So, we’ve talked about chilled teas, tea punches, iced tea lattes, and frozen tea treats. Now it’s time to talk about cold-brewed teas. Cold-brewed teas are a delicious and easy-to-make variation on regular tea brewing. If you haven’t tried this way of brewing already, here are a few reasons to check it out:
1) Cold-brewed teas taste sweet and smooth. This is because cold water extracts a different chemical balance from the tea than hot water. Chemically speaking, this means there are fewer catechins and less caffeine. In terms of flavor, a reduction in catechins and caffeine drops out the bitterness.
2) It’s hot out. They’re cold. And they don’t require heat to make. Enough said.
3) Cold brewing is a new way to enjoy old favorites. The shift in flavor profile is an exciting way for foodies to explore the tastes of their teas. As much as you love your favorite teas hot, you’ve probably also tried them iced or paired with foods, and maybe you’ve had them as a lattes or as ingredients in food. This is just another way to taste them.
4) Cold-brewed teas are safer than sun-brewed teas. Unlike sun tea, cold-brewed tea does not encourage the growth of potentially dangerous bacteria. Think about it: hot sun, sugar, water… sun tea is a microbe’s dream come true. One caveat for cold brewing: pu-erh and non-tea “teas” or tea-blend ingredients, like dried flowers, fruit or herbs, need a quick rinse of boiling water before you brew. Herbal blends are not typically heated during processing (thus they may harbor bacteria) and aged pu-erhs may have collected some dust over the years.
5) They’re easy to make!
• Clean a jar or pitcher.
• Put some tea in it (about 1.5 times the amount you’d normally use).
• Add cold water and a lid.
• Let it sit in the fridge for four to ten hours, depending on the type (less time for white teas, green teas and wiry/flat oolongs, more for rolled oolongs and the most for pu-erhs, herbal infusions and black teas).
• Strain. Sip. Simple.
There are many variations on how to make cold-brewed tea, the most obvious of which is the type of tea you choose to brew. You can use any type, so long as you rinse herbal tisanes and pu-erh with boiling water first. The sweeter, smoother flavor profiles cold brewing reveals makes it ideal for Gyokuro, sweeter oolongs (like Monkey-Picked Iron Goddess of Mercy and Pineapple Coconut), pu-erhs and more black teas (like Californian Persian and Breakfast Blend).
You can also play around with technique and added ingredients. At The World Tea Expo, we saw a very cool Japanese “ice brewer,” which produced a super-sweet gyokuro by placing ice above tealeaves in a filter and letting it brew one drop at a time. Similarly, you can produce a sweeter brew by adding ice water to your leaves instead of cold water, and then letting it steep longer.
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If you want to add more flavor dimensions to your tea, there are plenty of things you can blend in, like:
• Scrubbed, fresh citrus peel or slices
• Washed, muddled fresh berries
• Washed, sliced stonefruit
• Washed, muddled, fresh herbs, such as lavender or mint
• Rinsed, organically grown fresh flowers
• Sweeteners, like agave, local honey or simple syrup
• A splash of fruit juice or nectar
• Local, raw milk