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How to Make Cold Brew Tea: The Best Method

See how easy it is to make cold brew tea with this simple method and discover why iced tea recipes made by steeping tea in cold water taste the best.
cold brew tea recipe

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How to Cold Brew Tea

To make cold brew iced tea you only need tea, cold water and time. That’s it.

What’s more, not only is the cold brew method super simple, but it produces more balanced flavors compared to brewing hot tea.

I promise you, once you steep tea in cold water, you’ll never turn back to the old way of brewing iced tea.

Literally, the only downside I can think of for brewing tea in cold water is that you have to plan ahead.

This is because it takes at least 8-12 hours to steep tea in cold water.

Personally, I don’t find the steeping time to be a drawback, however, since I toss my cold brew tea in the fridge before going to bed and strain it when I wake up. The strained tea keeps well in the fridge for several days.

All in all, the process of making cold brew iced tea is effortless and produces the best tasting iced tea hands down.

cold brewed iced tea
All it takes to make cold brew iced tea is tea, water and time.

Benefits of Making Tea with Cold Water

If you’re new to making cold brew iced tea, you probably have a few questions. For example, you may be wondering why so many people, including myself, say that cold brew tea is the best way to make iced tea.

Additionally, you may be wondering the benefits of cold brew tea.

In a nutshell, cold brewing tea is the perfect technique since the steps are foolproof, the flavor is smooth and complex, and the process may improve some nutritional benefits.

Easy Steps:

With cold brew iced tea there’s no need to mess with a tea kettle or worry about precise water temperatures.

Of course, using quality ingredients matters, but clearly combining tea and cold water in a jar and putting it in the refrigerator is very simple to do.

Improved Flavor & Profile:

A hot infusion often releases tannins and their accompanying bitterness. On the other hand, a cold infusion almost creates a sweeter flavor. In fact, smoother and more complex flavors are extracted.

Enhanced Nutritional Benefits:

Here are a few of the nutritional benefits:

  • Since sweet, fruity flavor notes come through during the cold brew process, drinkers may add less sugar to the iced tea.
  • Also, did you know that cold brewing caffeinated teas releases about half the caffeine content compared to a hot infusion? This may be a real bonus for many tea drinkers. According to the article, Iced Coffee and Tea: (Not) Taking the Heat, “cold-brewed teas and coffees are chemically different from their hot counterparts [and] tend to contain less caffeine and less acid.
  • Finally, this slow, cold process allows tea to retain either the same amount of antioxidant polyphenols or more compared to hot tea infusions.

Difference Between Iced Tea and Cold Brew

Before I show you how to make cold brew tea, let me explain how it’s different from iced tea.

Iced tea is made using a traditional hot brew method. The tea is poured over ice to create summer’s favorite drink.

On the other hand, cold brew tea is brewed with cold water. It can be poured over ice to create an iced tea drink, as well. Therefore, the main difference between iced tea and cold brew tea is the brewing technique (hot or cold).

Things you Need to Make Cold Brew Iced Tea

If you’re convinced cold brewing is the ideal way to make iced tea and you’re ready to give it a go, this is all you need (besides tea and water):

  • Glass Jar with Lid
  • Strainer or Infuser for Loose Tea

Another benefit of this straightforward manner of brewing tea is that no fancy or expensive equipment is required.

At a minimum you need a glass jar with a lid, but even then you can improvise and use a glass measuring cup or pitcher.

I really like the Ball glass jars I picked up at Target that allow me to make lots of individual flavors of iced tea. Plus, their flat sides fit snugly together in the refrigerator, saving space. And obviously, I can use them over and over.

In addition, if you make cold brew tea with loose tea (the preferred choice), you need a fine mesh strainer or an infuser to pour through. My infuser from Old Barrel Tea Company gets the job done perfectly.

Now, making large batches of iced tea, clearly requires a larger container. While a fancy tea maker is not necessary at all, if you make large batches of iced tea often, you may consider getting one.

Really, the tea maker is nothing more than a pitcher with an infuser. But it’s a cinch to use since all you have to do is remove the infuser when the cold brew is ready to drink.

Steps to Make Tea with Cold Water

Now that you know why cold brew tea makes the best iced tea, I bet you’re eager to give it a try. The method is so simple, but here’s how I like to make cold brew iced tea.

Step 1. Select a tea and put it in a glass jar

The first step to make cold brew iced tea is to select a tea and put it in a jar with water.

Loose tea is the preferred choice since its large leaves produce the most flavor as they unfurl in the water. However, you can also cold brew tea sachets which contain fairly big pieces of tea (though not as full as loose tea) or tea bags.

Tea bags are considered the lowest quality of the bunch, though you still can cold brew them.

Regarding type of tea, anything goes—black, green, white, herbal, oolong and so on.

And if you’re like me and enjoy a perfectly made cup of hot black tea, guess what? With cold brew you don’t have to worry about watching a tea timer or excessive bitterness.

making cold brew tea
My favorite way to make cold brew tea is with loose leaf tea.

Suggested amount of tea to use per cup of water:

Type of TeaReady to Drink TeaTea Concentrate
Loose Tea1.5 teaspoons3 teaspoons
Tea Sachet12
Tea Bag24

The amount of tea you use to make cold brew iced tea depends on the way the tea is packaged (loose, sachet or bag) and how concentrated you want the tea to be.

Ready to Drink Iced Tea: For ready to drink tea, the basic formula is to use about 1.5 times the amount of tea per cup of water than you normally would. For instance, if the tea package calls for 1 teaspoon of tea per 8 ounces of water for hot brew, then use 1.5 teaspoons for cold brew.

