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carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b

Is There A Trick To Making Clear Iced Tea?

Feeling too lazy to look this up, and not sure my search results would be tried and true methods anyway. I made a batch of iced black tea yesterday and it's so cloudy, it looks kind of gross.

Tastes completely fine tho.

I used distilled water, boiled the water in a stainless pan, since it was too much for my teakettle, and added the loose tea leaves to the just boiled water, let it cool a bit, strained into a glass jar and then refrigerated. I added a handful of fresh mint sprigs to the jar.

Hoping any of our resident kitchen mavens might know the answer...?

Comments (30)

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
    last month

    I drink a lot of iced tea....it's my go-to beverage at home. I find it much more satisfying and thirst quenching than plain water. And my tap water has a bit of an off taste. I used to make sun tea in a big glass vat but have replaced that with Lipton's Cold Brew family size ice tea bags. I make it in the evening and by morning it is ready to go at the perfect strength and icy cold. Easy-peasy!! And always crystal clear.

    I find the Lipton's is perfect for iced tea but for hot tea I prefer Twinings.......just the bag if for me only but loose leaves in the pot if I have guests

    carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
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  • Elizabeth
    last month

    Lipton Cold Brew tea bags. 3 bags to a 2 quart pitcher. Leave it on the counter until it is the desired color. Crystal clear. Delicious. I drink it all day long.

    carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b thanked Elizabeth
  • plllog
    last month

    It could be the tea. When I was in my teens, the common iced tea in restaurants in Canada was cloudy and oddly sweet tasting even though it was straight tea. Mine never comes out cloudy, so that's my only notion.

    carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b thanked plllog
  • carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b
    Original Author
    last month

    I'm thinking it's the tea as well. It's loose black tea, and strong. I like the taste of black tea and I have a lot of it I need to use up.

  • colleenoz
    last month

    You need a finer strainer.

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  • CA Kate z9
    last month

    I don't have an answer because I have had the same problem. I use the same brand of tea bags and occasionally the chilled tea gets cloudy. I've always heard that refrigeration is what causes it to get cloudy.

    carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b thanked CA Kate z9
  • Lars
    last month

    Use an opaque glass and then you will not see the cloudiness. Try doing a blind taste test to see whether the appearance matters.

    I've only had cloudy tea when I added lemon.

    Try making it without the mint. Make sure that the tea does not steep too long (no more than 3-5 minutes) and try straining it through a coffee filter or line your strainer with a paper towel.

    carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b thanked Lars
  • floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK
    last month
    last modified: last month

    It’s seldom hot enough here to bother making iced tea but for ordinary tea I would never, ever add the leaves to the water. The just off boiling water is added to the leaves. Always. On the rare occasions I do have iced tea it is just my normal tea made weaker and chilled. I can’t say I’ve ever had tea go cloudy, hot or cold. I too wonder if it’s your tea leaves?

    carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b thanked floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK
  • beesneeds
    last month

    I make sun tea, sometimes using bagged, sometimes using loose tea. But I know what the cloudy problem might be.

    Don't use boiling water. The higher the temp of the water, the more tannins are extracted. Tannins cause cloudyness, particularly when they bond with caffine under refridgeration. Try making sun tea or doing it cold brew to see how you like it- both methods are low temp and more gentle on extraction.

    Try to use decaf since it has less caffine for the tannins to bond with. Or use oolong, green, or white tea or use herbal tea for less tannins.

    Adding fresh things can make your tea cloudy, like your mint.

    carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b thanked beesneeds
  • carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b
    Original Author
    last month
    last modified: last month

    I'm going to try a cold brew next and see if there's any difference. As I said, it tastes just fine - it's just not pretty.

    IMPE sun tea always gets cloudy, but that could be the type of tea being used.

  • artemis_ma
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Like beesneeds, I make a sun tea - I love that best.

    I use a combination of whatever teas are in the house that I like - not a fan of Lipton, however (too bitter). I put a glass pitcher out in the sun with about 4 or 5 bags of tea - one or two of which is always Earl Grey, although I may mix up the others a bit, but frequently I like green tea as an option in there.

    I cover this (of course) and by the end of the day the pitcher is fine. Cool down in fridge overnight, serve the next day over ice. Occasionally I will see a hint of cloudiness, but not much.

    If you are using loose black tea, I agree to strain it. I don't use any teas specifically for cold brewing (didn't know they existed).

    Which reminds me... I need to make some!!!!


