As warm weather arrives many of us want to enjoy our tea refreshingly iced. If you’re not picking up a jug of something premade from the grocery store (which often has added ingredients besides just tea), many people just steep a cup or pitcher as normal with hot water then pour it over your ice. Will that do in a pinch? Sure! But you’re missing out on the opportunity to take your tea to another level, and with minimal effort (just a bit of patience or planning!).
Here is the BEST way to enjoy your iced tea- cold brew it! If you’ve partaken in the joy that is cold brew coffee, that won’t surprise you, but maybe you’ve never tried cold brew tea. There are a couple different methods to do that, which we will talk about shortly, but first some chemistry or something (not my best class). When tea leaves are steeped in hot water, it releases something called tannins, which is what gives tea its sometimes bitter taste. However, when the tea is steeped in cold water, the flavors are still extracted from the leaves but with reduced tannins. This makes for a sweeter, smoother tea that still explodes with flavor. If you normally add sweetener to your homemade iced tea, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find you might not want it in cold brew tea- it’s so sweet on its own! Even better news, cold brewing your tea leaves more of the antioxidants in your tea, so it’s better for you! Although you should also know that cold brewed tea has about half the caffeine level as hot brewed tea- for some that’s a bonus, for those that want a good caffeine kick… maybe just drink more of it!
Sounds good right? Well, here’s some more good news- it’s easy to make. All you really need to do is put your tea in a cup (or pitcher if you’re making enough to share… or so you can drink like eight cups on your own), put it in the fridge for a few hours (depending on the type of tea), and strain it later. But there are ways you can do this more effectively and to make sure the tea isn’t over or under steeped.
First, as with any time you drink tea, we encourage you to use loose leaf teas- they’re higher quality, fresher than the tea bags you buy in the store, and it’s easier to control the amount you’re steeping to your preferred strength. Second, there is equipment you can use to make the process easier and less likely to end up with bits of tea leaves in your drink. We sell a single serving cup that is good for hot or cold brewed tea, and the well-loved Toddy system that you can use for cold brewed tea, coffee, or even for making a concentrated version of each (it comes with a recipe book!).
So how long does this take? The easiest way to remember is that whether cold or hot, the leaves need to be brewed based on how delicate they are. White leaves are the most delicate and need the least amount of time. This is followed by green, oolong, black, and then herbal. With white and green tea leaves they can sit in the water in your fridge for anywhere from two to eight hours, depending on how strong you like it. Too much longer than that and the tea may be too bitter. Oolong and black tea leaves can be steeped around eight to twelve hours, which means you can throw the leaves in before bed and they’ll be ready the next morning! Herbal teas take the longest- generally you need at least 8 hours, upwards of fourteen might be preferable depending on what kind. With all of these, if it tastes too strong or bitter, just add a bit more water or ice and it’ll be fine!
Any tea could taste good iced, it really depends on your tastes. Of our herbal teas, we recommend our Hibiscus Berry- not only is it wonderfully sweet but has a bright red
color. Of our black teas, Savannah Sunrise is one of our most popular whether cold or hot, and it’ll make you feel like a southern queen/king as you sip it this summer! For a green tea, you can’t go wrong with pure Gunpowder Green. No other fruits/herbs/flavors, just pure green! If we had to pick a white tea… well, our team is divided on this one. Our new Berry White tea is quite fruity and light, but the Eastern Caravan has a lovely spiced flavor. You’re probably going to need to try both and see which you prefer. Cold brew tea is a fun and easy way to check out different teas- and that’s not even considering what might happen if you combine them! What if you mix a hibiscus herbal tea with a fruity white tea, or a spice up your cold earl grey with some vanilla syrup? The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. If you cold brew your own tea and come up with something you really love, tag us on Instagram or Facebook so we can check it out and maybe share your recipe with others!
For a quick reference sheet while to use while brewing your teas, check out this downloadable PDF!