Brouhaha

Making cold-brewed tea with common office supplies.

After testing an uncommon cold-brewing ingredient, yerba mate, I decided to vary the cold-brewing method to make it more accessible.

Problem

Not everybody has access to cold-brewing equipment, half a pound of tea, and a fancy kettle. Cold brewing is hard to mess up - it shouldn't require any specialized or branded equipment. So, I tried to cold brew tea, but with commonly-availble equipment.

I realized that all of the necessary ingredients - even the tea - are available in a common office:

Materials

Downsizing from a half-gallon tub to a small jar took some calculations. Based on the Toddy recipe for cold-brewed tea, half of a pound of tea should be brewed with 9 cups of water. For a one-pint jar, this works out to 50.4 grams of tea per pint.

To figure out how much tea is in a tea bag, I tore one open:

2.7 grams of tea in a tea bag

So, with 2.7 grams of tea per tea bag, you need about 18 tea bags per pint jar.

Geek note: There is slight error because we aren't adding exactly a full pint of water - the tea and tea bags take up some volume, so I rounded down on the number of tea bags necessary.

Procedure

  • Place 18 tea bags, strings removed, in a jar.
  • Fill with water.
  • Seal, and let sit at room temperature for about 12 hours.
  • Remove tea bags, and dilute to taste (about 5 parts water to 1 part concentrate).

Experiment

For realism, I actually conducted the experiment at my office. At the end of the work day, I set up brew so that it would be ready when I came in the next morning in need of a caffeine boost. I used a mix of English breakfast teas.

Cold-brewing tea in a jar

Cold-brewing tea in a jar

Cold-brewing tea in a jar

Results

The next morning, about 14 hours later, I was greeted by a dark brew.

Cold-brewing tea in a jar

I strained out the tea, and discarded the tea bags. I tried tasting the straight concentrate, but it was so strong that it was unpalatable.

Cold-brewing tea in a jar

I diluted a bit of the tea with about five parts water, and it turned into a delicious drink. The taste was different from hot-brewed, iced tea in two ways:

  • The cold-brewed tea is noticably more oily. This makes it feel smoother when drinking.
  • There is no bitterness. Over-steeped hot tea, especially black tea, develops an off-putting bitter aftertaste.

Cold-brewing tea in a jar

Conclusion

The experiment was a success. The tea was delicious, and notably it was different in flavor from hot-brewed, iced tea. I kept the final tea concentrate in the same jar, so it made for a portable caffeine kick that I added to my water bottle.

Using a whole box of tea bags for a little pint seems excessive, and it probably is not the most courteous thing to do in an office setting. Also, the amount of tea per tea bag varies based on brand and chance, so 18 tea bags is not the perfect recipe.

I repeated the experiment with 4 tea bags per jar, and the tea was delicious without dilution. In the future, I will plan on sticking with 3 or 4 tea bags per jar if I plan to drink the tea undiluted, or just using loose tea if I want to make a concentrate to carry around.

Written by Philip on 4 December 2013. About Brouhaha.