Cold Brewing Tea: Why You Should, And How To Do It!

Cold-Brewed TeaTea is a relatively energy-efficient beverage. A cup of tea, made by boiling only the amount of water you need, produces only about a tenth of the carbon footprint generated by a large cup of cappuccino (Source: “The World’s Water, 2008-2009″ by Peter Gleick, et al, www.waterfootprint.org). To put this into perspective, if you drink four cups of black tea every day for a year, you would have only used up as much energy as a single 40-mile car ride.  On the other hand, the energy involved in a three-a-day latte habit is equivalent to flying halfway to Europe!

What Does Carbon Have To Do With Cold Brewing Tea?

Actually, there is even more you can do to reduce your CO2 emissions when it comes to tea-making. We covered a variety of “green brewing” techniques in a previous post.  These are certainly great ways to reduce your carbon footprint, but there is yet another easy and practical alternative to the regular brewing process: cold-brewing! As its name suggests, this technique involves making your favorite tea with cold water, slashing energy consumption by eliminating the water-heating process.

Of course, there are pros and cons to brewing tea this way. Cold-brewing will produce a lighter-bodied tea with less astringency and bitterness, as this method draws out a fewer tannic compounds, which is great for a mellow, even sweet, iced tea. Cold-brewing is also more time efficient, since you can make a pitcher of tea and store it in the refrigerator for a few days without having to brew a batch every day.  On the flip-side, it is also suggested that cold-brewing will draw out as little as half of the caffeine and half the beneficial antioxidants derived by hot-brewing, but our “research” can’t speak to that. Some suggest that splashing the tea leaves with a little bit of hot water “opens up the leaves”, helping release stronger flavor, more caffeine and higher antioxidant levels.

How To Cold Brew Tea

All you need to cold-brew tea is some good-quality loose leaf tea, a quart-size glass jar with a lid (if you don’t have a fancy cold brew tea pitcher), and cold water.  Any black, green, oolong or white tea will brew well. Herbal teas are generally not recommended, since they don’t usually undergo heat processing and may therefore harbor impurities and bacteria that are killed through standard hot-brewing.

Here are the simple steps for cold-brewing the perfect batch:

  • Measure four to eight teaspoons of loose tea and give them a quick rinse (to remove dust and impurities, etc).
  • Put the tea into the jar and fill to the top with cold water.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 to 8 hours.
  • Strain the tea leaves before storing or drinking to minimize bitterness.

You may want to experiment with the ratio of tea leaves to water and the length of steeping, depending on how strong you like your tea. You can also play around with the flavor of the tea by adding cut fruit or mint to it while it’s steeping. Cold-brewed tea is naturally sweeter, but you can sweeten it further with simple syrup, honey or agave nectar. Adding lemon or other citrus juice to the tea can also help sustain the tea’s antioxidants.

By cold-brewing your tea, you not only get easy, delicious iced tea, you also get peace of mind knowing that you took a small step in the right direction toward lowering your carbon emissions! Give it a try, and leave a comment telling us about your cold-brewing experience!

November 06 2010 10:52 pm | Energy and Sustainability and Tea Preparation

21 Responses to “Cold Brewing Tea: Why You Should, And How To Do It!”

  1. Zombie on 12 May 2011 at 12:12 am #

    And how, i wonder, do we get the water cold? Yup! A half-day in the fridge…(not so bad since the fridge is probably already cold and running). As for room-temp water? Is this the same? Or will each degree of warmer temp extract a slightly different profile of constituents from the tea? And about a longer steep time..will this change anything? Love those antioxidants! HOPE SOMEONE CAN HELP. Thanx. Interesting info.

  2. Alena on 12 Jun 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    I put six regular tea bags of green tea in a gallon of tap water and let sit overnight. I add 3 packets of Stevia and it’s wonderful. I’m wondering if cold brewing allows you to drink more green tea safely. I’ve heard too much green tea can be harmful to your liver and on rare occasions fatal. I like to drink green tea all day, like 5 large glasses per day. I cut back and I got a sore throat. Can someone tell me if cold brewing allows you to drink more green tea without harm? Thanks!

