I love iced tea. Always have. In fact, as I sit to write this, I am wondering to myself why I don't drink more of it? It makes a great afternoon drink, a minor caffeine bump to get through the rest of the day without resorting to coffee, which will mess up my sleep if I drink it after noon. I guess it's the activation barrier -- good iced tea requires multiple steps to make. and the pre-made stuff is usually way over-sweetened. There's a few brands out there that are reasonable with sugar adds, but I'd truly rather have none.
But what if? What if there were an easier way to make iced tea? What's the deal with all this cold brew stuff that's popping up like the latest fad and excuse for places with bad coffee to overcharge even more for it? And can it apply to tea? So, time for a bit of experimentation, I guess.
My personal experience with cold brew anything goes back to the summer of 2016. I'd seen the growing ads for "cold brew coffee!" starting to build, and there'd be pre-bottled stuff at the grocery store for way too much money (avoid it, it's universally bad!). But when we saw a "cold brew apparatus" (plastic brew pot with easy remove filter), we decided to give it a try. And man, I was shocked to find there's something behind the fad - it's really good. Cold brew coffee, made with the right ratios and steep time, is amazing. It gets as strong or stronger than traditional hot brew, but has this really smooth, rounded flavor profile, with less acid and bite. We spent most of that summer drinking it, then gradually fell out of the habit. Is it really less work? Well, yes and no. You have to prepare it ahead of time, so if you forget, there's no cold brew in the morning. And the apparatus requires just as much cleaning as the old drip pot. So, even though I love the stuff, I rarely think to make it, and typically brew hot coffee and chill it (I drink mostly iced coffee even through the winter).
But. What about tea? Well, at the same time, I experimented a bit with cold brew tea too. I found I genuinely liked cold brew green tea (enough that maybe it will get its own post), but black tea was trickier. It seems to need a longer steep time and closer balance with ratios of tea to water.
But, I have this great Ceylon, Upton Tea Imports Uva Special BOP, and planned to try it as an iced tea anyway. So why not get our science on and compare the two methods with the same tea - a horizontal tasting, as the whiskey bloggers used to say (still say? Haven't read a whiskey blog in years.) Should be perfect, I've always heard Ceylon makes great iced tea.
Uva BOP: Iced tea (traditional method)
So, up first, the tried and true stalwart method: brew some tea and chill it with ice. Easy enough. I made a six ounce cup with a rounded teaspoon into boiling water and let steep for 3 minutes. Full disclosure, there was no "warming of the teapot" (mug) or anything fancy. I'm not convinced it makes that much of a difference. If any older British ladies read this, they may well be scandalized. But if things are close at the post, I'll get fancier, I guess.
First impression is that this is a great cup of iced tea. As I've mentioned in the past, most black tea needs adds for me -- milk and sugar to smooth out the rough edges of astringency. But as a plain black iced cup, this is smooth and an easy drinker. Still has an astringent bite, but wouldn't be tea without it. Some of the flavor notes that show up as hot tea are a bit more muted - the cedar chest note and wintergreen finish are present but not as strong. But it really tastes like a great example of how I think iced tea should. Interesting, and I will get some mileage out of this going forward. I'll maybe have to play with light touch sweeteners, too -- a splash of lemon and honey are a nice iced tea lift.
Uva BOP: Cold Brewed Stuff
So, nothing fancy to the brew method. 1 rounded teaspoon plus a little extra per 6 ounces of water in a mason jar and left it overnight (about 12 hours). Strained and poured into a cup. There are pretty neat setups for this, with a brew pot and removable strainer, but I couldn't find ours, so went even more basic.
With coffee, I found the method really rounded out the flavor and texture. I always found it to taste stronger but smoother, with less acid. But it doesn't seem to work the same for black tea. The brew is a bit smoother in texture, but seems more bitter, with the bitter note overtaking and blocking much of what's nice about this tea (cedar and wintergreen). It's not bad, it's still a drinkable cup, but not nearly as good as the traditional method.
Well, there you have it, folks. One man's opinion, but I think I'll definitely stick to drinking iced black tea the old fashioned way. However, it was nice to find that Ceylon does make some great iced tea, so maybe more to come of that in the future.
Coming up -- a really high quality green tea, again courtesy of the nice folks at Upton Tea. Hot, iced, and another go at cold brew with green.