How to Ice Brew Tea

June 02, 2017

How to Ice Brew Tea

With a little bit of advanced preparation, ice brewing loose tea is a simple and elegant way to extract the flavor of whole leaf tea and enjoy it as a tasty iced tea. We recently learned about the ice brew method from Jeff Ruiz, tea connoisseur at Olmstead, and decided to give it a try. According to Ruiz, ice brewing is also known as Kouridashi-style brewing, a Japanese method of cold water extraction that results in a “more concentrated tea flavor”. 

This traditional Japanese iced tea brewing method is somewhat time consuming, but most of it is spent waiting for the ice cubes to freeze and for the tea to brew. The end result is a pure and refreshing beverage and, in our opinion, well worth trying when you want to slow down and unplug from the frenzy of modern living. 

Here's the step-by-step method we used to ice brew Jasmine Green Tea and a quick tea tip to speed up the process for those days when you’re short on time. Plus, we’ll show you how you can easily up your iced tea game with a fruit or herbal infusion.

How to Make Japanese Style Iced Tea

Fill glass with ice

Fill a glass with really big ice. There are a couple of considerations when choosing the glassware to use for ice brewing your tea. First, how big is your ice? If you have a colossal ice cube mold (you know, the kind that’s typically used for swanky cocktails) then you’ll want to start with an old fashioned “rocks” glass or other wide rimmed glass.

Although not traditional, it is possible to use standard sized ice cubes for this method. You’ll need to use several of the smaller cubes, but you’ll have more flexibility with the type of glass you can use. With smaller ice cubes you’re free to try a highball glass, a glass drinking bottle, or even a martini glass. If the ice fits, use it.

The next consideration is to whom and how you plan to serve your iced tea. That is, will you be using the same glass to both prepare and serve the tea? Or, will you use one glass to prepare the brew and another to drink it, as we did. Will the iced brewing processes take center stage at your dinner party, or will the brewing action happen behind the scenes?

Since we were brewing for our own enjoyment, we selected a glass tea cup so we could watch the tea brewing, but chose to pour the finished iced tea into smaller Japanese tea cup for drinking.

A note about the ice: as we previously wrote about, good water is a critical component of making good tea. When making your ice, spring or filtered water is best. Depending upon your water source, tap water may be fine as long as it is clean, pure and tastes good.

Add the tea

Add 1 – 2 tsp of tea. Wait about a minute for the ice to start thawing and then add your tea to the glass. You can also add the tea first, and then add the ice. It will have no effect on the brewing process. Then, let it sit for about 30-60 minutes.

add hot water to speed up the process

Take a sip. Once the ice has melted, do a taste test before serving. If it’s too strong simply add more of your filtered water. If it’s too weak you may want to blend it with something or start over.

Tea tip: If the ice is melting very slowly and you, or your guests, are thirsty, add some hot water (about 175 degrees, not boiling) to your cup to speed up the process. Wait between 3 – 5 minutes. This will dilute the tea so if you plan to use this method, you may consider adjusting how much tea to use at the start of this step. You can also use this method from the start and entirely skip waiting 30-60 minutes if you so choose.

 Strain the tea

Strain and serve. Once the ice has melted, use a fine mesh tea strainer to strain the small amount of the highly flavorful tea into a cup and enjoy.

Fruit and herb infusion

Fruit and Herb infused Tea. If you want to add an elevated twist to your iced tea, try flavored ice cubes. As the ice melts, the subtle flavors will infuse the tea with herbs or fruits for a tasty seasonal beverage.

Brewing by ice is typically reserved for fine green teas, such as Gyokuro and Sencha, although it should work with just about any type of tea. We haven't tried anything other than green tea yet and we'd love to know about your experiences with it. Share your comments with us below.

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