Ever since the legendary Kaldi noticed his goats were dancing like madmen from eating coffee cherries (or so the legend goes) we've been hard pressed for our caffeine fix ... and probably dancing like madmen too. From your morning coffee to midday tea break to your chocolate dessert, caffeine is always there. The more caffeine, the better. I don't know about you but I am hooked. I love a good cup of coffee or tea and I'm always looking for different ways to brew them. That's how I got into cold brewing. It's usually done with coffee but I did some experimenting and figured out how to cold brew tea.

coffee, tea, espresso
Rachel Dugard

Getting to the grinds

First let's get some background on coffee and tea to see where they differ. 

Coffee is almost always made from the cherries on two plants: coffea arabica (also called Arabica) and coffea canefora (also called Robusta). Coffea arabica is harder to grow and has less caffeine but is higher quality. Coffee goes through this long process to get to you. It starts with planting and growing, then harvesting cherries, separating them from the bean, drying the bean, shipping, roasting the beans, grinding them, and finally brewing coffee. 

During the process of picking coffee cherries, hand-picked cherries yield better coffee than stripping machines because the machines take the ripe and unripe cherries. If you've ever wondered why some coffees taste better than others even with the same machine, it's because of the type of bean in the coffee and the whole process used before you get the coffee grinds.

Tea on the other hand is made from the leaves of two plants: Camellia sinesis and Camellia assimica. From these two plants you can get four different types of teas: green, black, oolong, and white tea. Of the whole process, what makes the teas different is the oxidation. White and green teas are oxidized less whereas black and oolong teas are oxidized a lot, which is why they have stronger flavors and darker brewed teas. 

Herbal teas are not technically teas because they aren't made from either of those plants, instead they're made with leaves, fruits, barks, roots and any other plant that might taste good. They are also caffeine free since they do not have the leaves from the tea plants.

coffee, tea, beer
Rachel Dugard

How to Cold Brew

Cold brewing is a different way of brewing usually coffee where you let the coffee grinds steep overnight instead of instantly brewing it with hot water. In general coffee has a bitter taste, but some people say that cold brewing coffee makes it taste smoother. One thing is for sure, the coffee is definitely stronger.

Tea is not as strong as coffee when brewed normally. Fun fact: tea has more caffeine per weight than coffee, but we use more coffee grinds for coffee than tea leaves for tea. One pound of tea leaves brewed has more caffeine than one pound of coffee brewed. As we brew tea now, coffee is stronger so cold brewing tea will still be weaker than cold brewing coffee. 

Here's how you cold brew tea:

Step 1: Set up the tea

Cold brewing tea is very simple, it just takes a lot of time. The first step is to get your tea and put it in a container with room temperature water. I recommend one teabag (or ounce of looseleaf) for every cup of water. You can keep the tea leaves in the little pouch if you don't have anything to strain it with later, but you get better tea if you cut open the bag and pour the leaves into the container. Try to use a cup with a lid or a jar because the tea will take on the flavors of any smells in the air.

I chose three teas to cold brew. Green tea, chai tea (which is black tea) and peppermint tea (which is an herbal tea). I didn't add any flavors to the tea because I wanted to see what they were like on their own, but if you usually like your tea to have flavors I would suggest adding it at this step rather than after the tea is done.

herb, relish, tea, condiment, coffee, cumin
Rachel Dugard

Step 2: Refrigerate 

This is the step where the internet cannot agree and experimentation win. Each recipe online has its own allotted time to let sit and they range from 6 hours to 48 hours, which is why I tried cold brewing tea for 12 hours and then for 48 hours. 

I found that 12 hours is not enough. The tea tasted exactly the same and wasn't much stronger. For me it wasn't worth the time it took to make. I would recommend letting the tea sit in the fridge from 24-48. The longer you let it sit, the stronger flavor and more caffeine you will get. 

tea, herb, coffee, mate, water, beer
Rachel Dugard

Step 3: Strain the Tea

Once you've let the tea sit, strain it with a coffee filter or something like that. I used a coffee filter for one of mine and brewed the other two in french presses so I simply pressed down on the handle and poured it out. 

Rachel Dugard

The Results

Like I said before, the 12 hour tea wasn't as good as I had hoped. The flavor and strength weren't enough for me ... but the 48 hour tea was a completely different experience. This tea was probably stronger than my daily cup of coffee. You know when you drink really strong coffee and a few minutes later you feel the pressure in your head and the coffee taking effect? That's how it felt. 

I also taste tested a cup of hot brewed tea (that I made a few minutes before and then chilled) to the cold brew tea. The cold brew tea definitely had bolder flavors. On the downside, the natural bitterness of the tea was stronger and I couldn't sweeten it with sugar because it was cold. If that happens to you, use simple syrup. You can buy it at most stores (in the drinks section) or you can make it yourself.

coffee, beer, tea, chocolate
Rachel Dugard

The chai tea was probably my favorite to cold brew because it tasted very strong and I realized after the fact that the peppermint tea was caffeine free so I really just got a stronger flavor (silly me). 

So yes, you can brew tea just like coffee. It tastes great and packs a punch. Just remember to plan ahead and give the tea enough time to sit and absorb the flavor.