  3. Aubrey on 15 Jun 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    Hi Alena -

    Thanks for the comment. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any peer-reviewed study that compares the properties of green tea when it is brewed with hot water verses cold water. Most studies performed look at tea consumption of at least 3-5 cups per day. So, I think your 5 glasses a day habit is probably within the range of reason!

  4. ArkoshKovash on 03 Aug 2012 at 3:22 pm #

    Hi Alena,

    This video report from nutritionfacts.org (http://nutritionfacts.org/video/cold-steeping-green-tea/) explains a peer-reviewed study that found that cold water brewing actually results in a stronger antioxidant effect for black, oolong and white tea. Cold and hot water brewing of green tea resulted in the same degree of antioxidant effect.

  5. Peter on 11 Oct 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    Instead of loose tea leaves can I just use tea bags?

  6. Aubrey on 11 Oct 2012 at 2:37 pm #

    Peter -

    Absolutely! Tea bags works just as well. However, you will need to adjust the tea to water ratio. 8 teaspoons of tea bag tea will (probably) be too much. You’ll need to test out which proportion works best for you.

    Aubrey
    Arbor Teas

  7. Brian on 02 Nov 2012 at 7:31 pm #

    I have tried it both ways (loose tea and bags). I find bags are just easier (obviously). I just buy big boxes of 100 bags of Lipton at Costco. I use 6 bags for a gallon and usually let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours before taking them out. But I have left them in there for as long as a day (forgot about them, actually) and the tea tasted just as good.

    As far as the energy consumed by the refrigerator, well obviously, it’s running anyway and as long as the water you use isn’t actually hot when you put it in, the energy it takes to get it very cold is going to be negligible. Plus, once it’s cold, the cold water stores the cold. An extra gallon of cold liquid in your refrigerator should actually use less energy because you’re replacing empty space with something that can store the cold.

  8. All About Tea! | Elegant Ellie's Personal World on 09 Jan 2013 at 12:00 pm #

    [...] http://www.arborteas.com/teablog/tea-preparation/cold-brewing-tea-why-you-should-and-how-to-do-it/ [...]

  9. Fredric on 01 May 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    Love it! But, I wonder about the energy used draw the water from my well. Is there a way reduce my footprint there as well? Thankfully, I was able to find the answer on my Internet connected computer.

  10. Aubrey on 02 May 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    Hmmm, Fredric. I’m sure you will find many answers during your online search. But, the ways we can think of to reduce the energy used to draw water from your well (this article was written assuming municipally supplied water) is to create a manual, solar or wind-powered well head….!

    Aubrey
    Arbor Teas

  11. Audrey on 17 May 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    Any idea how well or it would work with chai spices in the tea, will they also release their flavors in the cold water?

  12. Aubrey on 21 May 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    Hi Audrey -

    Yes, the cold brewing technique should work with the chai spices as well! However, you will find a similar loss of the high flavor notes that you also lose with tea when using a cold brew technique compared to a hot brew. You may also want to experiment with using a little bit more chai tea than what you usually use with a hot brew.

    Aubrey
    Arbor Teas

  13. martine on 17 Jul 2013 at 5:40 pm #

    what about caffeine? will it dissolve in cold water?

  14. Aubrey on 18 Jul 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    Yes, Martine.

    The caffeine will be extracted from the tea leaf in cold brewing. However, it will be extracted at a slower rate than if you used a hot water method. But, because the length of brew time is longer with cold brewing, the amount of caffeine extracted at the end of the process will probably be similar to that extracted from a hot brew.

    Aubrey
    Arbor Teas

  15. Vernon Tonnesen on 31 Jul 2013 at 11:42 pm #

    For several years I’ve been “cold” brewing using charcoal filtered tap water and 5 bags of green to make 2 liters, but not refrigerating until after removing the bags, which I typically leave in 10-12 hours, with a range of 8-16 hours. Before discarding the bags, I squeeze, resaturate, and squeeze again.

