I love iced tea! It doesn’t matter to me if it’s summer or winter, iced tea is my afternoon delight. When I was younger, I bought an iced tea machine, and it worked great, but any leftovers would turn “skunky”, as I call it, within a day or two. Then I tried it with my Keurig and reusable pods, same thing. What was I doing wrong? I asked around and I found out a few things about tea, and coffee too.
Fresh brewed tea and coffee
When you brew fresh tea or coffee, the hot water hits the leaves and beans and filters through. You get a minimum amount of caffeine and some flavor. For really good coffee, your water needs to be 170°f or better. This will extract the maximum amount of flavor. Most home coffee machines only get to 150°f or less. That is why coffee made at home never quite tastes the same as getting the same coffee at a coffee shop, even though the beans are the same. Tea is much the same. Hot water and a quick steep time, 5 minutes or less. There are some chain fast food restaurants that brew better tea than mine! Now I know why.
Another reason for restaurant coffee or tea tasting better is that if they brew it hot, they never refrigerate the leftovers. I put my warm tea in the fridge and it comes out bitter and cloudy. You can get rid of the cloudy by heating it again, but the bitter remains. One more reason is the water itself. Tea and coffee water needs to be filtered. If it isn’t, any chemicals or minerals in the water can alter the taste.
Cold brew benefits to the rescue!
With coffee AND tea, cold brew benefits abound. Cold brewing will leave you with a better tasting, longer lasting brew!
For the next little bit, we’ll be talking about tea. Sure you can buy special “cold brew” tea bags, but it’s just as easy to use any kind as long as the flavor is what you are looking for. I use a family size bag of regular black tea and a decaffeinated bag of the same size. These I put into a quart jar and fill with cold water. Then put it in the refrigerator. It shouldn’t take more than an hour to get a quart of the best tasting tea you’ve ever had.
Want it stronger? Leave it a bit longer or use 3 bags. You can also use loose leaf teas in the same amounts.
You can make this into sweet tea by making a simple syrup of one part sugar to one part hot water. Mix together and let it cool. Don’t add the hot liquid to your cold tea or you’ll end up with a bitter brew. You can also make a mock simple syrup with a different sweetener like date palm sugar or monkfruit. Just be sure to test the flavor to see if it’s what you want. You may need more or less to make it as strong as you like it.
What about the caffeine?
When you brew coffee or tea with hot water, you’ll get 60-80 milligrams of caffeine per cup, more or less depending on the beans or leaves. Cold brewing takes out the bitterness and makes a smoother brew. When you brew this way, the caffeine amount jumps up significantly. Some resources say twice as much caffeine, some say as much as four times the amount of caffeine. Either way, you can count on there being more caffeine than traditional brewing methods.
But I want caffeine free!
With coffee and real tea (black, white or green), even decaf will have some caffeine. But, you can use this same method for herbal teas too! I’ve made mint tea, because you all know how I love my mint! I’ve also used lemon balm, lemongrass, holy basil and many other herbs for cold brew. You may get some color, you may not. The first time I cold brewed chocolate mint tea, it stayed pretty clear. I used the fresh plant. I thought, oh well, at least I have cold water. So I poured some over ice and tasted it. Wow! It had no color, but the taste was so potent! So don’t let the appearance fool you!
To make cold brew herb tea, take a piece of cheesecloth and double it. Put your herbal material in the center. It can be fresh or dried. How much? I use a handful of fresh for a quart and a tablespoon or so of dried. Adjust it to your taste. Tie up the corners and submerge in a jar with cold water. If it doesn’t sink right away, don’t worry. It will eventually. Leave in the jar overnight and take out in the morning. Enjoy tea over ice.