Cold Brewed Iced Tea
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
Recipe – Black Mango Iced Tea
This recipe is for one gallon of cold brewed iced tea.
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.