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Can You Cold Brew Tea?

June 26, 2018

Can You Cold Brew Tea?

What if you don’t want to brew hot tea? When it’s summertime and the sun is blazing, hot tea is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. Many people have heard of cold brew coffee, but not as many people are aware that cold brew tea is also a delicious and refreshing drink.

So the answer to the question “can you cold brew tea?” is most definitely yes! And the best part is that it’s so easy to do.

In addition, there are a few different methods that you can experiment with to get the perfect batch of cold tea for your unique taste buds. Each method provides a different texture, a different taste, and a different color. You might even find that you prefer cold brew tea over hot tea because it is less bitter and smoother to drink.

In this article we will teach you all of the secrets to making the perfect cold tea and will provide step-by-step instructions as well.

What You Want to Avoid

can-you-cold-brew-tea-what-to-avoidThere is nothing better than tasting a vibrant homemade cold brew tea when the hot weather comes. However, you want to avoid flavoured bottled teas.

These teas are usually made from low quality leaf, and they have a lot of artificial flavors and added sugar. In addition, many of them are not truly cold brew tea in the first place. Rather, they are simply hot-brewed tea that has them been iced after the fact. As a result, they are not nearly as enjoyable to drink as genuine cold brew tea.

So instead of overpaying for inferior quality, learn how to make your own cold brew tea easily. But if you are here asking the question "can you cold brew tea?", then we are hoping you already plan on doing this.

Can You Cold Brew Tea - The Process

One of the best parts about cold brew tea is that the process is very simple and easy to do. Essentially all you have to do is put the tea leaf (or tea bag) in cold water and let it steep in your refrigerator. There are, however, some important things to keep in mind if you want to enjoy the perfect cold brew tea.

Your Water Source Makes a Difference

The first thing you want to take into consideration is the type of water you are using. Using clean and high quality water is a crucial part of making the perfect cold brew tea. If you don’t have quality water, then you won’t have quality tea.

In most places, the tap water is definitely not quality water. Therefore, you will want to make sure that you use a filter. If you don’t have a filter, then you can either use bottled spring water or get reverse osmosis water from your local health food store.

Rinsing Your Leaves

Secondly, we recommend always giving your loose leaf tea a quick rinse in cold water. It’s normal for whole leaf tea to have some residue, so rinsing your tea leaves will make sure that you remove any impurities.

We put together the most comprehensive guide to preparing and brewing jiaogulan on the internet, which you might find useful. We suggest taking the same steps described in that aricle with every kind of tea. It will ensure that you ge the best tasting cup of tea every time and also maximize the health benefits of the given tea.

Choosing Your Container

For best results, you will want to use a glass container that has a lid. Glass ensures that nothing leeches into your tea, and the lid keeps other odors in the refrigerator from negatively affecting the taste. We like to use a french press, a glass bottle with a built in strainer, or a mason jar as shown below. In addition, make sure to always clean and rinse your glass container before using it for cold brew tea.

Important Note: If you don't have a container with a lid, then we suggest you cover it with something. Plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel secured with a rubber band are both work.

Ready, Set, Brew

Once you have completed these three steps, you are ready to start the cold brew process.

We recommend to use 1.5-3 teaspoons of tea leaf per 8oz (250ml) as a general rule. However, the amount that you use really depends on your personal taste. There are so many different types of tea, all of which have unique flavor profiles and properties. Therefore, you might find that you like different ratios for different teas.

Place your rinsed tea leaf into your cleaned glass container. Then, fill the glass container with the appropriate amount of water. Cover the glass jar with its lid, and put it in the refrigerator.

Now, all you have to do is let it sit. You can steep your cold brew in the fridge for as little as 6 hours. However, steeping it for 12-24 can produce a more full-bodied and saturated flavor, so we typically recommend steeping it for at least 12 hours.

If the variety of tea you are using has larger leaves (for example, green tea), or if the type of tea you are using has a mild flavor, then you might want to experiment with steeping it for 24-48 hours. As a result, you most likely will get a better, stronger flavor.

Brewing with hot water first

Some people like to brew their tea hot, as they would with any other tea, before making their cold brew. They drink the first batch of hot tea. When they are finished, they take the leaves and put them into their cold brew container and fill it up with cold water. But why do this?

There are a couple reason. Firstly, this ensures that the tea leaf is completely sterile before putting it into the cold water. The leaf is going to be sitting in cold water for many hours, and therefore, making sure it is sterile beforehand will make sure that we don’t get any bacteria build up in the water.

Additionally, brewing with hot water first speeds up the extraction process. Therefore the leaf, especially if it is a rolled tea leaf, will start to open up much quicker. If you put rolled tea directly into cold water first, it will take much longer to open up.

Theory Behind Cold Brew Tea

When cold brewing tea, you are extracting it at a very slow rate. If you imagine what it looks like inside the leaf, there are many flavor compounds and volatiles which extract at different rates.

Think of it like a race. Some compounds reach the finish line (i.e. they become extracted in the water) before others.