    Edited - for whole tea, not in bags - I have a couple of those large-sized tea strainers that you are supposed to put in tea kettles rather than using individual tea ball strainers. If if is possible to figure out how to attach those inside your pitcher, add as much whole tea to that sort of strainer as you prefer, then sit it out in the sun... Go from there....

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  • wednesday morning
    last month

    A couple of years ago I ordered a box of Lipton orange pekoe loose tea from Amazon.

    I am amazed at what a great iced tea it makes!

    I had been buying those family sized tea bags from the grocery store but it got to where it as barely indistinguishable from drinking nothing but water. And, it was so very expensive!

    Now, all I use is this loose tea.

    It is a bit different from the tea that is in the tea bags and that surprised me because it has the Lipton logo. It is not the same kind of thing as are the tea leaves in the grocery store variety.

    I had almost given up on iced tea because of the bad quality of tea that I had been using in those large tea bags. It is not a matter of bags versus loose tea.

    I think what I buy in the box are something called tea tips.

    It does get cloudy when it gets cold in the fridge, but it clears up if you leave to come to room temp or just loose some of the chill. If you leave it to set out it does not get cloudy, even when it gets poured into a glass with ice.

    I dont put anything in it. Like coffee, I like it just as it is with nothing added.

    Some people put so much sweet and other stuff into tea and coffee that you wonder why bother with tea or coffee. Sweet tea tastes like nothing but sugar water.


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  • sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)
    last month

    I don't think it is the variety of tea. It is some sort of reaction in temperature, hot and cold, and the tannins, oils and maybe the caffine?

    I've not had any go cloudy since switching to cold brewed and somtimes sun tea 20+ years ago.

    I learned the Southern traditional way from my Mother. Kettle on, then let rest maybe 5 minutes after the boil. 4 bags, steep 8 minutes. Rest uncovered on counter an hour. Pinch of baking soda. (8th of a tsp).

    Not sure where or when the reaction takes place to go cloudy. If it is adding ice to the hot brew to chill it quicker or placing in the fridge too soon. I know the baking soda mellows the bitter tannins.

    It has been way too long since i made it the hot kettle method. It is possible i suppose that sun tea can get rather hot, then covered and placed in the fridge, may cause it to go cloudy.

    Sounds like a job SeriousEats.


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  • wednesday morning
    last month

    It is not a matter of straining the tea. It is not tea leaves in the finished tea that makes it cloudy.

    Apparently it has to do with tannins in the tea. No amount of straining is going to seperate that out.

    carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b thanked wednesday morning
  • sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)
    last month

    Checked SeriousEats. They like the cold brew method. Link, HERE

    I don't think it is just the tannins. As it happens randomly from tea bags from the same box.

    carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b thanked sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)
  • cloudy_christine
    last month

    As soon as it's done steeping, pour the hot tea over a lot of ice cubes. If you make the tea double strength, it won't be too watered down by the ice. Sugar can be in the pitcher with the ice

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  • sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)
    last month

    The only thing i find consistently is temperature shock. Everything else is just speculation. You might just try brewing as you have been doing but leave it out to come to room temp before the fridge. Or before over ice.

    I only drink green tea these days but if i make a gallon for the 4th i'll do some testing first.

    • Freshly brewed ice tea should be held at room temperature and served within 6-8 hours of brewing.
    • After brewing tea, cool until room temperature before serving over ice.
    • Don’t shock the tea with drastic changes in temperatures all at once.
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  • Bumblebeez SC Zone 7
    last month

    I've always used Luziane and have left the tea bags in the stainless steel pot until the water cooled down-hours- then poured it into a glass picture at which time the tea bags were removed and refrigerated it. The tea is strong but dilutes to perfect consistency over ice cubes. It's never been cloudy although I don't use sugar but when I have it wasn't cloudy.

    All that sounds ridiculous compared to normal tea brewing methods but it makes great tea.

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  • carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b
    Original Author
    last month

    Thanks all.

    So all the various suggestions prompted me to finally do a web search, and I came up with this:

    "...It used to be clear and now it looks like a giant cloud of amber liquid. So what the heck happened?

    Your iced tea cooled too fast

    The reason why your iced tea became so cloudy is because you cooled it too fast. The scientific explanation for this is convection.

    Convection keeps hot tea clear

    Think of convection as mini tornadoes in your tea. When tea is hot, these tornadoes spin the microscopic particles and the spinning helps to bind the particles together. As the tea cools, these tornadoes start to spin slower. If the temperature gets cold enough they eventually stop spinning altogether, releasing all of the tannins and other tiny particles in your tea.

    It is the particles that make your tea cloudy?

