How to Make Refrigerator Iced Tea


We have steamy hot summers here in St. Louis, and in addition to Naturally Flavored Waters, I often like to quench my thirst with iced tea. It’s refreshing, easy to make, and has health benefits that have been talked about more and more in recent years. Black, white and green teas all have antioxidants that are believed to have cancer fighting properties. Hooray for tea!

Now for the bad news.

Did you know?  Sun tea can facilitate the growth of harmful bacteria.

For years I made jar after jar of sun tea during the hot months, because it’s so easy to make and it doesn’t heat up my kitchen like the traditional boil-water-and-brew technique. Now the door has slammed on making sun tea, because it’s not considered to be safe. Brother! 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, using the sun to brew tea can facilitate the growth of bacteria. Have you ever made tea that developed white-ish, slimy stuff after it had been in the fridge for a few days? That’s bacteria–yuck!

This isn’t a problem with tea that is brewed with boiling water, because that water is hot enough to kill the bacteria. Water needs to be heated above 195 degrees for 3 to 5 minutes to kill the bacteria. Sun tea doesn’t get hotter than 130 degrees–just hot enough to give the bacteria a growth boost, but not hot enough to kill it. is a reliable source for verifying or dispelling rumors and urban legends, and supports the view that sun tea is unsafe.

So, there are 2 safe ways to brew tea: the boiling water method and refrigerator tea. I had never heard of refrigerator tea until a few years ago, and I have been making it ever since. There’s always a jar or two of this tea in my fridge. 

Why I like refrigerator tea:

  • Like sun tea, it doesn’t heat up my kitchen in the summer.
  • It’s easy as can be to make.
  • There’s no need to cool it down–it’s cold from the beginning.
  • The tea tastes great! Cold brewing creates smooth taste without bitterness, like Cold Brew Coffee.
  • There are unlimited, easy ways to make your own tea flavors. I explain how in another post. My favorite flavored refrigerator iced tea is explained in this post: Cinnamon Refrigerator Iced Tea. It’s amazing!

Here’s how to make your own refrigerator tea. It’s so easy, it almost feels silly to walk you through this. But, here goes.

First you need to gather these supplies:

  • a jar or pitcher.  I use 1 or 2 quart mason jars with plastic lids that are easy to screw off and on.
    1 quart mason jars, view on Amazon
    2 quart mason jars, view on Amazon
    white plastic lids (fit both jar sizes), view on Amazon
  • tea (either tea bags or loose tea)
  • brewing basket for loose leaf tea, view on Amazon
  • water (you can use tap water, but I prefer to use filtered water from my Brita pitcher); no need to boil or heat the water, leave it at tap or room temperature
    Brita water filter pitcher, view on Amazon 

Here are the step-by-step photos:

Skip the photos – Go straight to the recipe

First you need to select your tea.  You can use any kind of tea. Tea bags are very convenient. Here are a few from my kitchen. I like to use plain ol’ Lipton, or something similar, if I’m going to be adding my own flavors. I usually make a jar of decaf tea for drinking in the evening.

tea bags


I also have a supply of loose leaf tea. I prefer it to tea bags, but either is fine.  My friend, Christy, got me started on Adagio teas a few years back. I particularly like their blackberry flavor for iced teas.

view on Amazon:    ♦ Adagio teas    ♦organic leaf tea

leaf tea


If you’re using tea bags, simply put them in the jar with their tags hanging over the edge.  Fill the jar with water. Done! Into the fridge it goes. I use 4 tea bags to make a 1 quart jar of tea; 8 tea bags for 2 quarts.

tea bags in jar


If you’re using loose leaf tea, I recommend one of these cool brewing baskets. (Christy introduced me to these, too.) They’re actually made for resting on the rim of a tea cup or teapot for making hot tea. But they’re also a perfect size to rest on the rim of a Mason jar. You spoon the leaf tea into the basket (1 teaspoon per cup, so 4 teaspoons for a 1 quart jar), and . . .

leaf tea w. jar

. . .pour water directly into the basket until the entire jar is filled. When the tea is finished brewing, you can pull out the basket and no bits of tea leaf will be left behind.

  • view on Amazon:  tea brewing basket

leaf tea in jar

Another option is to use a tea infusion pitcher–a pitcher and brewing basket all-in-one that was recommended by Yummy reader, Molly.

view iced tea infusion pitcher on Amazon

The jars with the tea bags or leaf tea basket now go into the fridge for at least 6 hours, and up to 12 hours. I often put a couple of jars in the fridge at night, and it is ready in the morning. Or, if I make it in the morning, it will be ready in time for dinner. The only down side of refrigerator tea is that you do have to plan ahead at least 6 hours.recipeFridge_Tea1.jpg

I always have a jar or two of these in my fridge–usually a combo of plain, flavored, or decaf. 

finished tea jars

Make any quantity you like! I normally use 1 or 2 quart jars for fridge tea, but you can use any pitcher or container you like for brewing tea. Here’s the tea to water ratio you should use: 1 teabag or 1 teaspoon of loose leaf tea per cup of water. 

Now it’s time to put up your feet, grab a good book, and cool yourself down with a cold, refreshing glass of refrigerator tea.


If you like flavored teas, I think you’ll enjoy these:

  • Cinnamon & Spice Refrigerator Iced Tea
    (my absolute favorite iced tea–naturally sweet with NO sugar!)
  • Flavored Iced Tea Recipes  (8+ easy flavors!)

Make it a Yummy day!

Link directly to this recipe

Refrigerator Iced Tea

By Monica        
     Servings: 4 1-cup servings


  • 4 tea bags or 4 teaspoons loose leaf tea
  • 4 cups tap or room temperature water


Use a 1-quart Mason jar or pitcher.

–If using tea bags: hang tea bags inside pitcher or jar with strings hanging over the rim (for easy removal later). Add water making sure that tea is immersed, cover, and put in fridge for 6-12 hours. Remove tea bags and serve.

–If using loose leaf tea: add 4 teaspoons tea leaves to a tea basket, tea ball or tea filter bag. Rest over top of jar or pitcher so the tea will be exposed to the water, but it can easily be removed after the tea has steeped. Place in the refrigerator for 6-12 hours. Remove tea leaves, and it’s ready to serve.

ADJUST RECIPE FOR ANY QUANTITY.  Use 1 teabag or 1 teaspoon of loose leaf tea per cup of water.