How to Cold Brew Tea

Tea Education / December 17, 2018

Everyone seems to be warming up to cold brew tea.

The growing appreciation for subtler, softer flavors in drinks knows no season.

As individuals look to replace super-sweet, carbonated drinks with healthier alternatives, these herbal options have stayed beyond summer, becoming the staple chill beverage of choice in restaurants and cafes.

And you can easily make this beverage a staple in your home too.

Unlike traditional hot cups of tea, cold brewing runs no risk of over steeping which means making large batches is incredibly simple, and the leaves can be re-used (for a lighter, second or third batch).

Plus, all the magic happens inside your refrigerator. And if you’re a little more adventurous, you can even mix together your favorite flavors and use ingredients you already have at home – fruits, herbs, and even spices – to make a satisfyingly refreshing new drink.

The best part about making your own tea recipe is that you get to control the quality and quantity. So whether you’re preparing a cold brew green tea or a tropical blend of hibiscus and wild berries when you have friends over, you know exactly the goodness contained in every glass.

What is Cold Brew tea?

Similar to its coffee counterpart, cold brewing tea is a process of steeping the tea leaves in cold or room temperature waters.

While tea without the use of kettle or hot water may sound absurd, the cold brew method is actually said to be better in releasing the full flavor of the leaves. Applying heat tends to ‘cook’ and thus change the chemical structure of the tea leaves. It also extracts the different substances faster, including compounds called phenolics that are the source of astringent and bitter flavors.

On the other hand, research shows that cold brewing allows for slower extractions resulting in lower contents of caffeine, with less bitterness and astringency. And it does so without losing the all-important antioxidants too. This makes for a cool, naturally sweet tea drink that’s healthier compared to its hot-brew counterpart.

What You Will Need to cold brew tea

So how to cold brew tea? Well, you’ll only need the following:

pitcher or jar (standard pitchers have either 32, 48, or 60-ounce capacities)

  • leaf teas
  • teaspoon for measuring
  • mesh sieve/strainer
  • fruits and herbs (optional)

For the best cold brew, loose leaf tea is highly recommended.

As the name suggests, it is tea that’s stored and sold loose. Loose leaf tea uses the finest quality whole tea leaves. In contrast, the ingredients in teabags mostly come from tea dust and fannings which have larger surface areas, and thus, more room for the flavor to evaporate leaving your drink stale. The bags themselves may prevent the ingredients from diffusing properly whereas loose leaf tea allows the water to naturally flow through the leaves for that full-bodied flavor and soothing aroma.

Apart from its superior flavor (teabags lose their freshness overtime especially when stored in paper boxes), loose leaf tea is also more economical and sustainable. You can buy them in bulk, and try samples first before purchasing larger quantities. Since loose leaf tea is bag free, you lessen wastage by getting rid of extra packaging; plus, you can store them in the same container (metal tin cans or glass jars are the best) over and over again.

If you’re not sure about the variety of loose leaf tea to use, you can still opt for your preferred teabag. Just snip the corner and pour the contents in your container.  But for starters, cold brew green and white tea work best. They bring clean aromas and a subtle flavor that’s perfectly captured when chilled. Oolong, which is a variety of partially oxidized teas, is also a great alternative. Its flavor can range from smooth and mellow to robust and smoky.

Cold brew tea is great with fruit and herbs. These additional ingredients can certainly make your drink extra refreshing. Citrus flavors like from lemons, orange peels, and lime go well with light teas. Herbal teas, on the other hand, can be complemented with cherries, strawberries, hibiscus, and cranberries too. For oolong teas, mixing in passion fruit is a classic combination. If you’re planning to make cold brew iced tea with fruit, the herbs that work best are mint and basil leaves, thyme, and rosemary. Feel free to experiment on the combinations of add-ins, and mixing two varieties of loose leaf tea for your cold brew to create new flavors.

Measured to Perfection

While there’s no risk of over steeping cold brew tea, the flavor will still largely depend on just how much tea you actually use. If you’re using loose leaf tea, the golden ratio is about four to six teaspoons to a quart of filtered water (32 oz.), depending on desired strength (teabags are equivalent to about a teaspoon of loose leaf tea) and if you’re adding in fruits and herbs. Aside from weck jars, simple brew teapots also work well, especially if they have built-in strainers as some varieties of loose leaf tea use finely broken leaves which can get into your glass or cup if left unstrained.

Mixing it Up

Making cold brew tea is as simple as dumping loose leaf tea into your container, and then pouring in cold or room temperature water, making sure the leaves are completely covered or immersed. Let the mixture stand in room temperature for about thirty minutes to an hour. If you’re going for fruits or herbs, you can already add them after the drink has stood, and just before you put the container inside the fridge. Or, you can mix the ingredients after the tea has steeped.

Cover your jars or teapots and refrigerate for eight to twelve hours (or steep them overnight).

Cold brew green or white tea can be steeped for just 6 hours, minimum. On the other hand, herbal teas could take about 14 to 16 hours. If you’re re-steeping loose leaf tea, you’ll have to wait for at least 16 hours. To get the flavor that best suit your palate, taste-test your brew after about eight hours. If you’re happy with the flavor, it’s ready to serve. If it’s too strong, just add cold water to help dilute the mix.  

If you’re container does not have a built-in strainer, simply pour the drink through a mesh sieve to filter the leaves. You can serve the tea as it is or with add-ins of your choice (slices of lemon, mint, honey to sweeten). If the loose leaf teas have not unfurled as much, you can reuse them for another batch of cold brew.

Homemade Goodness

Making cold brew tea is a fun experiment on a broad range of aromas and flavors. It’s also the perfect opportunity to be introduced to loose-leaf tea. Don’t hesitate to ask your local teashop which variety works best for your cold brew. And, always store your tea in airtight containers to preserve its flavor and freshness.

The best thing about making cold brew tea is that measurements are not as critical compared to its hot-brew counterparts. You can also accentuate the flavor by adding in fruits and herbs. This means you can make great flavor combinations by playing around your favorite teats, the fruits in season, and the herbs that are readily available in your home. And the product? – a refreshing, homemade beverage that you know is good for you.    

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