    Once the particles separate, they have nowhere to go so they just kind of hang out in the tea. Since they are no longer bonded through the mini tornadoes, they cloud up.

    How do I prevent tea from clouding?

    The only way to keep your tea clear is to keep it at room temperature. At room temperature the mini tornadoes never stop spinning enough to release the particles of tea that cause the cloudiness. Just be sure to drink it all that day because it isn’t safe to keep room temperature iced tea around for long.

    The proof is in restaurants

    When restaurants make iced tea they use those big machines that pour the tea into those big silver tins. If you notice, those tins are never refrigerated. They are always left at room temperature then served over ice.

    Cloudy iced tea tastes just fine

    If you can deal with the appearance of it, cloudy iced tea tastes just as good as the non-cloudy version. Since it is so much easier to put your iced tea in the refrigerator, you may want to just accept the fact it is cloudy and enjoy the tea for its taste...."

    I don't know if I'm comfortable about leaving it at room temp. tho - here in FL, even with the AC running, that's almost 80F!


    And I also found this:

    "...What Causes Cloudiness in Iced Tea?

    Understanding how your tea gets cloudy is the first step in learning how to avoid it. Cloudy iced tea happens when the caffeine and tannins in the tea combine during the brewing process. Tannins are a chemical compound in tea. They’re what give tea the dry, slightly bitter taste and dark color we know and love.


    The amount of cloudiness is directly affected by the temperature at which you brew the tea. Cooks Illustrated discovered that tea brewed at temperatures above 100° F all had some degree of cloudiness.


    This is because the hotter the water you brew with, the more tannins and caffeine are released.


    So, if you have time and want crystal clear iced tea, the best way to brew is with room temperature filtered water.


    How to Make Crystal Clear Iced Tea

    Since higher temperatures cause cloudiness during brewing, the best way to get that crystal clear iced tea is to start your brew with room temperature water.


    Now we know why sun tea has always been such a popular way to make a batch of iced tea!


    Pour 1 quart of room temperature filtered water into a large glass pitcher or other container.

    Add 5-7 tea bags.

    Let steep at room temperature for 8 – 10 hours.

    Refrigerate overnight or serve over ice immediately.

    Because room temperature brewing can result in tea with a weaker taste, you may need to add more tea bags for your personal taste. It’s always easier to dilute your strong tea down to your favorite strength than it is to live with weak tea!..."

    Here's the thing, I'm using loose tea, and I do think using bags would make a difference, so perhaps straining with a coffee filter would help.

    Anyway, the batch I made is all gone now, so I need to try a different method and see what happens 😉

  • plllog
    last month

    S's discovery fits with me. I never add ice, unless it's while serving, and I do let the tea cool before putting it in the fridge. And I've never made cloudy tea.

    carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b thanked plllog
  • CA Kate z9
    last month

    This all fits in with my latest cloudy tea... the water got to a boil before I pulled it off the heat. I always make my ice tea with barely hot water and I rarely get cloudy tea. I'll have to wtch that water temp more closely.

    Thanks for all the research, Carol.

    carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b thanked CA Kate z9
  • foodonastump
    last month

    Sorry if this is already mixed in up there but IIRC adding a bit of boiling water to cloudy tea clears it up. I remember reading that years ago and tried it, pretty sure it worked but decided I don't mind it cloudy so it’s been a good while.

    carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b thanked foodonastump
  • wednesday morning
    last month

    Bring up a search for tea and you will learn many things about it that most of us dont realize.

    Not all tea is created equal, at all.

    Some comes from the tips of the plant and is the highest rated and then there is the "dust".

    I suspect that the "dust" is what is in many of those cheap grocery store tea bags. Maybe that is one reason that I came to the conclusion that it was like drinking water.

    I found some tea tips in loose form and those make the best iced tea that I have had in years. It looks almost as if it were coarse ground, like coffee beans. But, of course, it is not ground. It is rolled as it dries. And, it takes less quantity of tea to brew the same size pitcher. I estimate that I am using at least half of the amount of actual tea than with the tea bag grocery store stuff. I was using up to four of those large "family size, flow through" tea bags. Now I use about 1 tablespoon of the tea tips loose tea for the same amount. Those tea bags were getting quite pricey, too

    I gave up on those large tea bags for making a pitcher of tea. I suspect that they may be using the lower quality tea in those bags. That is often the case.

    Since I dont flavor or sweeten tea and coffee, there is no disguising a cheap brew.

    I would rather pay more for less tea and have better tea.

