Icy, refreshing and smooth, Cold Brew Tea is tailor made for the dog days of summer. Learn about the improved taste you get when cold brewing tea, along with 3 easy methods for making perfect iced tea at home!
3 Delicious Ways To Cold Brew Tea
As we settle into the dog days of summer, I start to get a little nostalgic. The stillness and heat remind me of the long, lazy, sun-soaked days of my childhood.
And, even though this period of the summer directly precedes the season drawing to a close, if you stop and really pay attention, you can almost make time stand still.
When I’m lucky enough to step away from technology and deadlines and grasp one of those moments, I soak it for all it’s worth.
There’s just something about hitting the rooftop with a lawn chair, a book and about a gallon of cold brew tea that slows a normally rushed day to a crawl.
The thick, syrupy heat beckons you to take it all in: The smell of freshly cut grass and the moisture from a distant rainstorm. A light rustling of leaves in the hot, heavy breeze. The droning buzz of cicadas punctuated by bits of birdsong.
That’s the smell, sound and feel of summer for me. And we’re all lucky when we get to capture its bucolic perfection for a moment.
But when it comes to the TASTE of summer, it’s essence is concentrated in the flavors of cold mugicha (むぎちゃ) – or Japanese barley tea.
You see, a sip of ice cold mugicha is the last piece of that slow summer day puzzle.
If you’ve tried it, then you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, well… you’re in for a treat!
The toasted, clean flavor of a cold glass of mugicha makes a summer day stand still.
Two Childhoods. Two Iced Teas
Ben and I both grew up in households that kept sugar at arm’s length. Neither one of us were allowed unlimited cans of soda or fruit-punch by the pitcher full.
A soda here and there? Sure. But our moms were both more likely to offer us iced tea on a hot afternoon.
I still remember running into the kitchen, out of breath. My mom would get the pitcher from the fridge, pour a tall glass of mugicha, and would ask about my adventures.
I’d guzzle it down while simultaneously trying to catch my breath. The cold brew tea would work its rehydrating magic almost immediately – and it wouldn’t be long before I was out the door again.
Meanwhile, Ben remembers his mom making sun tea with Lipton tea bags in a massive glass jar. He said that she’d put that jar in the most sun soaked spot in the backyard – and they’d check on it periodically during the day. When the jar’s contents had darkened, he knew it was iced tea time.
Funny story: Ben remembers iced tea tasting somehow different in the summer. Of course, since he was a kid, he attributed that taste difference to the sun. He figured that, since the sun brewed it, the sun flavored it as well.
Turns out his mom added fresh mint leaves to the jar when she brewed her sun tea. So, when Ben was a kid, he thought the sun tasted like mint 🙂
Well, that taste we both nurtured for unsweetened iced tea has carried over into our adult lives.
We still polish off glass after glass of homemade iced tea on hot summer days. And – yep – we don’t add sugar. We drink it straight!
How to make iced tea
The most common method for making iced tea is to heat up water, steep your tea bags in the hot water – and then chill your tea and serve.
While there’s nothing wrong at all with that method, we’re talking cold brewing tea today!
Hey – one less pot of boiling water on the stovetop in the epic heat of August is a good thing in my book.
Also, I’ve been pretty surprised with some subtle flavors that show up – especially when cold brewing green tea, that you can lose when brewing in the traditional method.
Did you know: tea will release it’s flavor into liquid whether the liquid is hot or cold?
Yep – the only difference between hot and cold methods is that hot tends to work a bit faster.
But, trust me, you get those tea leaves wet, and you’re gonna have a container of tea on your hands before long!
Now, before we get into the nitty gritty on the best practices for steeping tea – or the all-time best iced tea recipe – if you’re using a foolproof method that works for you, there’s absolutely no reason to fix what isn’t broken. In fact, I’d love to hear about your iced tea methods in the comments section. I love learning new thing from you as well friends!
Think of the following as a basic primer. Cold Brew Tea 101.
Today, we’ll dive into:
- How to cold brew mugicha (Japanese barley tea)
- Cold brewing loose leaf tea with a French press
- How to cold brew tea using a cheesecloth
So, let’s go!
How to cold brew mugicha
While none of the methods for making cold brew tea are difficult by any means, this has gotta be the all time easiest!
Seriously, it’s as simple as pouring a pitcher of cold water, tossing in a premeasured and factory sealed tea bag – and putting it in the fridge. Done!
Let it steep for about an hour in the fridge – and start drinking.
Now, I’m a serious lover of mugicha. It has toasted, bright and smooth elements to it – and manages to be both mild and ever-so-slightly sharp at the same time.
Aside from being loaded with antioxidants, mugicha helps maintain good circulation and can help men maintain a healthy prostate!
Fun fact: in Japanese, mugi means barley – and cha means tea. Therefore mugicha is a direct translation into barley tea 🙂
For all things mugicha related, check out my deep-dive post: Mugicha – The Perfect Summer Drink.
One of the best things about keeping a batch of cold brew mugicha in the fridge is that you don’t have to pull the tea bag out of the pitcher. In my experience, it never gets too strong with a long steep.
Also, when I’m about halfway through the first pitcher of mugicha, I fill it back up to the top with cold water. You should be able to get about a pitcher and a half of full strength mugicha from each tea bag.
Mugicha is available at most Asian grocery stores. Or, you can easily grab mugicha on Amazon.
How to cold brew mugicha
- Fill a pitcher with cold water and add one large mugicha bag.
- Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
- When pitcher is halfway emptied (after first brew) it’s ok to refill to the top with cold water.
