I have been drinking cold-brewed iced tea all summer and I cannot believe I only just now thought to share it with all of you. You probably already have a favorite recipe for iced tea, but if you haven’t tried cold brewing it yet I highly recommend it. It’s a wink and a nod to Sun Tea, which was my favorite summertime drink as a child (but without the risk of food poisoning that Sun Tea has), and I think it’s the perfect way to enjoy the last few days of summer. With any luck warm weather will carry into autumn, but if not there’s always next summer. ;)
On a warm day, refreshment does not come in any purer form than a tall glass of iced tea. This classic beverage is a smooth, crisp and complex symphony of subtle flavors, and if brewed properly, a form of art. The best way to minimize the bitterness of tea and bring out all its various flavor notes is to cold-brew it. The process of cold-brewing tea may seem to be as easy as combining tea and water and refrigerating, but there are a few nuances. Here is the method I use to cold-brew tea.
Step 1: To start, you will need a vessel in which to brew the tea. A lidded glass jug works well, as the glass prevents odors from being absorbed.
Step 2: The amount of tea you use depends on how strong you like your tea. If using loose leaf tea, a good rule of thumb is to use four teaspoons of tea per quart of water. If using tea bags, use two tea bags per quart of water. You can mix and match as many different kinds of tea as you want, or you can add spices, herbs or fruit for flavor. A few of my favorite combinations are black tea with fresh rosemary and lemon peel, white tea with blueberries (be sure to wash and chop the blueberries before adding), and green tea with mint. I have even made iced chai tea with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, cardamom, black peppercorns, and vanilla bean.
Step 4: To make the tea, combine the tea leaves or bags and water with any spices, herbs or fruit you want in a glass container and refrigerate 12 to 24 hours (depending on your taste preference). If you want, you can give the jug a gentle swirl from time to time while brewing, but it is not necessary. Sample the tea at different times during the brewing process to see how its flavor develops; you may notice more pronounced flavor highlights at different times.
Step 5: After the tea is brewed, strain it through a fine mesh sieve and if desired, add the sweetener of your choice. It is best to use a liquid sweetener, such as honey, simple syrup, agave nectar, or maple syrup. Using a liquid sweetener ensures that it completely dissolves in the tea and without leaving the grainy texture that sugar can have. In the black tea combination I mentioned above, (black tea, fresh rosemary, and lemon peel) I add maple syrup to compliment the woodsy flavor of the rosemary. Milk is not typically added to iced tea (except for iced chai), but of course, make it to suite your tastes.
Each brew of tea is delicate and unique, making it a masterpiece in its own right. A hot afternoon, a cold glass of iced tea, and a symphony of flavors work wonders for refreshing the soul.