Photography and Iced Tea. What’s the Connection?

Color macro iPhoto of iced tea

Iced Tea

It’s that time of year – the time I start mainlining iced tea. I’m not referring to that stuff you buy in a bottle or can, complete with the exact amount of sugar and lemon some corporation decided you like. I’m also not talking about a powder or liquid concentrate you add to water. No, I’m talking about honest-to-goodness, real iced tea, made with actual tea bags.

Why make your own iced tea when you can buy it? Three reasons: you get to decide how sweet you want it or if you want lemon; it’s easy; and it’s dirt cheap. You can also get consistent results once you know how.

Before I get started, a couple of notes. First, any tea will do; I use Lipton decaf in the regular sized bags. Second, plan ahead. Make sure your pitcher can handle boiling water. Have a pot holder nearby, and if you have a laminate countertop like I do, use a trivet. Finally, know how you’re going to pull the tea bags out of the pitcher if they fall in. Think about everything that could go wrong and figure out how to handle it before you start. You don’t want to get burned, have your pitcher crack, or let the heat ruin your countertop.

What you need:

  • 1- or 1-1/2 quart/liter tea kettle
  • Boiling water
  • Timer, kitchen or cell phone 
  • 4 normal-sized tea bags
  • 2-quart/liter heat-proof glass pitcher with handle
  • Binder clip


  • Trivet
  • Small bowl
  • Lid for the pitcher
  • Ice bin from your freezer, or cold water

Okay, here we go!

  1. Rinse and fill you kettle, and set on the stove to boil.
  2. Put the trivet on the counter next to the stove with the heat-proof pitcher on it. Have the small bowl nearby.
  3. Take four regular-sized tea bags out of their paper pouches and clip them together. Hang the bags inside the pitcher, leaving the clip outside.
  4. Once the water boils, turn off the stove, hold onto the binder clip, and pour the water into the pitcher over the tea bags.
  5. Set the timer for four minutes. When the timer goes off, pull the bags. Hold them over the bowl and release the clip.
  6. Grab your ice bin and fill the pitcher to the top with ice, or top it off with cold water.

That’s it, folks. Real iced tea, made with actual tea bags. It will taste the same way every time, as long as you make it the same way every time.

  • These instructions are for two quarts/liters, or a half-gallon, of tea. If you use a smaller or larger pitcher, adjust the number of bags accordingly.
  • If the tea is too strong or too weak for your taste, adjust the amount of time you let it brew. Try either a minute up or down.
  • If you use those big iced tea bags or loose tea, use the amount of tea on the box.
  • Let the tea cool before putting it into the fridge. To enjoy immediately, pour over ice.

Now, if I haven’t bored you to death, you’re probably wondering about the connection between photography and iced tea. There is one, you know. 

How do you think I nailed down exactly how long I needed to develop film to get it to turn out the same way every time?

Timing, as they say, is everything.