How to Cold Brew Loose-leaf Black Tea for Summer

A summer essential: Cold brew black tea

With the persistent heat of the summer starting to creep higher and higher in temperature here in Tucson, we’ve been experimenting with cold brewing our catalog of teas. With plenty of fresh black tea in stock, we figured it was the perfect time for a head-to-head comparison of each of our black teas steeped with a simple cold-brew method (see below).

Cold brewed tea in sealed Ball jars
Our catalog of black teas after being cold brewed in jars overnight.

Cold brewing teas unlocks many of the underlying aromatics and flavors not usually found in their hot infused counterparts. Many of the cold brews we made had more aromatic top notes and muted astringency, with a lingering sweet and balanced finish. With astringency taken out of the picture, this method can reveal more of a tea’s underlying complexity that is sometimes masked when prepared hot.

Our top picks

The most striking example of this was Laoshu Dianhong (Old Tree Yunnan). Its usual vibrant, tropical fruit-like aroma was carried through with a surprising intensity with layers of passionfruit, pineapple, and papaya. As you continue to drink the tea, the bright fruit-like notes become rounded and more sweet. The wildflower aroma, which is more noticeable when prepared hot, was more subdued and lingered in the finish rather than the initial smell or taste.

Another tea that surprised us was the Zijuan Hong (Purple Leaf Yunnan Black), which was, by far, the lightest of all of the teas in our comparison. The winey brightness of this anthocyanin-rich leaf was tamed in a cold brew, leaving a clearer picture of this tea’s violet-like aroma and lingering sweetness. Its unusually light body made it the most contentious of the teas we tried. To its detractors, this was too far out of the mold for iced black tea. For its advocates, its taste drew comparison to a field of violets blooming in the early spring, with just a trace of dew from the morning holding on to the petals. 

For those looking for tried and true classic black tea flavors, the Jin Kongque (Golden Peacock) (the most chocolatey) and Breakfast Qimen (Breakfast Keemun) are worth trying. They’re the ideal “sitting on your porch watching the fireflies or quenching your thirst after running around your backyard” kind of tea. Both teas are reminiscent of summers spent drinking iced tea with your grandparents, with the tea in one hand and a popsicle in the other.

A lineup of glass pitchers filled with cold brew black tea.
A lineup of our black teas ready to be tasted.

We usually drink hot tea year round, even in the intense Tucson summer heat. Cold brewing is something that we’ve come to do more frequently. It’s easy to do and makes it so that you always have a jar or pitcher of cold, refreshing tea waiting for you. With any of the cold brews, you don’t need to add any sugar or sweetener. However, you’re more than welcome to do so if you’d like some sweetened iced tea. By cold brewing your teas, you uncover so many new aromas and flavors. We’re excited to keep tasting our teas this way all summer long.

Making Cold Brew Black Tea

Cold brew teas are the ideal drink for a hot summer day and are great with or without ice. The added bonus of cold brewing tea is that it’s very easy! You just need some loose-leaf tea, a jar, glass, or pitcher, and some filtered water.

Are you interested in giving it a try? Here are the steps we used to make cold brewed black tea:

  1. Fill a jar, pint glass, or pitcher with 12 fl. oz (about 355 ml) of room temperature or cold filtered water.
  2. Add 5g (3/4 to 2 Tb depending on the tea) of loose-leaf tea and place in the jar, pint glass, or pitcher.
  3. Store it in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours.
  4. Strain out steeped tea leaves and taste test. You may need to dilute it with fresh filtered water or ice cubes if it’s stronger than you prefer. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days after preparing.
  5. Enjoy!
A hand pours tea from one jar into another using a strainer.
After cold brewing, our Zui Chun Fang (Drunken Peach) black tea is strained into another jar.