My mom made sun tea when I was little. She would fill up the same clear plastic pitcher with Lipton tea bags and water and set it out in the sun to steep. I’d go out there and marvel at the process. As an experiment, I filled cans with water and macaroni noodles and set them next to her sun tea to “cook.” Never worked, no matter how long I left them out there.
Fast forward a few years, and my mom let up on her soda-once-a-week rule. I started guzzling Dr. Pepper like she guzzled unsweetened iced tea, and I squealed every time I grabbed the wrong cup from the cup holder. Yuck!
Nowadays, I’ve given up the soda in favor of good clean water. I’ve always wanted to understand my mom’s iced tea thing, and I’ve finally found a way to really, truly enjoy it—cold brew!
The cold brew method reminds me of sun tea, since you’re just steeping tea in water for hours, but cold brew takes place in the refrigerator instead of the back porch.
Heat brings out the tannic, bitter flavors in tea. In the absence of heat, you’re left with perfectly refreshing, super smooth tea for slow summer sipping. It isn’t bitter in the slightest. The same is true for coffee, which is why I love cold brew coffee so much.
How to Make Cold Brew Iced Tea
The method itself is incredibly simple. Just combine loose-leaf tea or whole tea bags and water in a pitcher and let the tea infuse the water for 6 to 12 hours in the refrigerator (see instructions below for specifics). Strain, and you have cold-brew tea that will taste great for days!
Bon Appetit suggested that they have best results with loose-leaf tea, so I used loose-leaf here, but I’ve since been making lazy cold-brew tea by soaking whole bags in water, which tastes almost as good and is much easier to make.
Another option? Steep your loose-leaf tea in a clean French press—just press down the filter to remove those loose tea leaves and pour!
Cold Brew Iced Tea
- Prep Time: 5 mins
- Total Time: 5 mins (plus 6 to 12 hours chilling time)
- Yield: Varies
- Category: Drink
- Method: Cold-brew
- Cuisine: Asian
Super simple, refreshing cold brew iced tea without the tannic, bitter flavors found in regular tea! Plus, it stays fresh tasting for days.
- 1 tea bag (or 1 teaspoon loose-leaf tea) per 6 to 8 ounces of water, depending on desired strength
- Optional add-ins: sliced lemon, sweetener of choice, fresh mint leaves, sliced cucumber
- For the best flavor, if you’re using tea bags, snip off the corners and dump the loose tea into your pitcher. Or, just put the whole bags in the pitcher for tea that is *almost* as awesome and way easier to make. Pour in room temperature or cold water.
- Cover the pitcher and refrigerate. Steep white or green tea for 6 to 8 hours; steep black or oolong tea for 8 to 12 hours.
- Once your time is up, strain the loose-leaf tea out of the pitcher by pouring the tea through a fine mesh sieve (for best results, cover the sieve with a cheesecloth or paint-straining bag used exclusively for food products) or just pull out the tea bags. Discard the tea or tea bags.
- Serve tea as is or with any add-ins of your choice. Tea will keep well, covered and refrigerated, for 3 to 5 days.
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit May 2015.