Let July 4 Launch Your Summer-Long Cold Brewing

Let July 4 Launch Your Summer-Long Cold Brewing

Happy July 4th! We trust that most of you will savor every minute of America’s birthday. And we hope the outdoor feasting on burgers and dogs, on ribs and Vietnamese curry-glazed chicken wings, on barbacoa and jerk pork and beef kabobs yielded a critical mass of smiles combined with stomach rubs. And of course we also look forward to hearing about how you paired your picnics with delicious tea!

Now that we’ve entered this glorious month, the very heart of summer, we are keen to spend the rest of July exploring cold brew tea. As many of us will sip (and gulp) iced tea across the warm months, we are eager to share recommendations for exquisite traditional Camellia sinensis teas that yield positively superb iced beverages. One of the keys to their excellence rests with the method used to prepare them. For iced tea awesomeness, we think cold brewing is king.

Why cold brew?

Properly brewed hot tea, in our view, produces the finest tea in the world. But when the weather turns hot, not all of us thrill to the prospect of liquids with steam rising from them. We seek cold and thirst quenching! And after years of experimentation, we find that while brewing hot tea and then just cooling it down works fine, the cold brew method stands as an improvement.

One thing to remember with tea is the leaves naturally contain quite a bit of bitterness, via tannins. The name of our business, Ku Cha House of Tea, represents this: In Chinese, “ku” means bitter and “cha” means tea. So our store translates as “bitter tea.”

When hot tea is made with skill, the bitterness is tamed and incorporated into the overall taste experience. Without the bitter bit, tea would lose most of its charm. But when over-brewed or just steeped without savvy, the bitterness runs free and terrorizes the rest of the tea’s botanical pleasures. It becomes a bitter mess.

And that describes a fair balance of iced tea in America. A beverage made with poor black tea that is brewed for far too long and with too much aggression. The drink becomes impossibly bitter. So loads of sugar gets added to balance the bitter. Lemon and mint often get tossed in, too, to disguise poor flavor.

It doesn’t have to be so dire! One first step toward iced tea ambrosia is to cold brew whole-leaf teas. Hot water quickly strips tannins from leaves, infusing the hot liquid with their bitterness. If you let the leaves steep in hot water for just a minute too long, the drink could easily broadcast too much mouth-puckering bitterness.

Cold brew advantages

Cold brewing is the best regime for making iced tea.

But cold brewing takes its time with the tannins. Instead of withdrawing massive amounts of botanicals from tea leaves in minutes, it massages tea leaves for hours, slowly coaxing beautiful flavors and other properties from the leaves. After between 8 and 12 hours of leaves and water hanging out in the refrigerator, the resulting brew is full of flavor—minus much of the bitterness. It’s ideal for making iced tea. And bonus: When it’s done, the brew is already chilled and ready to drink.

Most American-style iced teas are made from black teas grown in India and Sri Lanka. Both countries produce fantastic black teas. However much tea destined for drinking chilled is of the lowest quality. We urge tea lovers to craft iced tea out of splendid tea leaves—specifically, teas other than the kind normally used to make American iced tea. 

Yes, many people do enjoy this kind of iced tea, and we are the last to knock anybody for their tea preferences. We’re just thrilled to see people sipping tea. Whether you favor this style or not, however, we encourage you to try cold brewing different kinds of excellent teas. You’ll never turn back!

Cold Brew Iced Teas: Kabuse Sencha Green

Kabuse Sencha green tea offers a wealth of flavors and a creamy texture.

Among the dizzying array of styles of Camellia senensis, we appreciate many that come from Japan. Many people of the island nation prefer tea that has spent part of its life growing in shade—the Japanese often cloak tea plantations with shade-providing fabric toward the end of the growing season. The practice yields green teas with noticeable “umami,” a certain kind of savoriness with a creamy texture and finishes with sweet notes. This kind of tea yields outstanding iced versions. Our Kabuse Sencha Green (kabuse means “crest tea” in Japanese) is among the best teas from Japan. 

Cold Brew Iced Teas: Da Hong Pao Rock Oolong

Big Red Robe, or Da Hong Pao, is a spectacular rock oolong.

Looking for a flavor bomb? You’ve come to the right place. Da Hong Pao, or “Big Red Robe” in Chinese, offers an abundance of strong fragrances and rich, roasted flavor, followed with a lingering sweetness. Tea connoisseurs consider rock oolongs from China’s Wu Yi Mountains in Fujian Province among teas in the world. And Da Hong Pao is the most famous of the rock oolongs. You will delight in every sip of this gem. For Da Hong Pao, we recommend starting the process with a “hot rinse.” To do this, steep the leaves in hot water for just a few seconds, before draining away the hot water and then covering the wet leaves with cold water for the cold brewing in the refrigerator. The brief dunk in hot water helps liberate the flavors from the Da Hong Pao while it undergoes cold brewing.

Cold Brew Iced Tea: Organic Puerh

Organic puerh – fermented, earthy and grand iced.

Puerh, the only style of Chinese tea that gets fermented, attracts legions of fans. The tea brews earthy and complex; one of the most interesting styles of any beverage in the world. It’s also extremely healthy—Chinese people often drink puerh after meals to aid digestion. They also turn to puerh to bolster overall health in general. We didn’t know what to expect the first time we cold brewed puerh. It took just one sip, 10 hours later, to recognize the puerh yields an intensely satisfying chilled drink. This puerh has a pleasant “cha qi,” which means “tea energy” in Chinese. You’ll love it iced. As with Da Hong Pao, give it a rapid hot rinse before beginning the cold brew process.

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