The Mechanics of Cold Brewing Tea

There are any number of ways to whip up a cup of tea these days, and we’ve commented on several of them in these pages. They range from the tried and true method of heating water with a teakettle (or microwave) and pouring it over a tea bag or loose tea leaves to a high-tech session with one of the many allegedly automatic gadgets that seem to be all the rage these days.

Iced Tea and Coffee Article from The New York Times
Iced Tea and Coffee Article from The New York Times (Photo source: screen capture from site)

One method that doesn’t seem to get as much attention is cold brewing, though it received a high profile mention last Summer in an article in a little publication called the New York Times. The fact that the article appeared in the middle of Summer is likely no accident, given that this is the time when the heat in the kitchen produced by stove/teakettle combo is least welcome.

The article was written by regular Times contributor Harold McGee, who pens The Curious Cook column and who’s not unlike a Mr. Wizard of food and beverages. While the article goes into some depth on cold brewing tea (and that other drink) it could safely be summarized by the following, “So cold-brewed teas and coffees are chemically different from their hot counterparts. They tend to contain less caffeine and less acid. And, of course, they taste different.” For more of McGee’s many articles on tea and coffee look here.

Given that it utilizes the heat of the sun it’s probably not completely accurate to refer to sun tea as cold-brewed, but given the fact that this article appeared at Serious Eats as I writing this article I thought it was worth a mention. Though it’s a popular method for brewing iced tea, sun tea has come under fire in recent years for potential health concerns having to do with bacteria.

The Serious Eats article touches on those concerns and the writer recounts the results of his fairly extensive testing of various sun and cold brewing methods. In the end he concludes, based primarily on the taste of the end products, that one might be just as well follow this piece of advice, “For the best sun tea, don’t bother with the sun.”

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2 thoughts on “The Mechanics of Cold Brewing Tea

  1. Pingback: The Best of the English Tea Store Tea Blog in 2012 « Tea Blog

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