With the intermittent onset of summer temperatures, I decided it was time to consider making some iced tea. Despite the heat, hot steeped tea is still my first choice, but there’s something alluring about sitting on my back porch with a cold drink and a good book. Maybe it’s just summertime nostalgia. So I decided to run an experiment last week: hot brew vs. cold brew.
First, I’ll explain the differences, even though it’s pretty straightforward.
Hot brew is the most common method for making homemade iced tea. It’s basically making a pot of steeped tea with boiling water, letting it cool and chilling it, before adding any sweeteners or fruit (e.g., lemon or lime). I don’t always add anything! The hotter the water, the more antioxidants are released. Steeping time depends on the type of tea being steeped. For example, black tea steeps for 3-5 minutes whereas green tea steeps for 1-2. Otherwise, you may end up with tea that is bitter and you’ll end up adding way more sweetener! Some of you are sweet enough; some of you could use more. One dump truck-sized lump or 2? You know who you are… 😉
Cold-brewed iced tea is just as simple, only instead of hot water, use cold-filtered water. Let the tea steep for 8-12 hours in the refrigerator. It’s recommended that you use one and a half times the amount of tea you would normally use for hot brewing. This method is supposed to work well with green tea, herbal tea, darjeeling and oolong.
I tried to minimize differing variables by using glass containers for both steeping processes. I also used tap water for both, and measured the amount of cold water in my “hot” pot (hence the tape) so that I would have an equal amount of water.
I dropped one tea bag of Tetley Bold Tea in both pots.
Hot Brewed Tea
I removed the tea bag after 5 minutes from the hot steeped tea and let it cool before I put it in the fridge. As you can see, the tea is very dark and retained the slightly bitter flavour of hot steeped tea.
Cold Brew Tea
I put the cold brew pitcher in the fridge at the same time that I put the hot brew tea in the fridge, but I removed the bag 8 hours later. I missed that I should have used one and half times the amount of tea, so I might have had a darker colour. However, I did notice that it was sweeter and seemed a bit lemony. I read an article that explained that the lighter colour, the absence of sediment on the bottom and the difference in flavour is because fewer catechins and tannins were extracted in the cold-brew process.
Overall, I’d have to say I preferred the taste of the cold brew tea. The process required less work, and it would be more likely to make it to the fridge to chill. Frequently, Mom and I talk about making iced tea and sometimes we even steep 2 pots (one to drink hot, one to drink cold)…but the cold one never makes it to the fridge. Even now, some of this iced tea ended up in a china cup in the microwave. Certainly not the best way to enjoy tea at any temperature, but it’s better than pouring it down the drain. Or worse, having none at all!
I encourage you to experiment with different types and flavours of tea, steeping time and quantities to find what you like best! White, green and oolong will take less time. Herbals require less sweetening. Or if you’re like me, I drink it in its purest form, without any additions.
Iced tea is too pure and natural a creation not to have been invented as soon as tea, ice, and hot weather crossed paths. – John Egerton