Iced tea is an incredibly popular summer drink (and an excellent cocktail ingredient!), but what about cold brew tea? This new kid on the block isn’t as unusual as it seems.
In fact, the name gives the whole thing away. Cold brew tea is simply tea that’s been made using cold water instead of hot.
Changing the water temperature is surprisingly powerful, giving you a milder and smoother drink. This is because hot water steeps many more tannins out of the tea than cold water does. Tannins give tea its familiar bitter notes, so the drink loses its bitter edge.
There’s another change too – cold brewing doesn’t extract the same depth out of your tea leaves as brewing with hot water. This leads to a milder drink, one that’s perfect for new tea drinkers.
In this article, we’ll teach you everything there is to know about cold brew tea, including the basic techniques, the types of tea you can brew, some popular brands, and the health benefits of the tea.
How To Cold Brew Tea
If you’re using tea bags, then you simply need a container for the water. You can easily fish the tea bags out once they have been in there long enough.
However, if you’re using loose leaf tea instead, you’ll need a way to strain the tea.
A small sieve is a common technique, although this may not be fine enough for all types of tea. Some people use a French press instead. While this still lets the odd piece of debris through, it’s a pretty good solution.
If you plan to make cold brew tea often, you could invest in a tea pitcher instead. These are designed for loose leaf tea, making it easy to prepare the tea without any mess at all.
Beyond this, you just need water and your tea.
First, fill a pitcher of water and add your tea to it. A ratio of 1 tea bag (or the equivalent amount of loose leaf tea) to 8 ounces of water works well. However, you may end up adjusting this to give you a stronger or weaker brew.
Then, simply stick the pitcher in the refrigerator for between 6 and 8 hours. You can also try an overnight brew or up to 24 hours, if you want a stronger drink.
That’s all there is to it.
You can use loose leaf tea or tea bags, depending on your preference. Loose leaf tea gives you a slightly better brew, but involves more effort, so many people stick with tea bags instead.
Types Of Cold Brew Tea
Almost any type of tea can be cold brewed, including herbal teas. However, there are some differences in the outcomes depending on the type of tea you choose.
Cold brew black tea is an excellent go-to. It tends to be lighter and more refreshing than regular black tea, which is perfect for early mornings.
You don’t need to stick with plain black tea either. Flavored versions can be just as delicious, including the various types of Earl Grey tea.
Green tea is excellent for cold brewing. After all, the tea often has bitter notes when it is served hot. These are entirely removed with cold brewing, giving you tea that’s much easier to drink.
Flavored green tea works well here, including those that use peach or berry flavors or ones with floral notes. Green tea should be brewed for at least 3 hours, although many people allow it to steep for 6 to 8 hours instead for extra flavor.
Oolong isn’t often prepared using cold brew methods, but you can still do so. You may want to focus on loose leaf tea here, as oolong tea has larger leaves than other types of tea.
These large leaves may also impact the caffeine content. In fact, oolong is one of the only cases where the cold brewed version may sometimes contain more caffeine than regular oolong.
We can’t forget about white tea either. This is another fairly fast one, requiring just 4 hours of steeping.
However, this tea won’t be for everyone as white tea is already a very mild drink. Cold brew white tea is milder again.
Cold brewing should work well for most types of herbal tea. However, there aren’t as many recipes for herbal teas, so you’ll need to experiment to find the best brewing time.
Most of the time you’ll need between 8 and 12 hours for regular herbal tea and even longer for fruity herbal teas. This is much longer than the time needed for traditional tea. Hopefully, you’re not in a hurry.
You can even cold brew yerba mate. Doing so cuts down some of the bitterness from the herbal tea, while still giving you plenty of distinctive flavors.
Chai tea is especially good if you allow it to steep overnight. This gives the spices enough time to come into their own, without the tea getting too strong in the process.
Cold brew chai tea can be even better than the regular version, as you no longer have strong tannins from the black tea. Because the tea is mellower, the spices and any milk are much more noticeable than normal.
You can indeed cold brew decaf tea, in exactly the same way you would with regular tea. A few brands even sell decaf cold brew tea bags. The cold brewing approach creates a mellower drink than hot tea or iced tea, which is perfect for many situations.
Just remember that decaf tea isn’t completely caffeine free. It still contains tiny amounts of caffeine, even if you brew it using cold water.
Finally, there are cold brew tea blends. These might contain two different types of tea or perhaps a combination of tea and other ingredients. Here are a few approaches you can try.
- Oolong tea with basil leaves
- Black tea with rose petals
- A 50/50 mix of green tea and black tea
- Chamomile tea with strawberry
- Green tea with mango and jasmine
Remember, you’ll need to experiment with the brewing time and ratio of ingredients. Some versions may need to be brewed for longer than you might expect.
Cold Brew Iced Tea
This recipe comes from cookieandkate.com and it’s as simple as they come. Still, simple isn’t a bad thing. Kate also does a great job at laying out the recipe and includes plenty of pictures to help you along the way.
There’s also a fantastic comments section, with contributors talking about their successes. Some highlight noteworthy approaches, like throwing tea bags into gallon jugs of water, for a fast way to make a lot of cold brew tea at once.
Cold Brew Iced Tea With Fruit
Jennifer, from seasonsandsuppers.ca, offers this recipe. Rather than just focusing on cold brew tea, the recipe also relies on fresh fruit and herbs.
This is a fantastic idea, as you get plenty of flavor from the extra ingredients. The drink ends up being a little like a combination of iced tea and infused water – and should be seriously delicious.
Jennifer provides 5 fruit flavors for your tea. These should be enough to get you started. You could easily make your own versions.
