Tuesday, 27 December 2011

you can brew tea in cold water?

that's Tie Guan Yin on the left and Silver Needle on the right

This is really a post for summertime. So all of you in the Southern Hemisphere will be happy. The rest of you are probably asking, 'Why not wait until it's seasonally appropriate? What's the story on a summer topic in the opening days of winter?' Well, in my defence, I started thinking about this in summer. And if I try to wait for the right time, I just might forget.

Over the summer, I read people talking about cold-brewing tea. Putting leaves in cold (not remotely warm) water and waiting until the leaves naturally steep into some delicious goodness. You can do that? It works? I'm here to tell you that it does.

Those of you that already know this are going to think it's a non-story. Of course it does. Why wouldn't it? Now I know that...but it was somehow beyond my understanding. My mother made sun tea when I was a child. In her case it was tea bags in a container of water that was set out in the sun. After several hours, the warmth of the sun had brewed up a really strong tea (that people ruined with ice cubes and various forms of sweetener), but that's because of the heat. Right?

If you want to make tea, you need either hot water or you need to add some sort of heat. Isn't that correct?

Not necessarily. Why have I been sitting on this since summer? Well, it's simple actually. I had to try it. I had to know it was true before I went off half-cocked about it (I know that's not my normal way-I'm well-known for going off half-cocked). And once I got started experimenting with cold-brewing tea, I couldn't stop. It became a sort of obsession.

That's why it was so timely when in the comments of a recent post Tea Trade Peter mentioned drinking white tea cold. Here's how he said it:

'Let’s start with why does tea have to be drunk hot? I like white tea, but when it is hot, I find that I cannot appreciate the flavors, but when it is just warm, or at a temperature just slightly above the room temperature so you still get the aromatics (though, I think they still come through at room temp). I’ve gotten to the point where I’d rather let my white tea cool off before I drink it, it just seems better that way.'

Now, he's talking about brewing it hot and letting it cool. It's not the same thing. But when I read what he'd written, I had unintentionally been doing exactly that with various white teas. After I got as much out of the leaves as I could with hot water, I went on and soaked those same leaves in cold water overnight. With astounding results.

It's not the same as tea brewed with hot water. There are times when the result is something like faintly-scented water. It's subtle...a lot like what I've recently written about white tea in general. There are also times that I've left leaves in cool water, forgotten about them entirely, and after a day or so, the resulting tea was as strong and flavourful as any hot-brewed concoction.

Here, let's move in a little for a closer look:

Don't really drink the leaves, ok? Pour these through some sort of filter.

My question is: Have you tried this? What were your results? Though I don't think I'd do this with any black tea, it's had unbelievable results with Oolong, green tea, and white tea. How about you? Any experience?


  1. I do it all the time but not for me. I'm not a fan of iced tea. My husband, on the other hand, can't get enough of it. I started out with green tea and he really liked it. Then I saw all these black teabags sitting around from ages ago. Someone had to use those and I certainly wasn't going to. So I threw a few in cold water and let it sit in the fridge overnight. He actually preferred that to the green loose tea that I had been cold brewing. So...there ya go.

  2. >>I went on and soaked those same leaves in cold water overnight.

    I do exactly the same thing, though, like you, I do it more in summer. I've done it with black teas, but I sense that you're right, and that black teas may not be best suited for it.

    >>the result is something like faintly-scented water.

    Yes. Not unpleasant, but not mind-blowing, either.

  3. Interesting Teawench. Am sure there are others who can be lured over to the leaf-side by way of the cold-brewed stuff. We'll certainly see.

    Yes Erik, I've tried this with a handful of black tea and the result was disappointing. Sadly.

  4. I often let drink tea cold. Sometimes I'll stick it in the fridge to save it for later other times I'm intentionally making iced tea. Varying teas have varying results.

    I've also tried putting tea bags in my water bottles, shaking them vigorously, and enjoying cold tea that way.

    admittedly I do this more often in the summer...

  5. 'shaking them vigorously'?

    Hmmm...with cold water? And drinking it after how long?

  6. I find that there are few teas that work well like this...and I haven't noticed much of a pattern about which ones they are. It's not something I've experimented with a lot, though. Maybe I can try it more, and get back to you...although given that it's January, I think it'll be quite some time before I have something to get back to you with!