How To Make Cold-Brewed Teas

By Jesse Jacobs

So far we’ve discussed chilled teas, tea punches, iced tea lattes, and frozen tea treats. But what about the most elusive–and yet simplest–of all chilled-tea brewing methods, cold-brewed teas?

Cold-brewing is so easy and delicious you might just make a habit out of it. Read on to learn the secrets of the cold-brew, along with step-by-step instructions. 

Why Do We Cold Brew?

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. Five-Steps to mastering Cold-Brew Tea.

Here’s how.

  1. THE VESSEL–Pickup The Tall Vivid Brewpot from our online shop.
  2. ADD TEA–Add 2-3 TBS of whole leaf, about 1.5× the typical amount.
  3. ADD WATER–Fill with cold, filtered water, top with the strainer-lid.
  4. WAIT–Now for the hardest part: waiting. Refrigerate for 4-10 hours. Longer time extracts stronger flavor and more caffeine. White teas will brew the quickest, followed by green teas and twisted/flat oolongs, allow most time for rolled oolongs, pu-erhs, herbal infusions and black teas.
  5. SERVE–Strain and serve.

Tea Is A Journey

Such a simple brewing method begs for innovation. Experiment with the length of time and the type of tea you choose. To get the most out of herbal infusions (tisanes) rinse with boiling water first. A hot water rinse also wakes up pu-erh

Don’t be shy about adding sweetner (organic cane sugar, maple syrup, honey), but be sure you taste your brew first. The cold-brew method seems to extract more of mother nature’s natural sweetness, especially oolongs like our Monkey-Picked Iron Goddess of Mercy, and Pineapple Coconut. You might find it’s perfect as is.

Cold-brewing can also make the most of super high-end  green tea senchas like Gyokuro. I’ve seen a Japanese device designed specifically to brew gyokuro by melting an ice cube above the leaves and using a kind of Chinese Water Drip Torture to tease out a super-sweet gyokuro liquer one icey drop at a time. You can get similar results–with gear you already have–by using ice water for your cold-brew and increasing the steep time.

Going further, you can play around with your own blends. There are countless ways to express yourself in the brew. Here are some ingredients we’ve worked with:

  • Citrus zest, peel or slices
  • Muddled fresh berries
  • Diced stonefruit
  • Muddled lavender, mint and other herbs
  • Nasturtiums, violets and other edible flowers (organic, of course!)
  • Honey (local & raw if possible), maple syrup, or simple syrup (stay away from aspartame and other synthetics)
  • A splash of fruit juice or nectar
  • Milk (again, local, raw, & organic for best results)

Now you’ve got one more technique to work with. Let us know what works for you–share your pictures and recipes with us on twitter or Facebook.

SF Eater Featured Samovar in The Mission

SF Eater shares their first impressions of the newest Samovar on  411 Valencia in The Mission. If you’re looking for a leisurely lunch, be sure to visit one of our Tea Lounges. But if you’re looking for a fresh-baked scone and cup of tea brewed in our Tea Crucibles, the new Samovar Tea Bar is just what you need.…  Continue reading...
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