Can You Really Make Tea With Cold Water ? (Cold Brewing Tea)

When the sun is out, everything seems to be happy and joyful, and needs to be celebrated. We usually have cold brewed tea in the summer, actually we start in May and sometimes continue into September.

But can you make tea with cold water ? As in, not have to brew an entire pitcher of hot tea, and then cool that off and pour over ice ? And if you can, is it any different than hot tea ?

All fair questions, so let’s go through them.

cold tea

Can you make tea with cold water ?

Yes, you can make tea with cold water. Cold brewing tea is much less known than cold brewing coffee, but it’s a thing. You may also find it under the name of sun tea, or fridge tea, and they’re pretty much the same.

Cold brewed tea takes much, much longer to brew than hot tea. It’s anywhere between 6 to 16 hours, depending on what kind of tea you use.

And the taste of cold brewed tea is different, in that it’s more subtle, way less bitter, and generally smoother than hot tea. More on that later.

You can sweeten and use other flavorings as well, like a few berries or a sprig of mint to freshen things up.

Let’s start with how to make cold brewed tea, since I think you’ll want to know that as well. I’ll mostly be talking about green tea, but this will work for any kind of tea you want to use.

The best way to make iced tea is with cold brewed tea

The best way to make cold brew tea isn’t by heating the water and letting the tea steep for a few hours until it cools. Neither is it to brew hot tea normally and then wait for it to cool.

In the first case, using hot water and letting the tea leaves infuse for several hours until it becomes cool on its own leads to an overextracted tea. This is often a bitter, astringent tea, and not tasty at all.

In the second case, waiting for a cup of hot tea to cool won’t make it very tasty. This is because tea extracted with hot water doesn’t taste as good cold. You can drink it, yes, but you’ll notice something’s off about it.

The best way to make cold brewed tea is to apply cold water from the get-go. I know it sounds a bit odd, especially if you’re used to hot brewed tea.

You first question would probably is it works. Yes, it does work, But it’s a very slow process.

The reason hot tea takes only a few minutes is because heat makes the flavors and caffeine release much quicker. But this can often lead to overextraction, and that’s never a good taste.

Cold extraction, which is essentially what we’re doing when cold brewing tea, is much slower and releases the chemical compounds in anything differently.

It does take longer, and you have to plan it in advance. If you want cold brewed tea now, you have to take out the pitcher you set to steep yesterday.

So if you were to simply brew hot tea, and let it sit until it cooled, you’d get a flat taste since the flavor will pretty much evaporate.

You can use ice cubes in your cold brewed tea, during the steeping. It will make the flavors stand out even more, but remember that ice is just frozen water, so you’ll have to allow for that when calculating how much tea to use.

How much tea to use for cold brewed tea

Okay, now let’s do the math. If you were to use a standard of 2 teaspoons of green tea for 250 ml/8.5 oz of brew, then let’s multiply all of that by how large your pitcher is.

If you’re using a 1 liter/ 33.8 oz pitcher, then you’d assume you need 8 teaspoons of tea leaves for your cold brewed tea. This would be the most logical approach.

But, remember that tea reacts much more slowly to cold water. So you’ll have a different product if you use as much tea as you would for hot brewed tea.

I recommend using 12 teaspoons of tea leaves for 1 liter/33.8 oz, and diluting the brew with additional water if it ends up too strong for you. If it’s just fine, then great, you’ve found your ratio of leaves to water.

I short, using 3 teaspoons for every 250 ml/8.5 oz of water will guarantee a tea that will match your hot brew. Serving the tea over ice cubes means you’ll have to brew it even stronger than this.

If you’re brewing with a gallon of water, you’ll need 45 teaspoons of loose leaf tea. That’s 15 tablespoons, and easier to keep track of.

We each like our tea stronger or lighter, and I have no idea how you like yours.

Keep in mind that I take my tea quite strong and these measurements reflect that. So if you know you like lighter tea then feel free to add less tea than I mentioned here.

(If you like this article so far, you can pin it to your Pinterest board by clicking the image below. The article continues after the image.)

ice tea (1)

How to actually make cold brewed tea

Take whatever container you choose to use, and measure its full volume of water. Allow for the fact that the leaves (and possibly a filter) will displace some water.

