We've all heard stories about how unsafe sun brewing iced tea is and how the CDC even warns against it (which might be untrue). My mom has made sun tea my entire life and as far as I know, there has never been a problem.
For those still skeptical, a safe alternative to brewing tea with boiling water is to brew it in the fridge and that's what this instructable is about---cold brew tea. The only real difference between this brew style and sun tea is the sun is replaced with the refrigerator.
Cold brew tea (also called refrigerator tea) is similar to cold brew coffee in that the cold brewing method eliminates that bitter and harsh flavor you can sometimes get from coffee or tea. Cold brewing results in a smoother drink. Some people claim that the cold brewing method lessens the amount of caffeine in coffee/tea (I don't know why you'd ever want less caffeine,) but I've also read the opposite so I'm not really sure if its true or not. And whether you are making coffee or tea, cold brewing is a virtually impossible to screw up brewing method.
Step 1: BoM
Tea (1 teabag or 1 teaspoon of loose leaf tea per cup of water)
Sieve/strainer (if using loose leaf tea)
Sweeteners, mix-ins (optional)
Step 2: Tea & Water
Your two most important ingredients are the tea and water. This is true of anything you make and I am not snobby enough to say that you can't get great tasting tea with plain unfiltered tap water (although we do have a Brita filter bought for our coffee brewing haha). You want to use tea that is within its' expiration date and water that is clean.
We always have a stash of black, green, and white teas on hand and any of these are suitable for brewing in the fridge. My husband occasionally has herbal tea so we also have some of that, but I've heard that herbal teas do not do well with this brewing style.
The ratio for cold brew tea that works well for me is 1 teabag or 1 teaspoon of loose leaf tea per cup of water. Add water and leaves together in your brewing container.
Step 3: Canning Jar Tea
For parties or just to have a variety of brewed tea on hand, you can make single serving batches in canning jars! For a 4-8oz canning jar, a single tea bag or 1 tsp of loose leaf tea should be sufficient. Add whatever fruits/flavors you want to the jar and then fill with water and let steep in the fridge for a minimum of 6 hours. It's always a good idea to have one testing jar that you can keep going back to throughout the steeping period to help you gauge how long it takes to get to your taste preference.
Step 4: Loose Leaf Brewing Trick
Want to use loose leaf tea but don't want to deal with the mess of straining the leaves out? Use a French Press! Simply follow the instructions on your French Press, grounds/leaves first and then add the appropriate amount of water. Cover with the lid and set in the fridge for 6+ hours. My French Press does 4 cups, so I used just a little over 4 tsp of tea leaves.
When the tea is done brewing, simply press down the plunger (slowly) and extract your tea. Pour into a different container or glass and discard the used leaves.
Step 5: Mix-Ins
Another nice thing about cold brewing is that you can add in a variety of fresh flavors. Herbs such as basil, mint, and lavender are a great addition to a strawberry or blueberry iced tea. Dried fruits also work well. I'm a huge fan of strawberry basil, mango, raspberry, and pineapple iced teas.
Some fun flavors to try:
Strawberry + Basil
Strawberry + Rhubarb
Blueberry + Lavender
Mango + Raspberry
Raspberry + Lime
Apple + Rhubarb
Pineapple + Mango
Lemon + Ginger
Orange + Mango
Watermelon + Basil
Blackberry + Lime
Ginger + Orange
Lemon + Anything
Step 6: Brew
Cover your brewing container with a lid and put in the fridge to steep. After 6 hours, start taste testing your tea until you are satisfied with its' strength. Everyone is different, some people might prefer a stronger tea and others a lighter flavor.
Because white and green teas are mellower in flavor, they may require a longer brewing time in the fridge.
Once you've hit your preferred flavor strength, remove the tea.
Step 7: Enjoy!
Now that your tea is brewed you can add (or not) your preferred sweetener. Because the tea is cold, using a simple syrup works well here. Throw in a couple ice cubes and enjoy!