Its already the end of August. I don’t know how that happened but here we are. I thought we would start out teatime fun tea explorations with my favorite way to make iced tea before we slip out of iced tea season for another year.
The method is called cold brewing. Its flat out the easiest way to make iced tea and, in my opinion, produces the tastiest iced tea. The method is simple, just put the tea leaves or tea bags in any container that holds water, add water, put in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours, strain and pour over ice. Since no heat is applied to the leaves the tannins that turn tea bitter and cloudy never get extracted from the tea leaves. This method produces a smooth, clear tea that never gets bitter no matter how long you let it steep.
What kind of containers should I use to make cold brew in? I brew my cold brew in 4 cup bottles I bought at Target. I also have a gallon and 2-quart jugs that I bought specifically for making iced tea. They have infusers built right into the jugs, so you don’t have to strain out the leaves. They also fit in the door of the fridge so they don’t take up a lot of space. They are nice but not necessary. I have seen people cold brew tea in jelly jars, mason jars, directly in iced tea glasses. It doesn’t matter, as long as it can hold water you can brew tea in it.
What kind of tea can you cold brew? I, literally, try every tea I get as a cold brew. I tend not to like teas with spearmint, peppermint, or ginger as cold brew. So far, my favorite is just plain, unflavored Darjeeling black tea that I got from a company called Plum Deluxe.
I suggest trying every tea you try hot as a cold brew as well, even if you didn’t like the tea when you made it hot. I don’t know the science but a cold brewed tea can taste completely different then when it is brewed hot.
How much tea do I use to cold brew? The accepted wisdom is to use 1 teaspoon loose leaf tea or 1 tea bag per 8 ounces (1 cup) of water. In general, I find that a great place to start. If it isn’t strong enough for you, increase the loose-leaf tea by 1/2 teaspoon per 8 ounces of water or add an additional tea bag per 8 ounces of water and then brew up a small batch, 1 or 2 cups, until the tea is strong enough for you, then scale it up for bigger batches. Keep a small notebook by your tea so you can make notes about the name of the tea and how much tea you used to make a batch and how long you steeped it for future reference. Take it from me you will not remember this if you don’t.
Aren’t 16 teaspoons of loose-leaf tea or 16 tea bags a lot of tea for one gallon of iced tea? Yeah, but you want to brew tea for iced tea a little stronger than you normally would for hot tea because you don’t want the ice to dilute the tea. The good news is, if you use quality loose-leaf tea, you can generally resteep the same tea leaves for a second gallon of iced tea. If you brew your tea using tea bags you won’t be able to resteep them for a second gallon. They are a one and done kind of tea.
How long should I steep cold brew iced tea? There is no getting around it, cold brewing your iced tea is a slow process. I find it takes a minimum of 4 hours to get a good batch. It is even better if you can leave it the fridge overnight. Because of this lead time, I generally throw at least a quart in the fridge each night before I go to bed and then start a 3-cup glass brewing on my desk at work each morning, so it is ready after lunch when I almost always crave iced tea.
How long does cold brew iced tea last in the refrigerator? I generally only make enough cold brew iced tea to last me about 2 days, so usually, 2 quarts at a time. I have drunk cold brew iced tea that’s been in the fridge for 7 days and it’s been fine. If you aren’t comfortable with that or its moldy, stinks or tastes off, dispose of it and make a new batch.
Cold Brewed Iced Tea
8 cups of water
8 tsp loose leaf tea or 8 tea bags
Place water in a pitcher. Add tea bags or loose-leaf tea. Place in the fridge and let steep for at least 4 – 6 hours up to overnight in the refrigerator. Remove tea bags or strain out the leaves and drink over ice.