Cold Brew Tea Concentrate:

Tea concentrate is just stronger tea, usually double strength.

With it you can create some really fun and flavorful drinks. All you have to do is combine tea concentrate with another drink using a 1 to 1 ratio.

For example, combine 1 part concentrate with 1 part lemonade to make an iced tea lemonade. The possibilities are limitless.

To make a cold brew tea concentrate, double the amount of tea used for ready to drink cold brew tea (see chart above). Of course, you can adjust the amount of tea to suit your taste.

Step 2: Add fresh, cold water to the jar

Water is a key component to tea, so the quality of the water really matters.

Ideally, use cool, fresh, oxygenated water to make cold brew tea. Additionally, filtered water, free of funky minerals and odd tastes is highly recommended.

Since water can make or break a tea’s overall taste, having some sort of way to filter it is ideal. I have a water filter on my new refrigerator, but a Brita Filter Pitcher works really well, too.

That being said, if you don’t have a way to filter water, I suggest using bottled water instead of unfiltered tap water.

So, to make the cold brew tea, pour cold or room temperature water into the jar containing the tea.

cold brew iced tea in glass jars
Making cold brew tea is as easy as mixing tea and cold water in a jar and steeping it in a refrigerator overnight.

Step 3. Put the jar in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours

Now it’s time to place the tea in the refrigerator. Ideally, cold brew tea should steep for 8-12 hours and no more than 24 hours. Personally, I brew it about 12 hours overnight.

Here’s a little known tip if you’re pinched for time.

The tea experts at Whittard of Chelsea recommend using a flash heat method to “wake the tea up” before adding cold water. This is accomplished by covering the leaves with 2 inches of boiling or near-boiling water. Then it is topped off with cold water and brewed at least 4-6 hours.

On another note, Whittard also explains that hot water kills natural bacteria in unprocessed teas.

how to make cold brew tea
Cold brew loose tea minutes after being mixed. Next up: steeping & straining.

Step 4. Strain the tea or remove tea bags

The final step to the cold brew method is to remove the tea from the infusion. If you used tea sachets or tea bags, simply lift them out.

For loose tea, all you need to do is pour the tea through a strainer into a clean jar or glass.

Cold Brew Iced Tea Drink Ideas

If you made ready to drink cold brew tea add sweetener if desired and pour over ice. Simple syrup is ideal since it’s already dissolved.

Here’s an idea. If you made multiple flavors like a fruity herb tea and green tea, mix them together and pour over ice.

If you made cold brew tea concentrate, the combination of drinks you can make are as limited as your imagination.

You can even look at the Starbucks iced tea menu to see their lineup of delicious iced tea drink combinations.

For instance, they combine tea concentrate with another drink like lemonade or peach juice to create a thirst-quenching iced tea. Here you can see my Starbucks copycat recipe for Iced Green Tea Lemonade.

Furthermore, cold brew tea concentrate is ideal for making iced tea lattes. As a matter of fact, I cold brew English Breakfast tea to make an Iced Caramel English Breakfast Tea Latte. Yum!

And here’s my recipe for a decadent Iced London Fog Latte with Vanilla Sweet Cream, made with cold brew earl grey tea.

Finally, to make regular iced tea using concentrate just add fresh water or even seltzer water to make it a little fizzy.

cold brewed iced tea
Refreshing glass of cold brewed iced tea. This is DavidsTea Justy Peachy herbal blend.

Cold Brew Tea Recipe

cold brew tea recipe

Cold Brew Iced Tea Recipe

Yield: 8 cups
Prep Time: 8 hours
Additional Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 8 hours 5 minutes

Making cold brew tea with this simple recipe is really easy to do and makes the best iced tea, smooth and flavorful. Use this method to make ready-to-drink cold brew iced tea or iced tea concentrate.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups filtered water
  • 3-4 tablespoons loose tea

Instructions

To make ready-to-drink cold brew iced tea

  1. Measure loose tea and put it in a clean glass jar.
  2. Pour fresh, cold filtered water on top of the tea in the jar.
  3. Stir the tea so it's all moistened and put the lid on.
  4. Put the jar of tea in the refrigerator immediately and let it steep for 8-12 hours.
  5. When the tea has finished steeping, pour it through a strainer and discard the leaves.


To make cold brew tea concentrate

  1. Follow the directions for ready-to-drink cold brew tea except double the amount of tea per cup of water compared to the ready-to-drink directions.
  2. To make iced tea drinks with a concentrate combine 1 part cold brew concentrate with 1 part of another drink. For instance, combine 1 cup cold brew concentrate with 1 cup of water and ice to make regular iced tea. Or combine 1 cup of cold brew concentrate with 1 cup of lemonade and ice to make iced tea lemonade.

Notes

Ready-to-drink cold brew tea:

A good rule of thumb is to use 1 to 1.5 times the amount of tea recommended on the tea's package for each cup of water.

For example, if the package says to make tea using 1 teaspoon per cup of water then use 1 to 1.5 teaspoons to make cold brew tea. In other words, to make 8 cups of cold brew tea, combine 8 cups of water with 8 to 12 teaspoons of tea (3 to 4 tablespoons).

Concentrated cold brew tea:

To make a strong, concentrated cold brew tea, use 2 to 3 times the amount of tea recommended on the tea package for each cup of water.

For example, to make 8 cups of cold brew tea concentrate, combine 8 cups water with 16 to 24 teaspoons of tea (6 to 8 tablespoons).

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