How To Make Cold-Brewed Teas

Forget iced-coffee, it’s cold-brew tea that’s ‘having a moment’. So, which blends work best and how do you make it?

A chilled cuppa is the perfect drink on a hot summer’s day. It’s refreshing, cooling and full of subtle flavours. Plus, there are endless flavours to sip, from delicate white teas and sharper green blends to mouth-watering fruity brews. Let’s get a pot on…

Cold brew vs. Iced tea: what’s the difference?

When it comes to cold cuppas, tea aficionados will tell you that the cold brew method is the way to go. And having tried it, I can agree that there’s something in this.

Making iced tea – by pouring boiling water over tea leaves (or a bag) and then leaving it to cool and serving it with ice – is fine when it comes to herb and fruit teas. However, it’s a hit and miss method for the rest. If you steep the leaves or bags for too long, once it’s cool, it just tastes like cold, bitter, tannin-packed tea (which is perhaps why commercial varieties are typically super-sweetened).

By contrast the cold brew method – brewing in cold water in the first place – results in fewer tannins and often, a more delicate, refreshing flavour.

The best bit?

You can put a pot on before you leave home in the morning so the second you’re back, hey presto, it’s teatime. And, you can cold-brew on the go. Just fill a water bottle with filter water and a bag (loose leaves are a bit more complicated as you’ll need a strainer) and stick it in the fridge at work, so you can drink it while slaving over your hot desk.

Basic recipe

The method is incredibly simple. Just mix loose-leaf tea or whole tea bags and water in a jug (no need for fancy infusers, just strain it at the end if you need to) and let the tea infuse in the water for 6 to 8 hours in the fridge. Strain and you have cold-brew tea.

Step one: choose your tea

You can go for tea bags, for ease. This works well for the fruit and herb teas (particularly the pyramid shape bags, such as Tea Pigs, as they infuse better and typically have more quality ingredients). However, using loose leaves can work even better. You can experiment with the flavour intensity by adding more/less and if you go for higher quality loose leaves, they’re likely to be intense enough to re-infuse them. So, once the first brew is done, simply add more water, and pop them back in the fridge. The second cup will be lighter in flavour but still lovely.

This means that you can effectively drop the price of each cup. Note though that it’s important to keep the tea chilled to lessen the bacteria growth.

A bit about flavours

Popular teas for cold brew are: white teas (they are supposed to be higher in antioxidants when brewed cold) such as the exquisite Silver Tip white tea or White Peony tea, Japanese teas (try green Matcha and Sofu Blue Wind Sencha) or Jasmine green tea, Oolong teas (like: Sunset Oolong, Tie Guan Yin and rooibos tea).

If you’re going down the fruit and herb route, the choices are pretty endless. Take your pick from the classics (camomile, peppermint, hibiscus, raspberry, lemongrass, etc) or go for rhubarb and ginger, liquorice and blackcurrant, or almond blossom. The newer night time blends with camomile and lavender work great too. Drink a chilled glass at bedtime when the weather’s hot.

Step two: measure and add water

The amount you need depends on the leaves but roughly speaking, go for about a tea spoon of loose leaves per cup. You may need more if the leaves are fluffy or big and slightly less if the tea is strong (such as the green teas can be). With bags, again it is variable but sticking only one bag in, will result in lightly flavoured water, not cold-brew tea. You need approx. four bags for a litre of cold brew. Use filtered water if you can.

Step three: brew

This is the easy bit. You simply put it in the fridge for six hours or so. Eight hours is even better. If you do this overnight, you can sip a cup on the commute to work.

Step four: extras

There are lots of different flavour combinations, which result in a gorgeous summer brew. How about a chilled Earl Grey, with sliced clementine, for example? Or peppermint tea with crushed ice and strawberries? You can throw chunks of ginger into a freshly brewed lemon tea; cucumber into green tea and handfuls of berries are pretty in raspberry and rose teas. You can stir in some fruit purees too. Watermelon puree (blended watermelon) works well with white tea, for example, and you could add a splash of gin for a seasonal G&Tea, though we may be straying into cocktails here…


Joanne O'Connell

Joanne O'Connell

Joanne O'Connell is a freelance journalist who writes for The Guardian and The Observer. Her new book The Homemade Vegan is out now. In 2013, she lived without supermarkets for one year.