    It was only today I became curious what others do and how much caffeine and anti-oxidants might be in it compared to conventional brewing, and compared to coffee.

    I sweeten with an eye dropper of stevia, and typically consume about 1 liter per day, indicating daily caffeine consumption likely in the 90mg/day range, maybe a little more from the squeezing.

    The bags I’ve been using are Prince of Peace from Big Lots @ $3.20/100, less than half the lowest price I’ve seen for bags anywhere else. Big Lots is the only place I’ve ever found 100 count green tea bags available.

    Lately I’ve been experimenting by making every third pitcher with hot water and 10 bags previously used to brew cold. So far I’ve been unable to discern any material difference in flavor or strength.

  16. Sophia Kugeares on 24 Aug 2013 at 6:30 am #

    I used to make “sun-tea” all the time, but since giving up caffeine for health reasons, I have been drinking decaf green tea. With the extreme heat of FL summers, however, I wanted iced tea. The thought of brewing a large amount of green tea, then cooling it off, then putting it in the refrigerator was daunting. So I decided to just pop a few bags into a bottle and let it brew on my patio. The result is fantastic. I use 3 tea bags to a 1.8 qts water. Set it out on the patio (sometimes overnight) then pop it in frige and it’s wonderful. I don’t use sweeteners as I would with hot green tea. It’s light and refreshing. Maybe I am losing some antioxidants, but if I’m reducing my carbon footprint, it’s well worth the sacrifice.

  17. MJJP on 14 Sep 2013 at 6:45 am #

    The latest research shows cold brewed black tea as healthy as hot brewed white tea. In fact it has been shown that cold brewed out does hot brew on antioxident benefits with just about all tea.

  18. Matt on 06 Mar 2014 at 11:29 am #

    Though I’d offer my 2 cents… I’m a regular tea drinker… I usually boil ~2 q of water, take it off the heat, add 4 bags of tea, and let steep for 15-30 mins. Then I’ll add a few Tbsp of raw honey, and pour over a glass filled with ice throughout the day. Last night I just filled a 2 qt pitcher, threw in the teabags (2 green, 1 black, 1 green w/ginger/mango) and let it be. Definitely a milder tea, but that’s as much because I steep mine for a long time when hot. Sweeter, not in the sugar sense, but in the absence of tannin. I liked it. I think come summer time I’ll do it even more often, but I think I’ll stick with my first batch of heated tea to get the punch I want in the AM.

  19. Elliot on 09 Mar 2014 at 7:26 pm #

    It is a misconception that refrigerating the water will use negligible energy. Bringing the gallon of water from tap temperature down to refrigerator temp still requires the exchange of the heat stored in the tap water. Furthermore, refrigeration is not even necessary. Just add tea to tap temperature water and let it sit. I like my tea at room temp rather than cold because I can taste the tea better (and there’s not energy cost to cooling it).

  20. Ed Tomchin on 07 Apr 2014 at 10:08 am #

    I’ve been drinking room temperature brewed green tea for a number of years and though Though I can detect no direct benefits, I’m still alive at 75 even with some debilitating medical problems. I put 3 bags of green tea in a gallon bottle of filtered water and let them sit for 8 hours. The water turns a light golden brown. However, after reading here and other places, I’m going to double the bags I use and also look for a way to make it without using the bags. The paper is said to influence the taste and purity of the tea. I’m looking forward to reporting being alive and healthy in another 25 years. Wish me luck.

  21. Jaime S on 08 May 2014 at 6:07 pm #

    Some of the comments concern me. Do not make “sun tea,” please! According to the CDC, the heat from the sun does not actually heat the tea enough to kill bacteria; rather, it is just the right temperature to grow it! Making tea in the refrigerator virtually eliminates the risk factor, so go with cold-brewing instead.

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply