Just In Case You've Always Wondered: How Long Does Iced Tea Last?

You can enjoy that iced tea drink at home!

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Iced tea is one of those drinks that instantly "quenches" your thirst just by thinking about it. The drink is a popular drink for sweltering hot days and for good reason. The drink is commonly loaded with ice cubes, is bitter-sweet at the same time, and has a hint of lemon or calamansi juice that makes it even more delicious. 

The drink is so popular that it's a regular beverage option at many fast food joints and restaurants. If you order your iced tea for delivery, however, you may not have the inclination to finish it off immediately or you may order a bigger than expected bottle of the freshly brewed tea. 

For those of us who store our iced tea, the best time to drink it is immediately or within the hour of making it. 

Why the sudden rush? The same reason why coffee is best drunk soon after brewing: the flavors extracted from the tea leaves are still present and waiting too long to drink your brew will cause these flavors to deteriorate and taste less flavorful. However, this isn't always practical nor do people always have the patience to wait for the tea to be brewed and cooled before the drink is ready to be served. 

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If you want to brew a big batch of tea, you can. You should just store it properly. You should keep it refrigerated in an airtight container preferably. According to some tea brewers, this is how long that iced drink your brought home will last: 5 days in the refrigerator. If you store it in the freezer, it can last longer, up to 6 months in the freezer. The danger in storing the tea however is that it may develop off-flavors while in storage. This is where cross-contamination plays a role. (Whether you will still want to drink this tea after all this time is up to you.) 

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Any hot day is the perfect time to serve icy drinks.
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If your tea brewer or pitcher, utensils, and glass that you store the iced in are not sanitized, it can develop more than just off-flavors. Tea leaves, unlike coffee grounds, are dried, not roasted at high temperatures, so some bacteria and other microorganisms can still survive in the leaves. The good news is that these are usually harmless and the more critical concern is the sanitation of the equipment you use to brew the tea in. 

According to a report from Food Safety News citing a 1996 memo from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the agency had some pointers for those who love their iced tea: 

  • ‚ÄĘ Tea¬†leaves should be brewed at 195 degrees F or 90 degrees C for at least 3 minutes and¬†up to 5 minutes.¬†
  • ‚ÄĘ Freshly brewed tea¬†should not be stored for longer than 8 hours¬†even if refrigerated.¬†
  • ‚Äʬ†The brewing equipment should be cleaned daily to¬†avoid bacterial growth from¬†daily use.¬†
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Keep these tea brewing tips in mind and you can safely brew a large batch of your special iced tea. You'll definitely enjoy that iced tea when the weather turns hot and humid to warrant something icy cold. 

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