Believe it or not, we’ve been able to narrow it down to two: Ceylon or Assam black tea.
But why those two? And which one’s really better?
Ultimately, the “best” tea comes down to individual flavor preferences. But here are some thoughts on each of those types of tea and why they make amazing iced tea!
What’s the Best Loose Leaf Black Tea for Iced Tea?
The reason I’ve chosen to go with two picks is that:
- There are quite a few ways to make iced tea and…
- People like to add all sorts of things to their tea.
While just about any tea makes a wonderful iced tea, not all tea holds up to milk, sugar, and other things people like to add to their tea. And not all teas need those things to be crowd-pleasers—with some of our dessert teas, a tiny bit of sugar goes a long way.
So without further ado, here’s what you need to know about these two classic black teas.
Assam Black Tea
If you’ve ever had a strong, malty English Breakfast blend, that’s probably the Assam talking! Assam is a bold, malty tea with a brisk finish and tannin-packed flavor that holds up to just about anything you throw at it.
For this reason, it’s probably the most popular tea for milk tea. This kind of milk tea is often served up with plenty of ice, tapioca pearls, and flavored syrup. (And, surprisingly, you can still taste the tea. Like I said, it holds up to anything!)
Almost all “breakfast” blends have Assam, alongside a mash of other black teas, mostly from Assam, Ceylon, and Kenya.
For example, our House Blend black tea uses a mix of Assam and Ceylon tea, mellowed out with creamy vanilla. Fog Cutter black tea wraps Darjeeling, African, Ceylon, and Assam black teas up and ties them together with a little bit of lemon peel. They’re both wonderfully bold, malty, and can easily take the place of your morning cuppa joe.
But it doesn’t just find a home in breakfast teas—spiced teas like Uplifting Coconut Chai feature that malty Assam base, keeping the strong “tea” flavor amidst all the spices.
Ceylon Black Tea
Ceylon black tea is probably the most popular black tea. It has a somewhat more delicate flavor, taking a back seat to fruits and other flavors present in the tea blend. (It’s definitely still there—just a bit more subtle.)
It has a brisk finish like Assam but tends to get lost a little more easily and doesn’t hold up to additives quite as well if you’re looking for that strong tea flavor.
However, for someone who isn’t really into that super malty/punchy profile, Ceylon is a good alternative. (If you’re in the US, specifically in the southern states, iced tea is kind of a big deal—and it’s usually Ceylon.)
Ceylon’s natural flavor varies a little more by region, featuring fruity, spicy, and even chocolatey notes that can perfectly complement those additions in a tea blend. You’ll find that they’re a common base for dessert teas, like our Coconut A La Creme and Strawberries and Cream black tea.
And while their flavors are a bit more subtle, that’s not to say you can’t add a little bit of milk or cream. Teas like Sweet Georgia Peach and Fireside Chat are Ceylon blends that also make wonderful milk teas—my personal favorites to have with a bit of sweetened milk or cream.
As for iced teas that are delicious on their own, Porch Sippin’ Pecan black tea features “homey,” comforting flavors—cinnamon and pecan. Perfect company for sitting out on the porch on a hot, summer day! But if you still want to add something a little extra, a tiny bit of chocolate syrup, cream, and cinnamon make wonderful additions.
So, Ceylon or Assam?
While my personal favorite is Assam (and again, the answer to this question does come down to your flavor preferences), the best loose leaf black tea for iced tea is Ceylon.
It’s the crowd-pleaser, the tea that makes it iced tea blends all over, winning the favor of tea lovers and non-tea drinkers alike. It pairs with just about anything and never overwhelms the subtle notes of other black teas in the blend.
While an argument could be made that maybe there’s just too much Assam in some blends, I disagree. I love my punchy, malty Assam, over-steeped, with nothing added. It might not be everyone’s cuppa tea, but it has certainly won the hearts of breakfast blend and milk tea lovers all over the world.
But you’ll have to try it for yourself. If you’re new to the world of loose leaf tea, I definitely recommend starting with a nice Ceylon blend that features some flavors you think you’ll like. Pick out one of our recommended iced teas and learn how to brew it at home!