When you think of cold brew, you probably think of coffee, but the cold brew method can also be used for tea! In fact, the first records of the cold brew method were of tea rather than coffee. Sometime in the 1600s in Japan, tea drinkers used cold river water to steep tea leaves for an extended amount of time. It was found that this method not only allowed people to brew tea in the absence of hot water but also that it could be used to achieve a smooth yet bold brew. The Dutch later adapted this method and used it for coffee as well.
There is evidence that using water that is too hot can burn tea leaves, especially with more delicate teas like green or white tea. It is believed that the Japanese people who created cold brew tea did it in an effort to preserve the natural flavors and health benefits of the plant. Their theory has been proved many times since its early origins. Cold brew tea tends to have higher levels of antioxidants and phytochemicals like flavonoids. These natural compounds provide an array of health benefits including boosting your immune system, decreasing inflammation, and increasing cellular health. They achieve these goals by neutralizing a compound found in your body called free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules produced during the oxidation process of your cells that steal electrons from other important molecules. Your body can handle a regular amount of free radicals, but too many of them can lead to ongoing medical conditions like heart disease. This is where antioxidants and phytochemicals come in, which can be found in tea.
More recently, cold brew and iced teas have gained rapid popularity. Many cafes have cold brew tea on their menu and some companies even sell it in cans or bottles at convenience stores. These delicious cold brew options are perfect for summer, especially if you are trying to beat the Arizona heat like our team at Hackberry!
Cold Brew vs Iced Tea
The main difference between cold brew tea and regular iced tea is that cold brew tea is never exposed to heat, while iced tea is brewed hot and then poured over ice. To accommodate for the lower temperature of the water that cold brew tea is steeped in, it is steeped for a considerably longer amount of time. At least 6 to 12 hours is recommended, depending on the tea type, and this time can increase even more when brewing a concentrate. Here at Hackberry, we use the cold brew method for our chai tea concentrate which we then mix with milk and cardamom syrup to create our iced chai tea lattes.
Another difference that you will notice with cold brew tea is that it has a smoother mouthfeel than regular iced tea - this is due to its slower extraction process. The cold brew method results in a cup of iced tea that has fewer tannins, decreasing the bitter taste that sometimes occurs as a byproduct.
While there are a handful of cold brew tea recipes and ratios out there, and you may want to experiment to see what fits your personal preferences, here is the recipe we use here at Hackberry.
Ratio: 5 tablespoons loose leaf tea to 8 cups cold water
- Place loose leaf tea in a large pitcher or container. We recommend the Toddy system which can be used for both tea and coffee.
- Add 8 cups of water to the container.
- Cover and let steep. For white or green tea, we recommend steeping for 6-8 hours. For black or oolong tea, we recommend 8-12 hours.
- Strain loose leaf tea using a fine-mesh strainer or the Toddy cold brew filters. If you do not have either of these tools, you can also use a cheesecloth.
- Store your cold brew tea in the refrigerator and enjoy!
*If you wish to create a cold brew tea concentrate, like our chai concentrate, use half the amount of water or double steeping time*
Written by Kourtney Camm