    I grew up in a family where we always had a pitcher of tea and it was always unsweetened. It just sat on the countertop and we put ice in our glasses. I grew up military and we used to get what my mom always called the "GI brand". (for the non military, that means government issue and it was the generic term applied to the no name brands sold on bases and posts.)That was the basic military provided one at the commissary that was merely labled as "tea, black" and came in an unassuming plain old brown box.

    Back in those days the GI brand of things was pretty good and basic stuff. You could buy almost anything in the commissary in the GI brand. That was back before all of the marketing that has created so many highly processed and overly packaged "foods".

    Given that all tea comes from other places in the world, you have to wonder and to hope that wht you are brewing does not also have a spray of some industrail chemicals on it. The same is true of many spices. You see photos of how some of these things are grown and harvested and it makes you wonder why you pick it up and throw it away if you happen to drop it on the floor of your clean home. Some cultures "rinse" the tea much like rinsing rice.

    As to why it gets cloudy, the answer seems to be something to do with tannins. I doubt that the cloudiness can be strained out even with a paper filter, but I have never tried to do that. My tea only gets cloudy if I try to store it in the fridge, which I dont. It pretty quickly clears up with a just a small change in temp. And I dont find it to get cloudy in the glass when it is over ice. Maybe it gets consumed too quickly once it gets into the glass for it to have time to get cloudy. Just specualting.

    I am glad that I found something better, but I find that when I go to buy it again, I have to sift through all the variations because it seems to change all the time and I find the labeling to be confusing.

    It is an old and complex world, the tea trade.

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  • wednesday morning
    last month

    food, you are right. It will clear up with just a bit of something warm added to it. It seems to require only a small change in temperature.

  • sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)
    last month

    The conclusion seems to be....clean drinking water, boil in a kettle or your hot tea brewing method, let the hot water rest a few minutes, 180-190º, steep tea to your desired strenght, (i steep 20 minutes but i use green, 3 bags, one black, both organic). Let rest an hour or two. Food Safety for restaurants says no longer that 6 hours but must be a temp depending on environment. Kombucha is under 180 but i go furthur to 160.

    Unfortunately restaurants leave most beverages up to the wait staff that have no food safety training...any tea, low or high quality, can have patogens that will be killed off at 165º. Sitting out at room temp for hours is an issue.

    Cold brew or sun tea can sit in an un-healthy environment for some time if not careful.

    It is a choice if you follow clean 15, dirty dozen. Most grocery brands are loaded with pesticides. One study that tested had their hands in the cookie jar and the study/testing was removed from the internet. Sooo much fraud when so many products are popular...like iced tea. Olive oils, etc.

    It is clearly not just the tannis. It takes more than one compund to bind to make it cloudy...and added heat to separate them in that connected suspension. Heat, just a little, frees them from that bond.

    Intersting that clear tea is expected in a dining experience even though the taste is the same. I suppose it shows a proper knowledge in kitchen science.

    Probably why my mother would never serve day two iced tea to guests. She would drink it day two-three with no issues from the fridge being frugal. For guests, always day one fresh. She must have learned from Her mother who ran a diner connected to my grandfathers garment factory.

    Beverages are such a money maker in even the most basic Mom and Pops...the iced tea needs to be killer fresh. And clear. It is expected.





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  • Jasdip
    last month
    last modified: last month

    I'm going to make a batch of iced tea because of this thread. I only drink Tetley, and I'll let the water rest after coming to a boil.

    I heard of brewing tea in the sun several years ago but I've also heard that it's not safe food practices.

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  • wednesday morning
    last month

    I tried sun brewing too for only a couple of times. It made me a bit nervous letting water warm up so slowly in a jar like that, as it does take some time.

    Besides, it is much faster to just heat up the water to whatever degree of hot you think is the right one.

    We did do sun brew in the window of a car when we were traveling one time. We had ice in the cooler and just used our fresh brewed tea.

    I have no use for these bottled teas. They are atrocious and are nothing better than soda or some other sugary drink. No desire for any kind of mix, either. And there is no special or fancy equipment needed to make tea. Served just cold from the fridge is not my thing, either. I like a glass full of ice for it. It is, after all, iced tea, not just cold tea. A glass of cold tea from the fridge is just flat in experience.

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  • carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b
    Original Author
    last month
    last modified: last month

    So I made a quart of cold brewed decaf green tea - Trader Joe's Candy Cane, 3 bags, 1 quart distilled water, in a jar in the fridge overnight.

    It came out perfect - nice and clear too. I want to try the black tea next, but I do think loose tea releases more tiny particles than bagged.

  • sheilajoyce_gw
    last month

    Sun tea for me. it stays clear in the refrigerator.

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