So if your container would be able to fill to 2 liters of water, keep in mind that the leaves and filter can displace about 150 ml of water. So that leaves you with 1.85 liters of water.

According to the ratio we discussed before, that much water would need 22 teaspoons of tea leaves.

Add the leaves into the empty, clean container. If you’d like to add any flavorings, like a few slices of lemon or some mint or berries, now is the time, before you add water.

Add as much as you think the total water volume will need. Then add the water over the leaves, up until the mark you’ve set.

The water can be ice cold or just as cold as it comes from the tap. Just make sure it’s good, clean water.

After you’ve added the leaves and water, you will need to put the lid or cap or some sort of seal over your drink. Transfer it to the fridge and leave it anywhere between 8 and 16 hours.

For example white tea will need way more time than green or black tea. Pu’er tea will need less time, since it’s a very strong tasting tea to begin with.

Sweetening this drink should only be done after the brewing’s been done. And it’s best to use a syrup or honey for this, or something else than can dissolve into water easier than sugar crystals.

How cold brewed tea tastes different than hot tea

Cold brewed tea is always going to be different than hot brewed tea.

This is because in hot water, the tannins in tea are extracted in larger quantity, and very fast. This is true for all ‘true teas’, and herbal teas do not have this problem.

However all tea, whether herbal or not, taste very different when brewed hot and left to cool. They taste a bit hollow, or flat, like there’s not much aroma left in them.

In truth, aroma and flavor do evaporate from your tea in time. Storing it properly will ensure that you’re getting the longest possible shelf life from your tea.

And it also means that hot tea will evaporate aroma in a couple of hours.

Cold brewed tea is going to taste more delicate and subtle than hot brewed tea. The bitterness will be all but gone, even with green tea which is famous for muck ups.

Floral infused teas will taste wonderful, and fruit infused teas are going to be extra fresh. For example adding lemon zest to hot tea will taste like warm lemon, which can be nice. But ice-cold lemon ? How cool is that ?

You might need to adjust your taste buds to cold brewed tea, since it won’t be the same as the hot version. And if you brew mint tea like this, go easy with it since it can cause a sore throat.

There’s also some caffeine in tea brewed with cold water. Caffeine does exist in your tea, but without hot water to release it faster, it’s going to have a harder time steeping.

It will steep out, since for cold brew coffee you need a minimum of 8 hours for it to fully release. And coffee has pretty much double the amount of caffeine than tea, so it will need less than 8 hours to release fully.

You can cold brew tea in any large jar or glass pitcher

So what can you use to cold brew tea ? Pretty much anything, really. I recommend glassware, simply because you can actually see the tea while it’s brewing. And it just looks cooler, who am I kidding ?

That means any large glass container will do, as long as you have any way of putting an efficient lid on it. SO something like a ridiculously large mason jar, or a glass pitcher with a nice lid are all a good idea.

If you’re using something that was used for cooking or keeping other foods, make sure you wash it thoroughly.

And small bit of food you might’ve forgotten to scrub off will come back to haunt your tea and ruin the flavor. If in doubt, best to get yourself a dedicated container for it.

For example this one I’ve recommended before for cold brewing coffee. It’s a great design and it can hold quite a bit of liquid.

The link I’m leaving here for you is for a 2 quart jar, which will last for at least one afternoon with the family.

As for the instructions, they are for cold brewed coffee and they work pretty much the same way for cold brewing tea as well.

Since this is a mason jar, you can trust it to be safe to lay horizontally in the fridge, and not leak.

You can check the listing for this jar on Amazon, and read the reviews as well.

Final thoughts

Cold brewing anything is always going to take a whole lot of time, and tea is no exception. The cold just doesn’t make things work very fast.

However the taste and feel of cold brewed tea is always going to be more refreshing, especially if you’re meaning to serve it over ice.

This is a summer favorite for many, and it’s got every right be so. I hope you’ll enjoy yours this summer too.

If you want to know more about coffee or tea, feel free to check the related articles below. Who knows what else you might find ?