As soon as it starts to get hot outside, I can hear the voice of my yoga teacher in my head who used to warn us against cold drinks: "In India people don't drink ice cold water" he would say "they drink hot tea even in subtropical temperatures." Whereas I'm sure he was right, let's face it - in the Western culture we do like a cold drink when the summer heat kicks in. The good news for tea lovers (and my yoga teacher): the cold summer drinks can be healthy... thanks to cold brew tea!
In this blog post I'm going to outline:
- what is cold brew tea
- how to make cold brew tea
- which teas are a good fit for a cold brew tea
What is cold brew tea
When thinking about cold tea, it's not only my yoga teacher's voice that comes to my mind. It's also that of the Chinese Zen master Shi Yuan who recommended to infuse tea in boiling water. A Chinese Zen Buddhist legend describes how the master's disciple tried to infuse tea leaves in cold water and failed to obtain any particular taste. The master summed up "When is life not like tea? When a tea leaf meets boiling water it rises and sinks to release its fragrance, when life encounters the wind and rain of reverse and frustration it releases its glory."
Making a cold brew is succeeding where Shi Yuan's disciple has failed - obtaining a delightful, tasty tea by combining top quality leaves with cold water.
How to make cold brew tea
Compared to the elaborate methods of preparing hot loose leaf tea, making a cold brew is really simple and only requires some patience. It's enough to
- take a large recipient - a teapot or even a simple water jug
- add a few teaspoons of loose tea leaves (5 for a large teapot, 3 for a smaller one)
- cover them with room temperature water and leave for some time (at least 30 minutes in room temperature but the leaves can also be left to infuse overnight in the fridge)
As you can see, this recipe has nothing to do with the precision and mastery that we know from traditional gongfu cha recipes. It really is a freestyle, summery tea making approach.
Which teas are a good fit for a cold brew tea
Oolong tea cold brew
As this blog focuses on oolong tea, I'm delighted to tell you that oolong tea is perfect for making a cold brew
- Bao Zhong and Tie Guan Yin oolong teas are more delicate and floral when infused in cold water
- Milky Oolong releases unexpected peach notes when infused as a cold brew
- please mind I wouldn't experiment infusing the really expensive oolong teas such as Da Hong Pao this way, this tea is much better appreciated when infused the more traditional way
Black tea cold brew
I was also very surprised to find out that good Chinese black teas (think Qi Men or Yunnan) are absolutely delicious when infused as a cold brew.
Perfumed tea cold brew
Similarly, any perfumed tea, especially with citrus notes is going to make a very fine cold brew.
Green tea cold brew
Coarse and strong green teas such as Gunpowder are a good match for the cold infusion. However, the most delicate green teas need to be infused for a few hours to have an interesting taste as cold brews,
Until now, I have only had one failed experiment - and an expensive one - as I wasn't able to get anything interesting from the famous Taiping Houkui tea although it's excellent when infused hot.
Try it yourself!
The summer is on - open your tea caddies and try out any tea you have at home (apart from the most prestigious and expensive ones) as a cold brew. In most cases you will be enchanted.
P.S. Please don't tell my yoga teacher I wrote this.