsweetened iced tea is a much healthier option.

According to a research published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, catechins in green tea help lower total cholesterol levels and provide protection against stroke.  Sweet tea, being rich in sugars, may lead to dental issues, obesity, and fluctuations in blood sugar levels.


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Related Questions

How Long Does Iced Tea Last in the Fridge? While bottled iced tea can last for 7-10 days in the refrigerator once opened (2-3 days if unrefrigerated), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), iced tea should not be stored for more than eight hours in the refrigerator.

Can You Add Milk to Iced Tea? Mostly iced teas are served without milk. Thai iced tea, an exception, is served with condensed milk. In general, black iced teas can stand the addition of milk, but herbal teas can’t.

Is Iced Tea Taken Sweetened or Unsweetened? This depends on the type of iced tea. Sweet tea is sweetened, and unsweetened iced tea is, of course, taken without sugar.