Here to steep you in a little tea know-how is David De Candia, the Tea Director for The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, a specialty coffee and tea retailer.
"While the type and cut of tea leaves is essential for ensuring a quality brew, many people don't realize that the water is arguably equally important. Think of it like a canvas for a painting or the fabric for a dress. The type and temperature of water you use will greatly affect the flavor of your tea, just like the quality of silk will impact the way a piece of clothing hangs. It is important to always use filtered water - never distilled - when making iced tea, as well as filtered water in your ice.
Temperature also makes a discernible difference. It's ideal to use water that is just under boiling, around 190-195 degrees Fahrenheit. Although boiling water may remove some of the chemical flavors of tap water, it also removes many of its important elements and nutrients. I also recommend heating the water on the stove, not in the microwave, to ensure the temperature is consistent and even throughout."
2. Keep it consistent
"It is important to use a proportional amount of water and tea when preparing your beverage. A good standard to follow is one level teaspoon of loose leaf tea to every eight ounces of cold filtered water. If you are using a tea bag, one bag is proportional to 16 ounces of liquid. To ensure these proportions aren't thrown off kilter when pouring the final product over ice, I like to use ice cubes made from the tea or with juice for a subtle tea infusion. This helps keep the tea from getting diluted.
The rule of consistency also applies to temperature. Let the tea sit for 45 minutes at room temperature before chilling it, as abrupt changes can alter the delicate flavors."
3. The tea isn't always greener
"Just because a tea has a higher price tag, doesn't mean it will make the best iced tea. Stick with the basics and you'll be pleased. High-end, specialty and delicate teas are meant to be consumed hot, which allows you to savor the special aspects and flavors of the tea leaves."
4. Just say no to sun brews
"Although sun-brewed iced tea may sound like the perfect summer treat, it is not the best way to get the full flavor of the tea leaves. The sun does not allow enough heat for full infusion. While the end product may look dark, it actually has very little flavor and will require sugar and lemon to brighten and sharpen whatever flavor is there.
Properly brewed teas will have a clear, consistent color, lots of flavor and won't need any add-ins. It should also be noted that sun brewing can also attract a lot of unnecessary bacteria in your beverage."
5. Build up the flavor with broken tea
"While many home brewers opt for the ease of using tea bags filled with 'dust' to make iced tea, it's best to use loose leaf 'broken' tea for optimal flavor. Broken tea is hand-plucked and hand-processed directly from the grower and has a greater surface area to ensure a high quality, robust brew.
In terms of the type of tea, I usually gravitate toward medium-bodied black teas. My general rule of thumb is to find a tea that has enough body and heft to it to stand up to the cool water. Because heat intensifies flavor, a tea when brewed hot that might come across as too strong on the palate might be the perfect choice for a refreshing pitcher of iced tea."