How to brew loose leaf tea using a French Press
This method is a bit more time consuming – but just as easy. And, I promise, it’ll be worth it!
Cold brewing loose leaf tea has a major flavor advantage over traditional brewing methods. You see, it’s easy to scorch tea when using boiling water. And this is what tends to bring out bitterness and that tanic bite you sometimes notice when drinking tea.
Tea that has gently released its bouquet in cold water over a number of hours is super refreshing and smooth. Not bitter at all.
Cold brew tea is chilly, refreshing summertime perfection!
And, since we’re using a French press, you can totally use your high end, fancy loose leaf teas. Since the last step before drinking is a super satisfying push of the plunger that will filter out the tea leaves, there’s no need to use bagged tea.
That said, tea bags work just fine when making cold brew tea. Use what you’ve got!
So if you’re wondering how to make tea in the refrigerator in a French press, here we go!
Simply fill up your French press with cold water and your favorite loose leaf tea. A good general rule is to use about a teaspoon of loose leaf tea for every six ounces of water. However, feel free to adjust for strength and personal taste.
Now, just place the French press (plunger up!) in the refrigerator for about six to eight hours. I’ve had luck with certain teas (oolong for example), giving it a couple extra hours.
If you’re on the fence and can’t tell if your tea has steeped long enough, just give it a little taste. Your tastebuds will tell you when it’s done!
When it’s finished – and just before serving – slowly and evenly press the plunger on your French press.
How to cold brew tea using a French press
- Fill French press pitcher with water and loose tea leaves.
- Use approximately 1 teaspoon of tea for every 6 ounces of water.
- Place in the refrigerator (plunger up) 6-8 hours – or until desired strength is achieved.
- Slowly depress the plunger to filter before serving.
How to make cold brew green tea using cheesecloth
This is absolutely as easy as the French press method. In fact, it calls for the same timing and everything. The only difference (as I’m sure you’ve guessed) is that you strain your finished cold brew tea through cheesecloth before serving to filter the leaves out.
That’s it. Mystery solved!
Full disclosure, this works with any kind of loose leaf tea. I just really love using good quality green tea leaves with this method.
Why? One word: catechins.
Catechins are antioxidants that help our bodies fight off cell damage. And unprocessed green tea is absolutely loaded with catechins. (It’s also great for improved blood flow, has been known to lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar and blood pressure.)
Sure – the flavor of cold brew green tea is a ton smoother and less biting than boiled green tea. However, it also turns out that those catechins in green tea can be damaged by the heat from boiling water.
So, not only does cold brew green tea taste smoother, it may actually be better for you!
Anyway… I digress. After 6-8 hours in the fridge, just filter your cold brew green tea through cheesecloth and you’ll be sipping in style!
How to cold brew tea using cheesecloth
- Fill pitcher with water and loose tea leaves.
- Use approximately 1 teaspoon of tea for every 6 ounces of water.
- Place in the refrigerator 6-8 hours – or until desired strength is achieved.
- Filter through cheesecloth before serving.
Bonus: How to make sun tea
While this technically is not a cold brew method at all, I’d be hard pressed to think up something more summery than going old-school and using the sun to speed things along.
When brewing tea using sun power, just fill up a large glass jug (preferably something with a lid you can close) with water. Then add your tea bags. A good rule of thumb is 7-10 tea bags per gallon of water. How many you add will depend on the strength of the tea you’re using.
Also, if you’re so inclined, now is a great time to add a bit of mint to the mix!
Seal it up and place that glass jar in the sun!
How long? Well, I usually leave it outside for about 2½ hours or so. Depends on a few factors though. If it’s crazy hot outside and my tea is starting looking dark quickly, I’ll bring it in early.
The length of time you settle on will depend on how strong you like your iced tea. Trust your gut on this one. If it looks done, it’s done!
Refrigerate and enjoy!
Now, it must be said that you need to be careful when brewing sun tea. While this is all pretty much common sense stuff, bear with me. If your glass jar is dirty – or the water being used is contaminated, it can harbor bacteria.
So use best practices when brewing tea with sun power. Always wash and dry your containers – and use clean water (bottled if need be). Also, best not to make more sun tea than you plan on consuming in a day or so. If your tea looks thick or syrupy, toss it out! Aaaannnnd, I’ll get off my be-safe-soapbox now 😉
But – hey – let’s be real. Ben grew up on the stuff. And he’s thriving!
How to make sun tea
- Fill a large glass container with clean water.
- Add 7-10 tea bags per gallon of water.
- Set container outside in the sun for 2-3 hours.
- Drink within a day or so.
Cold brew tea. Perfect for the dog days of summer
So, as the summer draws to a close, let’s hold on and savor the season! A little cold brew tea may just be the missing piece from your late summer puzzle!
What’s your favorite iced tea recipe? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
Other simple, delicious cooling summer drinks recipes:
- Lemon and Lime Energy Tonic
- Mango Lassi
- Lemongrass Iced Green Tea
- Strawberry Detox Water
- Low Sugar Mint Lemonade
In the mood for something a little stronger? Try these fresh, summery cocktails:
Did you like these Cold Brew Tea Recipes? Are there changes you made that you would like to share? Share your tips and recommendations in the comments section below!
Hi, I’ve been reading your blog for the last year and have actually tried and enjoyed some of the recipes. It’s fun and keeps me connected to my chinese heritage in ways. The most recent one is the steamed eggs which was delicious! The second time I made it, I modified it bit with the addition of water measured with the egg shells and kept the pot water at a very gentle steam. This makes the eggs silky and smooth. My folks use to do this. Thanks.
Thank you Laura!