I don't know about you but the last thing I want to do on a 90 degree day is turn on my stove and boil some hot water for my caffeine fix, and second to that is drinking a hot cup of tea. So what does one do when they need their tea but it's sweltering hot outside? Pull a pitcher (or jar!) of cold brew tea out of your fridge! Cold brewing tea is super easy and pretty much foolproof which is why it's our favorite way to prepare iced tea. Perhaps like me, you have a tendency to forget about your tea steeping on your counter, and by time you remember, the tea is bitter and unpalatable. With cold brew however, it's practically impossible to over-steep, so long as you don't forget it for days! I'll give you an abbreviated scientific explanation for why this is, so you can walk away from reading this blog with not only a few refreshing iced tea recipes but a little more knowledge too.
Why Cold Brew? Tea leaves contain a number of chemical compounds within them that when steeping break down, form complexes with one another and form new compounds. During the steeping process, thousands of volatile (aroma) compounds rise from the tea liquor and thousands of non-volatile (taste) compounds float within the tea liquor. Some of these compounds extract at a quicker rate than others. When you're brewing with hot water the time between extracting those first compounds and the last ones is very short so timing (and temperature) is everything. You have to stop the brewing process at just the right time to achieve the right flavor profile or else your tea will end up bitter. Cold brewing is the slow motion version of that process, the window of time between those first compounds being released and later ones being released is much larger so you have much smaller risk of ending up with a bitter cup of tea. The later compounds to release tend to be the more bitter and tannic catechins in green and white tea. Therefore, cold brewing tea tends to result in a less bitter, less astringent brew. You can also brew it stronger and have more of the theanine, more umami, more of the vegetal notes, and more of the high notes!
At Saratoga Tea & Honey we usually have 3-4 cold brew teas to choose from daily! And while we tend to be purists and love our cold brew unsweetened, sometimes you just want something a little more fun! Our Queen Bee put me up to the challenge to create some fruity tea mocktails to quench your thirst by the pool, at your picnic or at your bbq! For the three drinks below, I used three of our white teas as the cold brew base; Nan Mei Wild Buds, Bai Hao Yin Zhen, and Bai Mu Dan Wang.
At home, I have the Takeya Iced Tea Maker and I LOVE it, but since I was making three different teas I thought I would show you all how you can make cold brew with things you probably already have in your kitchen; a jar and a mesh strainer. Easy peasy!
First Step: Cold Brew. Place your tea in a 16oz jar. I just eyeball it with my cold brew because it's pretty foolproof, but if you want to be more economical than I am (I really should work on that!) you can measure out two loose tablespoons of white tea. It may seem like a lot but white tea is very voluminous and light. Fill your jar with filtered or spring water, cover and put in the refrigerator for 6-12 hours! Once your tea has done it's magic, strain it over ice into another glass! Now, for the fun add-ins!
Keep scrolling to see the thirst-quenching combinations I came up with!
Nan Mei with Peaches, Fresh Mint and Tupelo Honey
Deliciously refreshing and summery, the idea of fresh mint and sweet peaches proved irresistible and what better honey to pair with peaches than famous southern Tupelo Honey! These add-ins compliment the tropical fruit and honeyed notes of the Nan Mei Wild Buds.
Bai Hao Yin Zhen with Cucumbers, Melon and Basswood Honey
The combination of cooling honeydew melon and refreshing English cucumber are a perfect pairing, and complimented by a touch of Basswood Honey, our light mid-western mono-floral that has a delicious hint of fresh spearmint. These add-ins accentuate the florality and vegetal notes of Bai Hao Yin Zhen (Silver Needles) one of China’s most revered teas!
Bai Mu Dan Wang with Strawberries, Lemon and Italian Lemon Tree Honey
Nothing says summer like the fresh flavor of ripe strawberries and an icy glass of lemonade. While there is no lemonade in this drink (you could certainly add some), the combination of fresh lemons and citrusy Italian Lemon Tree Honey adds that same thirst quenching quality. Also known as White Peony, Bai Mu Dan Wang is a more full-bodied white tea, and the perfect base for this combination of strawberries, sliced lemon and delectable honey from Sicily!
There are so many fruits, herbs and florals that would pair nicely with these white teas, so get creative! I just went with what is in season and usually happens to be in my fridge. What are you going to infuse your cold brew iced tea with? Take a photo and tag us on Instagram and Facebook!