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Tea for the summer, cold not iced

As the days get warmer, try making a cold brew that puts the tea front and centre

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Tea folks tend to be philosophical types, with tea often setting it off. My thoughts turn to present times... learning to cede control, go with the flow, slow down and deliberate over tasks.

It seems as good a time as any to try the tea that has thus far put me off because it takes time.

With newfound patience has come the time for a cold brew tea. Not that I was complaining about the sweet iced tea I enjoy in summer; I have never judged it for its shortcomings save for the occasional grumble. But rave reviews about the cold brew have been growing louder.

First, however, a short history about iced tea. It’s one of the US’ two contributions to tea (the other is the tea bag). Popular perception seems to be that the US enjoys a close relationship with coffee but history says otherwise; tea and the US go back a long way.

Tea history buff Peter G.W. Keen says the US tried to create a tea industry in the warmer south. Robert Fortune, that Scottish botanist who infamously smuggled tea out of China to India, was also hired to bring tea to the US. It wasn’t a successful collaboration—he was fired. That apart, the climatic conditions were not conducive to tea cultivation. Green tea was imported from Japan. But Pearl Harbor and World War II put a stop to that. Then the Cold War closed trade between the US and China till the 1970s.

However, the tradition of iced tea had already emerged in the warm southern states in the 19th century. Large pitchers of this beverage are part of the great southern tradition. It’s typically made with an Argentinian black tea, not particularly noted for its quality. It’s sweet and refreshingly iced. Its fault is that it has never heroed the tea.

The cold brew puts the tea front and centre. It is tea brewed in cold water, refrigerated for many (many!) hours. It steeps gently and this is said to prevent the tannic taste that hot water creates in tea.

All tea will work as a cold brew, some just taste better. I tried a cold brew with a Darjeeling black, a Japanese sencha (conveniently powdered), a Nepal white tea, a pineapple and coconut flavoured black tea, and an Assam hōjicha. I used food writer Max Falkowitz’s guidelines of 8-10g of tea per quart (0.9 litres) of water.

I find that cold brew needs a little less tea than a hot tea. There are Reddit groups with detailed timelines for cold brewing. A good rule of thumb is to refrigerate overnight. I kept a simple sugar syrup and a wedge of lime handy, in case my brain refused to recognize the cold brew tea. The black tea needed them but the others were fine without. The sencha, white tea, the hōjicha and the flavoured infusion made for a delicious cold brew.

Next stop, a cold-brew chai.


When the lockdown ceases, do try the iced tea blends from Te-a-me and Karma Kettle to make a cold brew. If you still like your flavoured iced tea, Brewhouse Tea offers a ready-to-drink range made from Assam and Darjeeling tea.

Tea Nanny is a weekly series steeped in the world of tea. Aravinda Anantharaman is a Bengaluru-based tea blogger and writer who reports on the tea industry.

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