Drinks & Eats

Cold Brewed Iced Tea

Iced Tea with Lemon
Iced Tea with Lemon
Tea Blends
Tea Blends

One of the biggest trends in tea consumption is to cold brew tea instead of the traditional hot brew. This is perfect for summertime and iced tea.

Cold brewed iced tea is as simple as ‘sun tea’ but better. There’s no risk of microbes developing as the product sits in the hot sun for hours at a time. However, the principle is the same. You’re eschewing the kettle along with the hot water to brew tea.

Cold brewing tea is simply another way of extracting flavor from the tea leaves. It’s just a much longer and slower process, often 8-12 hours. The flavors are released more slowly resulting in a smoother tea, leaving the bitterness behind.

The reason a cold infusion results in a mellower, sweeter flavor is because you aren’t pulling out all of the same chemicals, some of which can be bitter.

Chemical Differences of Cold Brew

For hot brewed tea, the tea is typically steeped in warm to boiling water for 3-7 minutes. In comparison to the well-established hot brew methods, cold brewing tea methods are still being developed.

This is because many of the pleasant chemicals extracted from the tea leaves during a hot brew cannot be easily extracted with cold water. To combat this extraction problem, the amount of tea leaves used is often increased and also the steep time is drastically altered.

This produces a different flavor of tea, pulling out fewer catechins and tannins. It is not clear yet how the caffeine content is altered.

Time and Temperature Effects on Tea

The brewing technique influences the taste of the tea and the concentration of flavanols in the case of teas brewed from Camellia Sinensis.

When brewing tea, the higher the temperature, the higher the diffusion speed. A higher temperature leads to greater effects when the steeping time is short.

The effect of temperature is more obvious for the heavier molecules. The hotter the water the more catechins and tannins are drawn from the tea leaf.

When cold brewing, you will notice the resulting liquor is very clear with little sediment at the bottom. This is because you are pulling out less of these heavier molecules that have a tendency to settle out of solution and sink to the bottom.

Types of Tea for Cold Brew

You can cold brew any type of tea. This method works particularly well with green teas, including matcha. You can even infuse Darjeeling tea this way. Herbal teas also work very well for cold brewing.

The trick to extracting a fuller flavor is to double the amount of tea you would normally use for hot brewing.

Different Methods of Cold Brewing Tea

  • 1. Infuser Tower: This relatively new innovation suspends a vessel of ice over a small container of tea. Underneath the container is a pitcher to catch the brewed tea. As the ice melts, it soaks the tea, one drop at a time. The tea leaves are very slowly saturated. Each drop is highly concentrated as the infusion drips down into the awaiting pitcher. The entire process takes anywhere from 2-5 hours, depending on the tea type.
  • 2. Refrigerate in a Pitcher: This is the easiest and most practical method for home brewers. Simply grab your favorite glass pitcher, fill it with cold filtered water and add the appropriate amount of tea leaves. Place the pitcher in the refrigerator overnight for around 8-12 hours.
  • 3. Mason Jar: Take a mason jar, add tea leaves and place in the refrigerator for several hours and you’ll have yourself a nice glass of tea. Easy.
  • 4. Cold Infusers on The Go: Any hot tea type of infuser will work. Simply add your tea of choice to the basket or the container, fill the tumbler with cold filtered water and pop in the fridge overnight and you’re ready to go the next morning with a nice refreshing iced tea. This is great to carry around in the summer time instead of bottled water.
  • Recipe – Black Mango Iced Tea

    This recipe is for one gallon of cold brewed iced tea.

  • • 2-ounces (57 grams) black mango tea
  • • 1 gallon (128 US fluid ounce) filtered cold water
  • • Place in refrigerator for a minimum of 8 - 12 hours
  • Note: Cold brewing tea is not an exact science. You have to experiment a little with brewing times and tea quantity. Much of this depends on the type of tea you are brewing. So steep what you love.

    Lighter teas like green , white and oolong will take less time than black tea. Select a tea that you enjoy unsweetened. Cold brewed tea is difficult to get the sweetener fully incorporated into the infusion. Flavored teas make nice cold brewed infusions.

    Instant Cold Brew Tea is Not the Same as Cold Brewed Tea

    Buyer beware. Instant cold brewed tea, as seen in some popular tea brands, is not the same as cold brewing tea. The instant variety is usually patented because the tea product is altered in some way.

    The invention of instant cold brewed tea encompasses a tea leaf product that rapidly brews in cold water. The goal is to produce a beverage with the same color and flavor characteristics identical to hot brewed iced tea beverages.

    Although these products do contain 100% tea leaves, they may include the addition of instant tea powder or coat the tea leaves with tea extracts.

    If you read some of the patents on these products, you will find that the cold brew tea products may use powders, extracts or colorants to quickly infuse tea in cold water. The goal is to produce an iced tea beverage with the color and flavor comparable to iced teas prepared by hot brewing methods.

    Naturally cold brewed tea takes hours to infuse, not minutes. There are no shortcuts.

    Enjoy Your Cold Brewed Tea

    The only tea that you can cold brew instantly is matcha. Matcha will infuse immediately into cold filtered water. I’ve even made it with sparkling water and it’s very refreshing.

    At home, we drink tea daily all day. I always have a backup pitcher of iced tea in the refrigerator ready to go. Drink your tea and enjoy.

    Mary Ann Rollano is a tea connoisseur and founder of Life Is Better With Tea, a tea blog celebrating the joyous and healthy benefits of tea.