Talking Iced Tea - Part 3: Cold Brewing Methods

It has been an excruciatingly sticky summer, but those of you who have been tuning in to Steeping Around have likely found a bit of relief. Since last week, you all should be able to produce excellent iced tea from the comfort of your kitchen. It may not be so comfortable however; sometimes the last thing we want to do during the summertime is turn on the gas. This week, Manish offers a little relief: three easy and delicious ways to brew iced tea without nearing the stove.

The first method may already have a home in your memories. Pitchers of brilliant copper iced teas have freckled fence tops and rooftops for years, basking in the warmth of summer days. Sun Tea is the most recognizable way to brew tea without equipment or electricity, harnessing the power of the sun to extract flavor and color from tea leaves. Simply place a large glass container full of high quality water and tea in the sunniest area of your property and allow the flavors to mingle for three to six hours. The result is a smooth, delectable iced tea which can be consumed immediately (just pour over ice) or stored in the refrigerator for use later. “I happen to really enjoy sun tea because the subtlety of the flavors is really remarkable,” Manish comments. “They are so much softer, there are very few tannins, and it’s a great quencher in the heat.”

The same can be said for any cold-brew method of brewing iced tea. “One of the common things about making iced tea using cold brew methods is that when you do so, the flavors are always a little bit more on the mellow side. Using hot water really brings out a lot of the oils and tannins in tea, but cold brew methods don’t do that as much. The tea will be a little softer, a little smoother, a little cleaner—and that’s really pleasant when you’re having iced tea.” The Refrigerator Method is no exception. This method resembles Sun Tea, however makes one undeniable distinction: it uses cool temperatures rather than the warmth of the sun. Add about 16 grams of tea to two quarts of water and stir into a pitcher. Place it in your fridge, and go to sleep! This brewing method takes 8-12 hours to complete, so it is not for the impatient. When you wake in the morning, strain the tea leaves from the liquid and enjoy!

But perhaps you only want to enjoy one glass of iced tea, and you don’t want to wait twelve hours to do it. Here is another clever idea- it will still take a small investment of time, but the result is well worth it. Fill a glass completely with ice—brim it! Add about two tablespoons of loose tea (teabags will not work using this method) and wait. Once the ice has melted completely and on its own (no poking it, antsy folk), strain the liquid and enjoy! It will be ice-cold and delicious. “Try this method out – it is really, really different and surprising in terms of its results,” suggests Manish.

In the final segment of Steeping Around, Manish will typically address any questions posed by members of the audience. This week however there was a small snag—no one asked anything. So instead Manish turned to a question pertaining to iced tea that has played throughout time like a broken record in the tea industry: “What causes my iced tea to cloud, and what can I do about it?” Perhaps you’ve experienced this frustration. Clouding in iced tea can occur from any of a number of reasons, but in our experience it usually comes from one of the following three: water quality, strength of brew, and temperature. It cannot be stressed enough that tea ought to be made with high quality, filtered water. The taste of poor quality water will linger in any cup of tea, but in iced teas it will wave a cloudy little flag, as if alerting any potential drinkers of its unfortunate origins. Additionally, iced teas that are brewed with considerable strength have a tendency to cloud. If you enjoy strong, bitter flavors, you may have to come to terms with a bit of fog; otherwise, the simple alternative is to use less tea in your next brew. Finally, freezing temperatures can create some cloud in your cup. If you recall from last week’s episode, Manish advised listeners to use minimal ice in their tea, as it tends to have a numbing effect on taste buds. Heeding this advice will benefit the clarity of your tea as well. If, however, your cup has already gone to cloud, a simple fix is to add a small amount of hot water to your glass.

Now, we know this information is useful. None of you will wonder as you make your iced tea why it is starting to cloud up, and if it does, you will be able to do something about it. May I remind you however that, useful as it is, we develop the content for our other two segments of the show, and want to answer your specific questions for the third! So don’t be shy—we’re only a click away. Send any inquiries to steep@mayatea.com, or look us up on Facebook—we would be honored to friend you.

To listen to episode six, click here.



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