Tea 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!