Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Iced tea!

The weather is finally warming up (yes, even in Canberra, hallelujah) and I am finding that hot tea is not always, well, my cup of tea, at the moment, particularly not after I have had to walk home after work on a sunny evening, as happens quite often lately because my husband is working unreasonable hours for the PM (boo!).

So my thoughts have been turning to iced tea. I am lucky enough to have a couple of Bodum iced tea pitchers (birthday presents from kindly friends who chose to feed my addiction rather than thwart it) which make making iced tea much easier than it would otherwise be. These are tall plastic pitchers with a long filter that fits in against one side; you put the tea leaves into this and then fill with water, then it’s simple to remove the filter and the leaves once the brewing time is over. For a picture and another rave review, have a look here.

Because it was sunny and shiny on the northern hemisphere side of the world in mid-July, while I was freezing my toes off in below zero temperatures down here, most of the (American) tea blogs that I read were talking about iced tea at a time when I couldn’t think of anything less appealing, except perhaps walking barefoot through the snow selling matches. I did, however, take note of some of the recommendations made on some of these sites and stored them away in my head for future reference.

One of these recommendations was to brew your iced tea with cold water. Now most of the instructions that I’ve seen for making iced tea (e.g. those that came with my pitchers, for example) say that you brew it up with twice the tea leaves (because things taste less strong when they’re cold) and half the hot water that you would normally use, and then add cold water and ice to chill it once it’s finished steeping. This is all very well if you’re organised enough to have ice in your freezer (regrettably, I’m usually not, as we don’t use much of it). So the cold brewing method was a revelation.

I have tried it a few times recently with green and black teas and I have to say it works exceptionally well. It takes a bit longer (you need to leave the tea to steep in the fridge for about 8 hours or overnight – I find this less difficult to organise than having ice in the freezer, surprisingly), but the result is fantastic. One of the aesthetic benefits, if you’re fussed about such things, which I’m not particularly, but I may as well mention it, is that the resulting tea is crystal clear; making tea with hot water extracts higher amounts of polyphenols, and subsequent chilling causes these to precipitate, making the brew look cloudy. However, the slower steeping time at cold temperatures means this doesn’t happen when you cold-brew the tea. Another plus (probably related) – there is a much smaller risk that your tea (particularly green teas) will end up astringent and unpleasant – I always find it a bit harder to judge water temperature and volume when I’m making larger quantities of tea and sometimes it doesn’t come out quite right. There’s a bit more leeway with iced herbal teas, so I think I will probably continue to brew those the hot way, though.

I have had great success with brewing my honey-flavoured sencha from Tea Leaves this way (don’t particularly like it hot, but it’s more palatable cold and with a squeeze of lemon) and also the Assam Dimakusi BOP which I have discussed here – this makes a particularly nice smooth iced tea. I am looking forward to trying some iced Earl Grey as well, perhaps with orange slices in it…

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