Cold Brewing Tea is a slow and gentle steeping process that produces a delicious, smooth tasting tea. It can be brewed for single serve, in small batches for home use or just as easy in large batches for retail markets. All you need are tea leaves, water and time.
Cold brewing your tea is a similar process to cold brewing coffee but with a few advantages. With tea, there is no wrong filtration method, so it makes cold brewing tea much easier to deal with. Also, because of the great variety of teas available, the flavor combinations are truly endless.
Cold Brewing Tea In Five Easy Steps
- Measure out your tea.
- Place the tea into a filter, infuser, or pour directly into the brewing container
- Fill the container with room temperature water
- Chill in the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours.
- Remove the tea leaves and serve!
3 Benefits Of Cold Brew Tea
- Reduced Bitterness: Tannins are found in many plants as a defense against being eaten. The bitter taste it produces is a turn-off for foraging animals. Teas also contain traces of tannin which is drawn out when the tea is steeped in boiling water. But when you cold brew tea, the tannins are not drawn out, reducing the bitterness that can sometimes influence the flavor of the tea.
- Reduced Caffeine: Caffeine is drawn out of tea in the first two minutes of steeping in boiling water. Just like with the tannins, cold brewing tea does not draw out the amount of caffeine as hot-brewed tea. That means drinking cold brew tea at night won’t keep you awake all night.
- Brighter Color & Texture: When hot-brewed tea is cooled it produces a cloudy brew with a bitter texture. Sometimes the texture can even be metallic. With cold brew tea, there is no cloudiness, and the colors will be brighter and more vibrant.
How To Cold Brew Tea
Let’s take a few moments to add more detail to the five easy steps given above. While cold brewing tea is just that easy, there are a few variables that can take your cold brew tea from “mmm, that’s good” to “Wow, that’s really good!”
Measuring Out Your Tea
For cold brewing tea, you can use either bagged tea or loose leaf. However, the best flavors will always come from loose leaf. The measurements for your tea will vary depending on the type of tea you choose to use. Some loose leaf teas are denser than others, so take that into account. For example, white teas are lighter and fluffier, so you’re not getting the same amount of tea in your measurement like you would a black tea.
- Single cup: Measure 1 teaspoon of loose leaf tea per cup of water.
- Quart: Brewing 1 quart of tea, measure ½ oz of loose leaf tea.
- Small Batch: For cold brewing a small batch of tea, 1 to 10 gallons, you’ll want to measure just over 2 oz (60 grams) of loose leaf tea per gallon of water.
- Large Batch: For merchants who want to add cold brew tea to their beverage menu, you can scale up from 10 gallons to as many as your demand requires, using the same 2 oz (60 grams) ratio.
Loose leaf teas you can try for cold brewing:
Black Tea – Black tea is made from tea leaves that have fully fermented. At the time of harvest, the leaves are spread out and allowed to wilt in the sun. Black tea produces a vibrant amber colored tea when it’s cold brewed.
Oolong Tea – When the tea is harvested halfway between green and black, it’s called Oolong. At that point, it is partially fermented, with both black and green tea taste characteristics. The color will also have both green and black tea characteristics.
Green Tea – Green tea refers to tea that is allowed to wither after harvest but it is also heated to prevent oxidation. After the heating process, green tea is then rolled and dried. It’s a favorite because it produces a sweet, delicate taste with a light green color.
White Tea – White tea is unique because of the time in which it is harvested. The tea is picked 48 hours or less between the time of the first buds coming to maturity and when they open. Then the tea is air dried. This produces a light and slightly sweet tasting tea with a pale color.
According to Adam Matossian, owner of Hunters Tea in Boston, Massachusetts, the best tea for beginners will be non-flavored black, green, or white teas. Once you build up your brewing confidence, herbal teas are great for adding variety to your cold brewed tea. Light herb teas such as peppermint combined with a heavier herb tea like cranberry can make for a tasty combination.
Beginner Tip: When cold brewing tea for the first time, choose loose leaf teas that you’re familiar with and have tried in bag form.
The Right Filter For Cold Brewing Tea
There are a number of ways to introduce tea to the water in your brewing container. You can use a paper coffee filter, an infuser, or put the loose leaf tea directly into the container.
Paper Coffee Filter:
Coffee filters are great for DIYing your cold brew tea for single serve. You can make several in advance and have ready to brew tea bags available all week long.
Here’s how to convert a paper coffee filter into a tea bag:
- Using a round coffee filter, cut it into a rectangle.
- Add your favorite loose leaf tea into the center of the filter.
- Fold the sides of the filter into the middle.
- Then while pressing the center of the filter with your finger, fold the two sides up onto each other.
- Fold the top down and staple. Don’t forget to staple a string to your new tea bag so that you can easily remove it after brewing.
Cheesecloth is another great filter for loose leaf tea. Cut a piece of cheesecloth into a square. For single serve, a 4 x 4 inch or 6 x 6-inch square is plenty of single-serve cold brewing. Cut a larger square for brewing a large batch of cold brew tea.
After placing your favorite loose leaf tea in the center of the cloth, bring the four corners together and give it a twist. Tie bakers twine around the twisted portion to hold your tea bag in place.
Using An Infuser:
An infuser is a great tool for brewing loose leaf tea. Infusers can have different shapes but most are ball or egg-shaped, with holes or mesh to keep the tea leaves from falling out. Infusers work just like tea bags. The perforations allow the tea to release its flavor without getting the tea leaves in your cold brew.
There are teapots that come with an infuser built-in and are great for cold brewing large batches. You can also find mugs and travel mugs with built-in infusers, making cold brew tea available on-the-go.