When you are brewing with hot water, you are watching this race in fast motion. As a result, the time difference between the first compounds being released and the last compounds being released is very short.

With cold brew tea, it is like watching this race in slow motion, so the time difference between the first compounds being released and the last compounds being released is much longer. This means that you have a large time window to get the flavor profile that you like best.

The later compounds to be released tend to be the more tannic, bitter flavors. Therefore, cold brew tea tends to be less bitter and less astringent, and you can brew it stronger. As a result, you can have more of the theanine, umami, and vegetal notes as well as the high notes and the fresh juicy notes, all without the bitterness and the astringency.

Types of Tea

Fine picked teas (i.e. buds and 1-2 leaves) tend to be better suited to cold brew tea because they have more vibrancy and freshness.

Teas that have 3rd and 4th leaves that have more starchy, buttery, rounded flavors which are delicious for hot brewed tea, but seem not to be as well suited to cold brews where you want that freshness and brightness.

Herbal teas, however, are all well-suited for cold brew :)

Different Methods for Cold Tea

As we hinted at in the introduction of this article, there are a few different ways to make cold tea. Below, we will explain the different methods that you can try, and we will compare the resulting tea of each method in terms of texture, flavor, and color.

Method #1 - Normal Brew

In this method, you brew tea as you would normally brew it by pouring hot water over the dried tea leaves. Then, you let it cool down to room temperature. From there, you put it in the fridge and let it cool (overnight if you want to).

Texture – this method produces a texture that is dry. It feels dry on the back of the throat, and it produces more of a clawing, catching sensation when you drink it.

Taste – the taste is somewhat old and stagnant like it’s been sitting for too long. It does not have much vibrancy. With that said, however, it is by no means unpleasant. It is certainly more bitter, and it is dialed down in terms of brightness. It’s kind of like you’ve taken the treble out of a nice, bright piece of music.

Color – this method produces a tea that is much more oxidized, and therefore, its color is more yellow. Because it was brewed with hot water, it extracted everything out, and when it was left it the fridge it reacted with oxygen, which starts to oxidize the tea. Oxidization not only affects the color, but it can also affect the flavor.

If you are making iced tea, we don’t recommend this method because it does not do justice to the tea you are using, and you can get much better flavor with method #2 and method #3.

Method #2 - Cold-brewed tea

This is the main method of brewing that we have been discussing throughout the article (taking your rinsed tea leaves and putting them into a clean glass jar with a lid to soak for 6-24+ hours in the refrigerator)

Texture – there is a world of difference in terms of texture between this method and method #1. It is softer and smoother. The cold brewing process makes the liquid thicker. Because the leaf has been sitting in the water for a longer period of time, it has developed a great body. There is no sense of dryness. It’s texture is rich and soft. This method produces the best texture of all three methods.

Taste – the high notes come through more, and there is a brighter, more balanced flavor. If you are looking for something soft and elegant, then this one is for you. You will enjoy more of the high and bright notes, and less of the bitterness.

Color – the color of cold brew tea is beautiful. It is a nice light green. It is not very saturated, but the color is a pleasing green hue.

Method #3 - Flash chilled

To flash-chill your tea, you use a traditional hot brew process as in method #1, however, there is one huge difference with this method that completely sets it apart. After brewing your hot tea, you strain it and immediately shake it over ice. The goal is to get it ice cold without any leftover ice. Therefore, you don’t want to put too much ice in. If you do, then your tea will be diluted.

Texture – the texture produced by this method of brewing is somewhere in between method #1 and method #2. Because you hot brewed, then chilled, you are pulling out more of tannins. Therefore, it has much more of a light-biting texture. The dryness is more of an enjoyable, mineral dryness at the front of the tongue rather than a dryness catching on your throat like in method #1. It’s actually quite a quenching and refreshing texture.

Taste – the taste here is more rich than all of the other methods. It’s full-flavored because it has a little bit of the dryness and the bitterness but not too much. There is more complexity to its taste, and it has the most amount of flavor. It has this unique bitterness that leads to sweetness, which provides a perfect balance.

Color – flash-chilled tea has the best color out of all cold tea methods. It is a much deeper and more vibrant green. The color makes this tea much more enticing, and it adds to the experience of drinking it.

Bonus – you can use these leaves for a batch of cold brew after you make flash-chilled tea! Therefore, not only is flash-brewed tea the best in flavor, but it also allows you to make a cold brew tea batch as a bonus.

Connoisseur’s Tips:

(1) Take a small sip of your cold brewed tea at various time intervals to sample the flavor and find your perfect sweet spot. If you want a stronger flavor, then put it back in the fridge and leave it for several more hours (or even an entire day).

(2) We recommend cold brewing your tea in a french press. It is a really convenient method because your filter is already built into the container you are using to cold brew.

(3) You can experiment with different cold brew recipes by adding other herbs, sliced fruits, or ginger to the container when cold brewing your tea. There are so many different combinations that can produce some delicious results.

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