In last week’s post, we offered a step-by-step guide to “flash chilling,” a method used to make iced tea that is quick and easy, but in spite of this convenience, flash chilling doesn’t always afford the best flavor. It requires that one exercise a great deal of precision when measuring the leaves, monitoring the water temperature, and timing the infusion, and if things aren’t just right, the iced tea can taste either too weak and without flavor or else too bitter. Flash chilling also requires that you use more of your loose-leaf tea leaves than you might like.
Fortunately, there’s another method for iced tea, and although it takes a little longer than flash chilling, the flavor tends to be much better and more consistent. This method is cold brewing.
Let’s take a look at how to make the ultimate cold brew iced tea.
Method Two: Cold Brewing
Cold brewing can take hours (compared to the few minutes needed for flash chilling), and so this is not a method for those in a hurry. Still, regardless of how long it takes to cold brew, the technique is pretty hands-off and doesn’t require much of your attention. As a bonus, since you will be using water at room temperature or colder, there’s less to worry about when it comes to the chemical by-products of plastics exposed to high heat, which means this method is plasticware friendly.
The concept behind the cold brew is fairly straightforward — tea extraction from the leaves occurs when they’re placed in water, but the temperature of the water influences just how quickly the tea can be extracted. When we use water near boiling, this happens within a few minutes, but as the water lowers in temperature, the extraction time increases exponentially. By the time you’re working with cold water, you’ll want to let your tea leaves infuse for hours.
The good news is that you won’t need any extra tea leaves than normal since the only thing you’re changing is the temperature at which your tea is brewed. The bad news is that some flavorful compounds are only released at high temperatures, and so you’ll miss out on those. This is generally a bigger problem with herbal teas though, not so much true teas.
Here’s an example if you’re aiming to cold brew a 12oz iced tea (feel free to adjust the ratios to your needs).
Step One – Measure Out 6g Loose Leaf Tea + 12oz Room Temperature (or, Ideally, Colder) Water
Another benefit of the cold brew is that you can use any true tea in your cabinet with this method, regardless of their recommended infusion temperatures. Once you’ve settled on your tea, carefully measure 6g on a scale and place in either a biodegradable tea bag or else an infuser basket.
After you do this, you’ll want to measure out approximately 12oz of water. While you can use room temperature water (certainly no warmer), it’s better to use colder water if it’s available. Precooling a bottle of spring water or filtering some cold tap water is recommended.
Tea Hack Bonus: You can even use leaves that you’ve already infused earlier in the day. They won’t have as much flavor, but it’s a perfectly fine way to get the most out of your leaves.
Step Two – Cool and Wait
Once you pour the water over your tea leaves, you’ll need to place your infused leaves in the refrigerator and wait for the infusion to finish.
If you used room temperature water, you’ll want to check back on your tea in approximately 4–6 hours. This is because your tea will extract faster at a warmer temperature. If you used cold water, then you’ll want to wait 8–12 hours. If you time your preparation in the evening, you can let your tea brew in the refrigerator overnight so that it is ready to enjoy by morning.
And that’s it! You should find a flavorful, naturally sweeter iced tea by the time you’re done!
Other than the fact that the cold brew method takes time, it can be a little complicated adding thicker sweeteners to your cold brewed tea as they tend not to dissolve very quickly in colder water. Honey or sugar cubes, for example, might settle at the bottom or take a while to disperse. In these cases, you may want to consider the flash chill instead.
In addition, another drawback is that any leaves used for a cold brew will be finished, unable to be infused any further (whereas with a flash chill, you can still conceivably steep your leaves a few more times).
Depending on your goals, you may find yourself preferring one method to another, and it’s a good idea to get comfortable with both. When it’s all said and done, neither is superior to the other; they’re just different, each better suited for different circumstances.
Hopefully this two-part guide helps you make the most out of your iced teas this summer!