Homemade Sweet Tea Vodka
Then there’s this recipe. It comes from iowagirleats.com and mixes up the entire idea.
You’re still basically cold brewing your tea. The difference is that you’re doing so in vodka rather than water. Doing so gives you iced tea flavored vodka. This vodka could then be used to make a spiked Arnold Palmer or for many other cocktails.
Popular Cold Brew Tea Bags
These cold brew tea bags are an interesting idea. They’re similar to regular tea bags, except the bag itself is normally larger and there may be a little less tea present.
This style creates more space for the tea leaves to expand out, which should give you a better brew. Plus, most products will give you instructions for the ideal brewing time and ratio of tea to water. Doing so cuts down the guesswork considerably.
Southern Breeze has a fantastic focus on cold brew tea, with a variety of flavors to choose from. These include Mango Blackberry, Watermelon, Mint, Raspberry, and Peach.
Interestingly, these are all designed for sweet cold brew iced tea, so the bags are also pre-sweetened. The teas are completely sugar free, as they get their sweetness from sucralose rather than sugar. This approach gives you sweet cold brew tea that contains no calories.
Southern Breeze also offers some probiotic flavors, such as their Raspberry Cold Brew Iced Tea Plus Probiotics. This product relies on black tea, hibiscus, and natural flavors, plus malic acid, sucralose, and Bacillus subtilis (as the probiotic). Including probiotics in tea is an unusual idea, but it could work well.
Then there’s Lipton. This famous brand mostly focuses on hot brew tea and includes every style under the sun. That includes options like Orange Passionfruit Jasmine Green Tea and various caffeine free herbal teas.
Their cold selection isn’t nearly as impressive and most of these products focus on iced tea. However, they do have Cold Brew Family Sized Tea Bags in regular and decaf versions. For these, you just need two tea bags for each gallon of water.
Oddly, Lipton suggests that you just brew the tea for a few minutes. This is unusual, as black tea normally requires 6 hours or so of steeping for a cold brew. However, Lipton may have processed the tea leaves differently to make them much faster in a cold brew.
Twinings takes a similar approach to Lipton, saying that their tea should be ready in between 3 to 5 minutes (even when brewed with cold water). There’s a better selection of flavors this time, including Peach, Green and Mint, English Classic, and Mixed Berries.
Each flavor comes in a box of 20 tea bags, allowing you to quickly make a glass of cold brew tea, rather than dealing with a whole pitcher of water. The teas tend to be unsweetened, so you’ll need to add your own sweetener.
The flavors from Celestial Seasonings include Citrus Sunrise, Green Tea, Raspberry Black Tea, Red, White & Blueberry, Unsweetened Black Tea, and more. That’s quite a selection, which is excellent if you’re looking for variety.
This is another product that can be brewed in just 5 minutes – straight from the tea bag. Of course, you can leave the tea bag in your water for much longer, which will simply give you a more intense flavor.
Conversations about the benefits of tea often focus on the antioxidants or perhaps the tannins. While these compounds are relevant, they’re not the most important feature.
Instead, tea is powerful simply because it’s a low calorie drink that’s mostly water. This is crucial because we all need water to function well. Being hydrated helps with countless processes in our body, affecting our cognition, our mood, our attention, our energy, and more.
It’s also surprisingly easy to be dehydrated. Some of us simply get distracted and forget to drink water, while others focus on sugary caffeine-laden drinks that can be more harmful than helpful.
Tannins are bitter plant-based compounds that are often found in red wine and tea. They offer some health benefits, but can also cause notable side effects, like nausea, constipation, decreased iron absorption, and headaches.
While tannins don’t affect everyone in the same way, anyone who’s sensitive may want to avoid them or at least decrease their intake. Cold brew tea is fantastic here, as the cold brewing process means that most of the tannins remain in the tea leaves, rather than ending up in your tea.
This allows you to still enjoy your tea, without any issues from the tannins. Pretty amazing, right?
Can Contain More Antioxidants
The slower extraction process of cold brew tea may lead to more antioxidants. It’s easy to see how this helps, as antioxidants have been linked to so many important health benefits.
In particular, a diet rich in antioxidants could help to decrease disease risk, lower inflammation, and even protect against cancer.
The steeping time can play a crucial role here. You’re going to want a steeping time of 12 hours or more to optimize the antioxidants in your cold brew. Agitating the water every so often can help as well.
Research is in its early stages for this topic, so the antioxidant differences aren’t guaranteed. There may even be differences in the types of antioxidants present in cold brew tea compared to regular tea. Still, you’ll always get some antioxidants and a healthy drink.
Cold brew tea is normally lower in caffeine than regular hot brew tea. Once again, the difference is associated with water temperature.
The lower caffeine content is helpful, given that many people are sensitive to caffeine. If this is the case for you, then cold brewed tea could be perfect.
Still… there’s a caveat here. As with antioxidants, the effect of cold brewing on caffeine can vary. For example, cold brewed oolong tea may actually be higher in caffeine than regular oolong tea, perhaps due to the surface area of the leaves.
So, trust your body. If it feels like your tea is higher in caffeine than you expected, your body is probably right.
Iced tea is traditionally made by brewing tea in hot water, then allowing it to cool down. This practice gives the drink a similar intensity and flavor profile as hot tea. The only difference is that you’re serving it cold, rather than hot.
In contrast, cold brew tea is made using cold water alone. It ends up with a milder flavor, few tannins, and less caffeine – features that can all be appealing.
The two types of tea can be used in exactly the same way. So, you can serve a pitcher of cold brew tea with ice during a party or use it as part of a cocktail, just like you can with regular iced tea.