What is the drink that you automatically reach for on a hot, sultry day? More often than not it would be a tall glass of iced tea. But do you really know what goes into making it? Let’s find out.

Iced Tea

As the name suggests, Iced Tea is cold tea, usually black, served with loads of ice. Most iced teas are laced with fruit-flavoured syrups such as lemon, peach, and raspberry, even exotic ones like passion fruit. The drink mainly contains black tea, water, sugar, ascorbic acid and sodium. Packaged varieties usually contain some preservatives to increase their shelf life. Some companies such a Lipton also offer a carbonated variety of iced tea. While most iced teas are made using black tea, some brands offer green tea variants as well.

Iced Tea is popular across the world though the contents may vary a bit in different countries. For example, in Thailand iced tea is sweetened with sugar and condensed milk. Also a bit of coconut milk is added to give it a creamy consistency. Sometimes tapioca pearls are added to it to make Bubble Tea. This variety is especially popular in Taiwan and many other South East Asian countries.

Health concerns

Most of the iced teas available off the shelf have a high sugar content. The flavouring syrup is the main culprit here. Even unsweetened iced teas supposedly have a small amount of sugar to enhance the taste.

If you’re concerned about your caffeine intake, be warned that a bag of black tea can contain anywhere from 25 mg to 100 mg of caffeine. Decaffeinated teas are available as an alternative. Recently there was much reporting on a new study that stated drinking iced tea raised the risk of kidney stones. It was later found that no such study existed and it was merely a health tip by Dr. John Milner, a urologist and assistant professor at Loyola University, Chicago. Dr. Milner warned that iced teas contain high levels of oxalate, which is known to cause kidney stones.

However, as long as you’re not guzzling the tea by the gallon, there shouldn’t be a cause for concern, as the benefits of tea far outweigh the cons. Tea is considered to be a super food and its antioxidants are instrumental in detoxifying free radicals from the body. This is primarily due to the flavonoid catechin. Remember that the longer you steep the tea, the more flavonoids in your drink. Drinking tea has also been associated with lower chances of heart diseases and strokes. It may also help in fighting certain forms of cancer.

Homemade v/s Packaged

So go ahead and enjoy your glass of iced tea. Whenever possible try making the drink at home rather than reaching for a packaged product. This way you can control the amount of sugar that goes into your drink. Sun Tea is a great alternative if you don’t want to add sugar. Simply set a glass jar in sunlight and add one tea bag for every glass of water. Let the liquid soak up the sunrays for around 3 hours. Remove the tea bags, pour over some ice and enjoy a refreshing drink!

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