How To Brew Large Amounts of Iced Tea For Coffee Shop/Restaurant

Shop iced tea ware for loose leaf tea

With the summer heat, many restaurants and coffee shops are opening outdoor dining space. While outdoor dining is a welcome source of revenue, it poses challenges in the summer months, such as the weather.

It’s important to keep your customers comfortable, and that often means keeping them cool and refreshed. Serving iced tea is an attractive low cost option to draw customers in.

If you’ve never served iced tea before or are looking to expand your production, we have an easy guide to get you up and running.

How to brew large amounts of iced tea

You have a few options when brewing iced tea for table service and to go orders. You might even be able to start with what you have at hand.

Cold Brewing Iced Tea

The cheapest and easiest option is to cold brew your tea. The premise is similar to cold brewing coffee. Essentially you are just letting tea leaves sit in water overnight. In the morning, you strain out the leaves. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this, potentially with equipment you have on hand.

One of the least expensive methods is to buy some plastic pitchers with lids to cold brew your tea overnight. Buy as many pitchers as needed to get through a whole day of service, plus extra for straining the tea leaves over. With this method, you will need a fine mesh strainer that will fit over your pitcher or a food-grade mesh sock that fits inside your pitcher, that way you can get all the tea leaves out when it’s done brewing.

68oz Mist Iced Tea Cold Brew
68oz Mist Iced Tea Cold Brew

Our 68oz Mist Iced Tea Jug is a good reference for how to accomplish this.

If you want something a little larger, you can invest in something like a Toddy Commercial Cold Brew System. The Toddy commercial system is simply a food-grade bucket with a spigot for dispensing and reusable mesh filter to strain out the tea.

An important note; Whatever equipment you use, make sure it is dedicated to tea. You don’t want to use equipment that is also used for coffee. Coffee oils leach into plastic and are very difficult to impossible to remove entirely. Even a little bit of coffee residue will ruin the flavor your iced tea. Likewise, you don’t want to mix your plain tea equipment with your flavored tea equipment, otherwise your plain iced tea won’t taste so plain anymore.

In addition, you don’t want your tea to sit out at room temperature too long. It should be transferred to a refrigerator as soon as possible and labelled with the name of the tea and the date brewed. Don’t serve tea that has been sitting out for more than a few hours at room temperature. Better to be safe and dump it. Likewise, any tea you haven’t served after two days, even if refrigerated, dump. Start over with a fresh batch. Fresh tea tastes better and is safer.

Generic Cold Brewing Instructions

1. Add 1 oz loose leaf tea per gallon of finished iced tea in a pitcher/vessel.
2. Fill pitcher/vessel 1/3 full of hot water (not boiling). This will give your tea a “hot bump,” helping draw out the flavor. If using boiling water, let it sit off heat for 30-60 seconds to reach desired temperature before pouring on tea leaves.
3. Add cold water the rest of the way in your pitcher/vessel. Place in refrigerator to continue steeping overnight.
4. When done cold brewing overnight, strain out tea leaves. Sample. If too strong, add cold water. If too weak, add a hot tea concentrate.*
5. Keep refrigerated, serve over ice as needed.

Hot Brewing Iced Tea

The hot brew method is a great way to whip up a batch quickly. Please note this method will use up ice fast, so be sure you have plenty of ice on hand if your are doing this in large volumes.

1. Add 1 oz loose leaf tea per gallon of finished iced tea in a pitcher/vessel.
2. Fill pitcher/vessel 1/2 full of hot water (not boiling). If using boiling water, let it sit off heat for 30-60 seconds to reach desired temperature before pouring on tea leaves.
3. Let tea steep 2-5 minutes. For green and white teas, keep it around 2 minutes. Black teas around 3-4. Herbal, rooibos, and fruit tisanes can sit around 5 minutes.
4. Strain out tea leaves. If time allows, let tea cool a few minutes. Add ice cold water with plenty of ice to the pitcher/vessel until full. Sample. If too strong, add ice cold water. If too weak, add a hot tea concentrate.*
5. Keep refrigerated, serve over ice as needed.

Commercial Equipment for Brewing Iced Tea

If you have a busy establishment, you may find yourself running out of iced tea quickly. If that’s the case, you may need to upgrade to commercial iced tea production.

There are many places to get commercial iced tea equipment online. One of the best things to do is look for used equipment from establishments that are downsizing or going out of business. Bunn is a good brand to look for. They sell iced tea brewers that operate like a large coffee maker. You place the tea leaves in a coffee filter. Hot water dispenses over the filter and into an iced tea dispenser. You can program your Bunn for simple push button operation, ensuring consistent batches amongst staff.

It’s nice to have a couple of iced tea dispensers, that way you can brew a couple of batches and leave them right in the dispensers. Brew your batches before opening to allow your tea to cool down. It takes a very long time for the large volume of tea to cool down. Models with a separate hot water faucet are nice because you can brew a pot of tea or other hot beverages right off the dispenser.

Keep in mind that a commercial iced tea brewer will need a water line and possibly some wiring.

*Hot tea concentrate:

If you find you have made your tea too weak, you can brew a strong pot of tea to give your batch a flavor boost. Use 2 tsp tea leaves per 8 oz water. Make sure your tea leaves aren’t crammed in a tiny infuser, they will need room to expand. Follow normal brewing instructions. Add the tea extract to your iced tea batch as needed.

What about sweetener?

For plain iced tea, we advise against sweetening. Customers can add sweetener as needed. For fruit tisanes or fruity iced teas, we recommend trying just enough sweetener to draw out the fruit flavor. It doesn’t take much at all.

Don’t dump in sugar though, it won’t dissolve. Use simple syrup. Simple syrup is very easy to make, just mix one part sugar to one part boiling water. Stir until dissolved. Add to iced tea as needed. Once cooled, you can offer to your customers in a syrup dispenser to sweeten their own iced teas.


Whatever method you use, do a dry run with friends/family/employees. Find someone who is familiar with tea. Make sure you have your system ironed out before serving to your customers.

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View our guide: what teas to serve in a coffee shop/restaurant.


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