Adding Tea Leaves Directly To The Water
One of the great things about cold brewing tea is the simplicity of the process and the number of ways to introduce the tea to the water for brewing. There really is no wrong way among these examples. In fact, you don’t need a filter or infuser at all. One of the best methods for good absorption is just adding your loose leaf tea directly into the water. You’ll just need to pour the tea through a strainer, directly into the container you’ll be serving the tea from. No bags, no DIY, and no infuser necessary.
The Right Container For Cold Brewing Tea
A benefit of cold brewing tea is that you are not limited to a brewing container that can withstand the high temperatures needed when steeping tea the traditional way. Temperatures can vary from 195 to 208 degrees Fahrenheit when brewing tea with hot water.
Tea Pitchers For Home Brewing
Ice tea pitchers are great for cold brewing. You can brew and serve from one container and they don’t take up a great deal of space in the fridge. There are a variety of options, from plastic to metal and glass.
Standard pitchers will hold around 12 oz of tea, but larger pitchers are designed to hold as much as 2 or 3 quarts.
Brewing Large Batches Of Cold Brew Tea
For cold brewing larger batches of tea, we have a number of options for clean, easy brewing. You can check out all of our systems at KegOutlet.com.
Our 5.5-gallon Cold Brew System is the smallest container we offer. It’s perfect for home use or commercial use in small volumes. The stainless steel vessel comes with a custom fit filter plate, which makes cold brewing tea a breeze. There’s no DIY filters or infusers needed. The components are all brewers grade stainless steel and made to last for generations to come.
Compared to cold brewing coffee, tea has very little water absorption so your yield will be the full 5 gallons. That’s a big deal, especially if you’re brewing for commercial use.
For more information on brewing large batches of cold brew tea, check out our Drips & Droughts Podcast: Cold Brewing Tea in Large Batches.
How Much Brewing Time For The Perfect Cold Brew Tea?
Brewing time is your opportunity to adjust the flavors of your cold brew tea. The longer you brew, the stronger the flavor of your cold brew tea will be. For the best results, the minimum time for cold brewing tea is 24 hours and the maximum time needs to be no more than 48 hours.
The brewing time is different for the type of tea that you will use. For example, white loose leaf tea will need a little longer than 24 hours for maximum flavor. Herbal teas will require even more time. The full 48 hours is recommended so that the water penetrates the herbal pieces as much as possible. This allows the sweeter notes of the herbal tea to come out.
Sweetening Cold Brew Tea
If you’re wanting to add a hint of sweetness to your cold brew tea, there are a number of great options.
Flavored Syrups: Flavored syrups are great for cold brew tea. You can buy simple syrups pre-made. Flavored syrups from Torani or DaVinci Gourmet can be found at most grocery stores. If your wanting to keep everything homemade, here is a simple syrup recipe that’s perfect for cold brew tea.
- 2 tsp of milk
- 2 tsp of vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp of honey
- 2 tbsp of butter
Directions: Simple Syrups should last for 5 to 7 days in the fridge.
- Combine the milk and vanilla extract into a saucepan.
- Heat the honey and butter together. (If you use the microwave, heat for 30 seconds in a microwave-safe dish)
- Stir the honey and butter into the milk and vanilla mixture.
- Allow cooling before adding to your cold brew tea.
Sugar: If you are not interested in adding more flavors to your cold brew tea but still want to add some sweetness to the brew, regular sugar will work just fine. It’s best to pre-dissolve sugar in boiling water and let it cool down before adding it to your tea.
Honey: Honey is also a great sweetener and much healthier for you. It does take time to dissolve, so it’s best to pre-dissolve before adding into your cold brew tea.
Agave: Agave is a popular sweetener for cold brew tea, not only for the great sweet flavor but it also mixes very well. If you’re switching from sugar to agave for the first time, you’ll only need 1/2 as much agave as sugar.
Making Nitro Cold Brew Tea
You’ve probably heard of the Nitro Coffee trend over the past few years. But nitro tea is becoming just as popular with many cold brew tea lovers. Nitro tea, or sparkling tea, is a perfect brew for summertime. If you’re wanting to cold brew nitro tea at home, you’ll need two basic things; 100% pure food grade nitrogen and an agitator to agitate the nitrogen in the tea as its being poured.
Why add nitrogen to cold brew tea? First, nitrogen does not change the flavor profile of the tea. The nitrogen bubbles add a smoother texture to the tea, for a creamier tea experience. It’s cold brew tea with a fizzy head that enhances your mouthfeel as you drink it.
Making Hard Cold Brew Tea
Hard tea is better with cold brew tea than hot brewed. It’s also good to brew a tea concentrate and add non-flavored alcohol like vodka. The vodka will help dilute the tea for a great hard tea experience. Here’s a great recipe for making hard cold brew tea at home:
Hard Sweet Cold Brew Tea
- 2 oz sweet tea vodka
- 1/2 oz simple syrup
- 1/2 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 4 oz cold brewed black tea
Directions: Serving Size – 1
- Shake all the ingredients together with ice into a cocktail mixer
- Strain into a highball glass filled with ice cubes and serve
Original Recipe: Food Republic – Hard Sweet Tea Recipe
Ready To Cold Brew Some Tea?
We hope we’ve given you all you’ll need to know to get started cold brewing your first batch of tea. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us through our Contact Page, OR hit us up on Facebook or Twitter. We’d love to connect with you there!
Thanks to Adam Matossian, owner of Hunters Tea for sharing his expertise for the writing of this article. Cheers, Adam!